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Our Irish Wedding Adventure ~ A Traditional Irish Ceremony (Post 12 of 12)

Wedding in Ireland by Guest Blogger, Tara Murney Instructor at WPIC and Owner of A Green Tie Affair

 

A Traditional Irish Ceremony

 

The Irish have always had a lot of tradition incorporated into their weddings and I thought being of Irish decent, I would share some of my culture with all our beliefs and tradition that I think are not only important but a great part of my heritage. As passed from Nana to Mother, and Mother to Daughter, I now pass to you. Enjoy! 

 

The tradition of Matchmaking was common in Ireland up into the 20th century and many localities had their own matchmaker. Very little was left to chance and few couples enjoyed a match based solely on love. Marriages between the landless and well-to-do were very uncommon. Families held tightly to their land and social status and tended to move within their respective economic circles. As well as lining up potential mates for men and women, the matchmaker assisted in negotiating a “dowry,” between the groom and bride’s father. A girl brought her dowry with her into the marriage.

 

Traditional Irish Superstitions 

 

Let’s begin with one very popular wedding tradition, even regarded as an Irish superstition that states: ‘Marry in May and Rue the Day’ while another states: ‘Marry in April if you can, joy for maiden and for man’. 

 

Here’s a list of other superstitions the Irish believe in; keep in mind it’s by no means complete… 

 

  • A fine day meant good luck, especially if the sun shone on the bride. If you’re a Roman Catholic, one way to make certain that it won’t rain is to put a statue of the Infant of Prague outside the church door on the wedding morning. 
  • It was unlucky to marry on a Saturday
  • Those who married in harvest would spend all their lives gathering
  • A man should always be the first to wish joy to the bride, never a woman
  • It was lucky to hear a cuckoo on the wedding morning, or to see three magpies 
  • To meet a funeral on the road meant bad luck and if there was a funeral procession planned for that day, the wedding party always took a different road 
  • It was bad luck if a glass or cup were broken on the wedding day 
  • A bride and groom should never wash their hands in the same sink at the same time — it’s courting disaster if they do
  • It was said to be lucky if you married during a growing moon and a flowing tide
  • When leaving the church, someone must throw an old shoe over the bride’s head so she will have good luck
  • Its bad luck if newly-weds don’t meet a man on their way home from the church
  • If the bride’s mother-in-law breaks a piece of wedding cake on the bride’s head as she enters the house after the ceremony, they will be friends for life 
  • At one time, the groom was locked inside the church on the wedding day in case he got cold feet! 
  • It’ true….It’s good luck if it rains on your wedding day. (Of course, in Ireland, it would be a rare day when a little rain didn’t fall…) 
  • It’s good luck to rise with to the song of birds on your wedding day. 
  • It’s bad luck to put on your own veil; have a well-married woman do the honors.
  • A bride who can sing well is expected to sing at the wedding
  • An Irish bride uses a different road home than she took to the church. This may have been started to frustrate merrymakers intending on delaying the honeymoon, but it is also a symbol of her new life that begins with her marriage. 
  • Your wedding earrings will always bring you luck when you wear them. 
  • The bride shouldn’t take both feet off the floor when dancing with her new husband. It gives the fairies an edge.

 

 

When the Irish Marry 

 

Each culture has its own traditions for uniting lovers in matrimony. The Irish are no exception. Everyone looks forward to “a day out,” which is Celt-speak for the wedding reception. There is plenty of conflicting information with respect to the best time of year for marriages. History shows that up until fairly recently, marriages were unheard of during Lent, the forty days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. 

The old Celtic calendar, which corresponds with the natural cycle of the year states that marriages were ill advised during the “dark half” of the year. The dark half commenced on November 1 and continued until Beltane or May 1st known as May Day. You’ll find that literature tends to see the feast of Beltane as an auspicious time for a wedding, conflicting sources claim that even though May Day and Beltane are wonderful times for finding a mate or “courting,” the earth was often considered to be to “in flux” to bolster such a strong commitment of vows. Lughnasadh, another very important day on the old calendar and falling on August 1st, was considered by many to be the most auspicious day of the year for weddings. However, any time during the “light” half of the year (May 1 to October 31) was considered an acceptable time to marry. Today, people marry all year round. However, if you are looking for “powerful” days on the Celtic calendar to marry, here is a list compiled of the four fire festivals and the equinoxes and solstices. 

 

 

Samhain (Halloween) October 31

Imbolc (St. Bridgit’s Day) February 1

Beltane (May Day) May 1

Lughnasadh August 1

Summer Solstice – June 21

Winter Solstice – December 21

Spring Equinox – March 21

Autumnal Equinox – September 21

 

An Irish Proposal 

 

There are many ways in which to ask your lady to wed but the Irish have two very well known proposals and they read: 

 

“Would you like to be buried with my people?”

“Would you like to hang your washing next to mine.”

 

The Claddagh Ring and It’s History 

 

Gents-claddagh-ring~100The Claddagn Ring has been named after one of Ireland’s oldest fishing villages, Claddagh . It is located just outside the walls of Galway City where the Corrib River meets Galway Bay. These rings have been in use in Ireland, particularly in County Galway, for several hundred years. Rumor has it that the very first Claddagh ring is believed to have been crafted by the blacksmith Richard Joyce around 1690. At first, it became very popular in Joyce’s local village of Claddagh and around County Galway, but later gained popularity throughout the county. 

Today, you can spot Claddagh rings all around the world. The Claddagh ring was often passed down as a heirloom from mother to daughter. It can serve as an engagement ring or a wedding ring or both. It is designed with a heart at the center, a hand either side of the heart and a crown on top. The heart is of course the symbol of love. The hands on either side represent friendship and the crown represents loyalty and fidelity. The manner in which the ring is worn has a symbolism all its own. If worn on the right hand or with the heart facing away from your heart – it means that you are free to love. If worn on the right hand with the heart facing inwards towards your heart – it means your “heart is taken.” If worn on the left hand facing in – it means you have committed your life to another forever. 

 

Many couples express their Irish heritage in a very profound way by having “Claddagh” rings as their wedding band of choice. This Irish design can be used as a theme for the entire wedding from start to finish. Many couples use the symbol of the Claddagh wedding rings, the design can be used on invitations, the wedding programs and thank you cards. If you shop around you will find Claddagh vases that can be used for centerpieces and chocolate boxes with the Claddagh symbol serve as favors. Even certain cake décor carry a symbol of the Claddagh which can be placed up atop your wedding cake. 

 

 

Choosing Color for an Irish Wedding 

 

Irish Tradition states: 

 

 

Marry in white, everything’s right

Marry in blue, lover be true

Marry in pink, spirits will sink

Marry in grey, live far away

Marry in brown, live out of town

Marry in green, ashamed to be seen

Marry in yellow, ashamed of your fellow

Marry in black, wish you were back

Marry in red, wish you were dead

Marry in tan, he’ll be a loved man

Marry in pearl, you’ll live in a whirl 

 

Traditional Irish Dress (Linen or Lace) 

 

As far back as the 16th Century, the Irish started producing lace. It was at the turn of the 20th Century the “white gown” came about and it was often accentuated with Irish lace, a form of crochet lace that was regarded as a couture profession. Crochet Centers were set up all over Ireland by the Ursuline Sisters in order to provide employment during the famine. History documents the first center was started in 1845 in Blackrock, County Cork. Soon, the couture lines of London, New York and Vienna sought out “Irish Lace,” for the fashions of the day. Irish Lace was used to make dresses and to decorate blouse bodices and cuffs, trimmings and ruffles. To this very day, many brides will add Irish lace to their wedding gowns. Brides will carry what is known as an Irish lace hanky. 

 

It was during the Victorian Era that the favored color became white and became a tradition which spread from Victorian England around the world. Until that time, other pastel shades were favored in England such as yellow and blue. 

Oriental cultures have a love for the color red on their wedding day. They solely believe it will bring good luck to the bride and groom; the traditional old Celtic cultures often favored blue and other bright colors for the same reason. The only color the Irish avoided was Green. It has been said to entice the fairies, who love to own beautiful things which would include the bride of course. 

 

Traditional Irish Ceremony 

 

There is a popular Irish vow that reads: 

 

By the power that Christ brought from heaven, mayst thou love me. As the sun follows its course, mayst thou follow me. As light to the eye, as bread to the hungry, as joy to the heart, may thy presence be with me, oh one that I love, ’til death comes to part us asunder. 

Traditional Irish couples will include an old Irish proverb that states: Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. Walk beside me and just be my friend. 

 

Of course no wedding was complete without Pipers. Pipers play as guests arrive or after the ceremony the piper could pick up the recessional tune and continue it outside as guests leave. Many couples currently have them play as your guests arrive at the reception and when you both make your entrance. NOTE: But make sure the piper(s) plays “Uillean” pipes, known as Irish pipes, which are very different from Scottish bagpipes, they tend to be a little softer than the Scottish pipes. 

 

Following tradition, Irish dancers should be invited to any Irishwedding. They’re ceremonial dress offers much color and tradition, years ago the were only present during the reception period but these days they are invited to hand out programs during the ceremony then invited to the reception to dance throughout the night. 

 

Centuries back, many Irish brides wore a wreath of wildflowers in their hair and they also carried them in bouquets for luck. In Wales, brides carried live myrtle and gave a sprig to each bridesmaid which they were to plant. They believed that if it grew, the bridesmaid would marry within the year. Currently, many Irish couples have the florist add a sprig of shamrock to the bride’s bouquet and to the groom’s boutonnière for good luck. Many Irish brides favor wildflower wreaths over these elaborate veils nowadays …and also carry wildflower bouquets. The Irish also favor Lavender and a flower called Bells of Ireland. 

 

A Traditional IrishWedding Party 

 

It has been told that the wedding party should always take the longest road home from the church. Years ago, the wedding party was generally celebrated at the home of the bride. 

 

The wedding party surrounds the bride and groom after filling their glasses with mead (or champagne) the newly wedded couple recites an Irish toast: “Friends and relatives, so fond and dear, ’tis our greatest pleasure to have you here. When many years this day has passed, fondest memories will always last. So we drink a cup of Irish mead and ask God’s blessing in your hour of need.” The guests respond: “On this special day, our wish to you, the goodness of the old, the best of the new. God bless you both who drink this mead, may it always fill your every need.” Modern Irish weddings may opt to use this Irish toast and place cards on each table so that the guests may respond. 

 

Traditional Irish Reception 

 

DSC03457Known as “Strawing” a wedding, it was said to be very lucky if the straw boys came and danced at your wedding. While there are several different versions of how they came into existence, I seem to favor the story of young men who were being chased because they were rustling the landowner’s sheep would sneak into a wedding reception and mingle with the guests. Eventually, it became a tradition for friends of the groom to disguise themselves with straw masks and suddenly show up. 

 

Known as the “Jaunting Car”, men of the bridal party would hoist the groom in a chair and parade him around as a newly married man. 

As for traditional Irish music, there’s so much wonderful Irish music available today, you’ll have no problems in finding appropriate selections for both the ceremony and the reception. The difficulty will be in deciding which pieces to play considering the night won’t be long enough to play it all. There are many Irish bands out there that focus on the old traditional music if this is an option for you. 

 

Bunratty Meade is a honey wine, it’s from a recipe based on the oldest drink in Ireland and if you’ve never tasted it, it’s well worth trying. In the old days, it was consumed at weddings because it was thought that it promoted virility. They say if a baby was born nine months after the wedding, it was attributed to the mead! Couples also drank it from special goblets for a full month following the wedding, which is supposedly where we get the word honeymoon. This was to protect the couple from the fairies coming to take the bride away. 

 

In the old days, there was an old ancient custom that had the couple eat salt and oatmeal at the beginning of their reception. They would each take three mouthfuls as a protection against the power of the evil eye. Also, when a couple is dancing, the bride can’t take both feet off the floor because the fairies will get the upper hand. Fairies love beautiful things and one of their favorites is a bride. There’s many an Irish legend about brides being spirited away by the little people! For the same reason, its bad luck for a bride to wear green as stated above. Relatives will tell you it’s also bad luck for anyone to wear green at an Irishwedding – but I think it really only applies to the bride. It’s also bad luck for a bride or the groom to sing at their own wedding; traditionally speaking. 

 

Traditional Irish Dinner 

 

If you are opting for a traditional Irish themed wedding your meals may include any or all of the following…. 

 

Your appetizers should include: 

 

  • Soda bread with a Cheese Selection
  • Smoked Salmon upon Irish Brown Bread (don’t forget to include chopped purple onion, capers, mayonnaise and cream) 

 

Your starter could be: 

 

  • Irish Potato and Leek soup 

 

Your traditional Irishmain course should be: 

 

  • a potato dish known as Colcannon
  • Melon & Avocado Salad
  • Potato Rolls (yum yum)
  • Salmon en Croute (basically salmon in any shape will do)
  • Known for the brave…. Shepard’s Pie or Beef stew

 

Your traditional Irishdessert could be any or all of these: 

 

  • Soda bread served with a selection of jams
  • Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
  • Wedding Cake 
  • White Cake with Strawberry filling
  • Irishwedding cake (rich fruit cake iced in white) 
  • Fresh cream

 

Traditional IrishDrinks

 

  • Mead (of course)
  • Irish Coffee or for the brave: Triple Irish Coffee 
  • Apple Cider
  • Hot Irish Nut 
  • Mulled Wine
  • Black Velvets
  • Warm Whiskey

 

Traditional Irish Toasts and Blessings 

 

“Slainte,” pronounced SLAWN-cha, is a popular Irish toast. There are many others (too many to list )maybe not as popular but defiantly traditional, here is another one dedicated to the new couple: 

 

Long live the Irish

 

Long live their cheer!

Long live our friendship, year after year! 

 

Traditional Irish Gifts 

 

The chime of bells is said to remind a couple of their wedding vows and this is why giving a bell as a gift has become an Irish tradition. 

 

Salt and pepper shakers are a lucky gift.

Wine glasses are lucky as well, though now these days it’s more common to see very tall toasting flutes.

One thing that has always been certain at any Irishwedding new or old, is that there will be some Waterford Crystal and some Belleek Parian China. It’s inconceivable to start out married life without them. Same goes for having a bit of Irish lace and some fine linen tablecloths. In having these items at your wedding it represents a solid commitment to one another. 

 

Other Interesting Customary Practices

 

There are many other customs such as the top tier of your wedding cake should be an Irish whiskey cake which is saved for the christening of your first baby. A slice of the cake is saved to be eaten on your first anniversary. Also, a bottle of champagne is saved from the reception so that it can be used to ‘wet the baby’s head’ at the christening. 

 

Years ago, there was one strange custom where the groom was invited to the bride’s house right before the wedding and they cooked a goose in his honor. It was called Aitin’ the gander, most believe it has to be where we get the expression ‘his goose is cooked!’ The goose was traditionally stuffed with apple stuffing (yum yum). 

 

 1 The Lucky Horseshoe. Traditionally Irish brides used to carry a real horseshoe for good luck. (Turned up so the luck won’t run out). You can get porcelain horseshoes which most Irish brides carry these days, even one’s made of fabric which the bride wears on her wrist. Originally, this would have been made by a blacksmith. Today, most of these horseshoes are sown into the dress or added to the top of the cake. It’s very rare to see a metal one, usually they are made of plastic. This horseshoe tradition is also carried on into the home where it is placed over the door again turned up so the luck won’t run out.  The horseshoe to the left is made by Belleek Pottery.

The Magic Hanky. This is one of the most delightful customs, it involves having the bride carry a special hanky that with only a few stitches it can be turned into a christening bonnet for the first baby. With a couple of snips it can be turned back into a hanky that your child can carry on his/her wedding day. Nowadays, finding these “magic Hankies” are hard, unless you’ve had one passed down or you could search any local Irish Gift Stores. Your best bet is to have a relative that lives in Ireland, ship one over if one cannot be found here. 

The Make-up bells: The chime of bells is thought to keep evil spirits away, restore harmony if two people are bickering and also remind a couple of their wedding vows. 

So here’s to all future couples…….I hope that during all the chaos of planning that you use timeless tradition to sweeten your celebration. To all those getting married from one Irish to the next I toast to you… 

 

May your troubles be less,

And your blessings be more,

And nothing but happiness come through your door.

 

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Our Irish Wedding Adventure ~ National Trust Properties (Post 11 of 12)

W-070288-castlecoole-property_imageby Danielle Andrews Sunkel

The National Trust is a charity that operates in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  Their mandate is to protect special places and make them available to everyone.  From their website:  "We protect and open to the public over 350 historic houses, gardens and ancient monuments. But it doesn’t stop there. We also look after forests, woods, fens, beaches, farmland, downs, moorland, islands, archaeological remains, castles, nature reserves, villages – for ever, for everyone."

One of the ways the National Trust garners funds to operate these places of historical interest and fulfill their mandate at the same time, is to open the Castle for Weddings.  With our guide, Special Events Manager Kate McAloon, we got to tour 3 of these venues while we were in Fermanagh: Castle Coole, Florence Court and Crom Estate.

Kate McAloon and Tracey Manailescu at Castle Coole in Ireland300 years or so ago, when the aristocracy built their giant castles, there were no labour laws, industry professions or even electricity.   Those who rented and worked the lands had no other opportunities.  Castles were completely self-sufficient and the people who worked at them were happy to have employment and a roof over their heads.  If one married well and used their thousands of acres properly, maintaining a castle was not a problem.  

Today, it costs more to run a Castle (heat, clean, maintain) each year, than it cost to build it many years ago.  For example, it costs about £100 000 to heat a typical castle for the year.  Many families have had to find alternate uses for their Castles in order to maintain them, many people have abandoned them, divided their lands and others turn them over to the National Trust.  

When we visited Castle Coole, I was struck by the amount of people strolling along the castle grounds and around the lake.  It was so nice to see and what a beautiful place for the public to enjoy!

Castle Coole

DSC03562This castle is a very grand and formidable property.  It is an 18th century Neo-Classical structure and has a sumptuous regency interior.  This is not a place that gives you the warm-fuzzies, but my oh my, does it impress!

Picture 27
For weddings you can use the Hall and the Breakfast Room in the main house, the back entrance and terrace or set up a Marquis on their extensive back lawn.  While you are having photos around the gorgeous grounds, your guests can go on a tour of the amazing castle, see "the bedroom that was never slept in" created for King George IV, and find out about the workings of "below stairs" touring the extensive (and VERY interesting) basement and underground tunnel.

Florence Court

DSC03571Unlike the castle their son-in-law built (Castle Coole), Florence Court has a more homey and romantic feeling to it, making it the perfect choice for weddings.  The interior has the most ornate and beautiful plaster work I have seen.  Everytime I looked out a window, I felt as though I was on the set of a Jane Austen novel, and if you know me, you know she is my absolute favourite author, so it was a great experience.

Picture 30_2 Picture 30 Picture 31
Civil Weddings can take place in front of the grand staircase and receptions can take place inside in the Pavillion Room, the Colonel's Room or outside under a marquis.  The extensive and manicured grounds make a perfect photo backdrop.

Crom Estate

W-15789-crom_estateNot to be confused with Crom Castle which is still owned and maintained by the Earl of Erne and his son, the Viscount of Cricton, Crom Estate refers to the 2000 acres and several outbuildings which the Earl gave to the National Trust in the 1970's.  Crom Estate is such a beautiful and tranquil place, the ancient woods and islands are home to many rare species (and more than a few faeries).   One visit to the Crom Estate and you will never want to leave, so luckily there are self-catering cottages (the former staff quarters) available for rent.

Picture 34 Weddings can take place in the Tea Room, their banquet room or at the ruins of the Old Crom Castle, which has a magic all its own.  

For more information about the National Trust and the properties it takes care of, please visit their website at www.nationaltrust.org.uk

Photos are a compilation from our trip and the National Trust website.

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Our Irish Wedding Adventure ~ Tips For a Modern Irish Wedding (Post 10 of 12)

Bride and Groom at Irish Castle ruinsby Danielle Andrews Sunkel

Even if you can't bring your wedding to Ireland, you can bring Ireland to your wedding.  Here are some tips for a Modern Irish Wedding.

The Date


The last day of the year is considered an especially lucky time for an
Irish marriage.

Wedding Rings

Claddagh rings, when worn on the ring finger of the left hand with the heart facing in, tell the world your heart is taken forever.Claddagh_Ring_1

The Celtic Knot is another popular choice for Wedding Rings.Shutterstock_17337418
 

The Bouquet
Have florist weave tiny harvest knots into the bride's bouquet (traditionally
Irish men traditionally gave these to their sweethearts to show their devotion). 

HarvestKnot 

Photo credit: www.irishcultureandcustoms.com




The Ceremony

Hire a piper to play at the ceremony.   A child should present a satin horseshoe to the bride at the end of the ceremony. This represents good luck. Insert the horseshoe open end up into the bridal bouquet, so the luck won't run out. (The horseshoe can then serve as a family heirloom to pass on to the couple's children.

 
Satin Irish horseshoe www.weddingfavorsunlimited.com

The Reception 

  • Make a special toast to the person who introduced the couple. This
    tradition stems from the days when a matchmaker would have been the one
    to introduce the couple. 
  • Serve a traditional
    Irish wedding cake. A fruit cake filled with almonds, raisins, cherries, fed with brandy or bourbon. 
  • Play a traditional
    Irish song or dance that reflects your family's specific heritage. 
  • Play popular songs such as "The
    Irish Wedding Song," "Oh Danny Boy," "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling," and "My Favorite Irish Rose."

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Our Irish Wedding Adventure ~ Crom Castle (Post 9 of 12)

By: Tracey Manailescu

Crom CastlePicture from: www.virtualvisit-northernireland.com

Crom Castle is the one I can't stop dreaming of…Literally, 5 out of 8 nights since I have returned (at the time I wrote this) this castle has taken over my dreams.  Not that I mind!  It is a truly magical place, right out of a fairytale.

It has everything a true romantic (like me) wants:

  • History
  • Royalty
  • Ruins
  • Buried treasure
  • Fairies

History:

The original Crom house was built in the early 17th century (1611 to be exact) by Michael Balfour.  It burned down in 1764 (word has it that a maid walking with a candle upstairs, caused the fire). Crom had survived two sieges prior to the accidental fire that destroyed it.  Apparently there is only one picture remaining of the original castle.

Royalty: 

The castle was home to many war heroes. The Earl of Erne who inherited the castle at the age of three (after the death of his father and grandfather) still lives on-site with his wife today.  His son, Viscount Crichton owns the West Wing, which can be rented out for personal use by the public such as families, honeymooners and anyone in need of peaceful solitude.

Ruins:

The foundation ruins of the original castle still stand, and were embellished upon in the 1830's with ruined walls and towers. Wedding couples now flock to this area for their photos.

Buried Treasure:

It is said that treasure was buried under an old oak tree in 1689 when one of the sieges took place on the castle. However, don't try to dig it up because it has a "Blood Curse" on it from the Fairies (wee folk).

Fairies: 

 "According to local legend, Fermanagh was once a vast plain with a Fairy Well in the middle.  The well was always kept covered from sunlight to prevent it from bubbling over. One day two young lovers met by the well and decided to elope. They drank a last toast from the well and ran off together, leaving it uncovered. The Fairy Well has bubbled ceaselessly for centuries and that is how the Fermanagh Lakelands were formed." Source: www.tourismresources.ie

Also, there is a Fairy Stone and Tree that you can make a wish when you sit on it. I did!  Strange thing was, the wish I thought I had wanted for so long, didn't seem so important once I sat down…

Tracey Manailescy on a wishing stoneFairy Stone and Tree 

Old Crom Castle ruins 

Old Crom Castle ruinsWe had the pleasure of staying overnight in the West Wing, which is owned by Lord Crichton (son of The Earl).  It is available for rent for a few days, a week or even a month. 12 people can stay comfortably.  At the time we stayed overnight, Lord and Lady Erne were away in England. This meant we were alone in the castle!

The wonderful manager, Noel Johnston welcomed us, had tea with us, took us on a tour of the West Wing and than handed us over to his talented sister Cynthia, who is the caterer for Crom Castle and Belle Isle functions, who made us such a wonderful dinner.   We started with a wonderful, fresh Smoked Salmon salad.  We have never had such tender chicken, perfectly steamed veggies and potatoes. Than to top it off she made us Rhubarb crumble (just like my grandmother used to make). We were loving it so much, that we didn't even see the Devonshire cream until we were finished!  After dinner was done, Cynthia handed us the key to the castle! (Obviously, there are also security measures in place.)

Danielle Andrews Sunkel with the key to Crom CastleI had some port by the fireplace, and Danielle made some tea.  We felt so comfortable beyond belief. (No, it was not the Diva in me, LOL!) 

Crom Castle has such a warmth and peaceful feeling to it, we even slept in different bedrooms (if you know me, you know this is a huge deal). I had a great sleep!

Ireland 2010 1367This was my room.  Each of the 6 bedrooms has its own ensuite bathroom.

The next morning the beautiful, Violet Johnston, arrived to make us breakfast . Violet was the last housekeeper of Crom Castle.  She worked there for 40 years, since she was 14 yrs. old. She told us that she would start work at 8 a.m and finish at 9 p.m most nights. "I loved every single minute of it!" she told us. Violet is also well-known around Northern Ireland for her special talent of reading tea leaves.  People wait months to have her read their tea cups.

Violet Johnston and Tracey ManailescuAfter breakfast, Noel Johnston took us on a walking tour of the grounds and ruins. I was mesmerized and a bit overwhelmed by it all.  He explained some of the history of the castle, the Cricton family and his family who have worked for Crom Castle for the last 200 years!  I told him that I could have listened to him for days!

Tracey Manailescu and Noel Johnston at Old Crom CastleI asked Mr. Johnston what type of couple would suit getting married at Crom Castle, and he said,   "Crom is open to everyone no matter who they are, or what budget they have. If a bride wants to be princess for the day, Crom is the place to be a princess with her prince, and have her fairy tale wedding!" 

I also asked him why Crom Castle is different:

"Crom Castle is different from any other castle, as its private. You hire it for your ceremony and reception. It's tranquil with great hospitality and everybody is made so welcome."

Understandably, when I left Crom Castle, I cried!

Now I am convinced that I need to have my Wedding Vow Renewals at Crom Castle next year, so my husband and children can see what I am so "over the moon" about ;)

Some photos of Weddings at Crom Castle:

Crom Castle West Wing Wedding
Crom Castle West Wing WeddingWedding Photos from Crom Castle's website

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Our Irish Wedding Adventure ~ Belle Isle (Post 8 of 12)

Belle Isleby Danielle Andrews Sunkel

What a gorgeous and romantic place to get married!  We just loved it here.  The estate is at the Uppermost tip of Upper Lough Erne, on 470 acres spread over 8 islands and includes a working farm. There are so many accomodation and entertainment options at Belle Isle Estate, your wedding can last a week instead of just a day! 

Belle Isle prides itself on being an Ecologically-friendly location.  Energy efficient lightbulbs are used in evey fixture, a wood pellet furnace is used to heat the castle and hot water, 47% of their electricity comes from renewable resources, organic waste from their cooking school is used as compost in their gardens, the list goes on and on.  Its truly incredible to think that a 17th Century castle could become so "Green".

The estate has passed hands several times and was last purchased in 1991 by the Duke of Abercorn, who bought the estate for his second son, Lord Nicholas Hamilton.

The Estate is managed by the most wonderful couple, James and Fiona Plunket.  They were both so welcoming and knowledgable.  Fiona took us for a tour of the Estate, Accommodations and Cookery School and James joined us to show us the Castle and grounds.  Such a great couple, I really liked them, and they have a true love and passion for Belle Isle. 

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Wedding & Ceremony Locations

Below is a map of the Hamilton wing, where weddings take place in the castle.  There are three ceremony location options: the Drawing Room, the Dining Room (furntiure will be moved out for both of the prior options) or the Garden.  The garden is my personal favourite!

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The Dining Room

Can seat up to 42 for a Wedding Reception.DSC03516 Or be made over for a Civil Ceremony

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The Drawing Room  It is much larger than it looks here.

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The Garden James Plunket at Belle Isle Here is James Plunket showing us the garden space in winter (above) and as it looks in summer (below)Castle4


Accomodations

The main castle sleeps 14, but there are several other places for guests to stay on Belle Isle. The Courtyard, the Coach House, The Walled Cottage Garden, The Bridge House, The Bridge Cottage, The Garden Cotteage and Glen Cottage.  One of the castle bedrooms is called the Coco Chanel Room, because the bed in there was the one she slept in everytime she visited with one of her good friends!

Here is a photo of James and his wonderful wife, Fiona, showing me around the Castle.  Notice the artwork, there are 950 framed works of art in the castle!  I asked James if would count them to make sure,
but he declined, lol.17059_319158780478_534695478_5165971_965822_n I just had to include this shot of their very special toilet :) Apparently many guests like to get a photo of themselves on the toilet!DSC03529
This is the Courtyard, where Tracey and I stayed.  These gorgeously renovated suites are full self-catering cottages with 2-3 bedrooms, a full kitchen 1 or 2 bathrooms and even a fireplace in each unit! This would be such fun for a close group to take over all of the units!  You could have big dinners set up in the courtyard.DSC03492The interior of our Unit #6

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Here is the Coach House, the bell on top would run the farm telling the workers when it was time to work, time for lunch and quitting time.  It is now a large self-catering cottage with three bedrooms.

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The Walled Garden Cottage, doesn't it just scream romance? Cott_walled


Things to do at Belle Isle

There is so much to do on this island!  Year-round Pike fishing, Coarse fishing, Driven Snipe and Woodcock Shooting, Tennis, Croquet lawn, Children's Playground, 17ft outboard boats to rent, a BBQ house, the lake and huge lawns for organized games. Within thirty miles there are many castles, Belleek Pottery, the Marble Arch Caves, theatre, shopping, tons of pubs, the possibilities are endless.  Fermanagh County's largest town, Enniskillen, is only 12 kms away.

You can also take a class at their state-of-the-art, on-site cooking school, Belle Isle School of Cookery!  With space for 12 chefs, this would be a fun activity to incorporate.  The school also has a store with home-made preserves, chutneys and  specialty cookware.DSC03539 DSC03541 

All in all, Belle Isle is the perfect Destination Wedding location for a couple looking for a Get-Away Family Wedding in Northern Ireland.  I can not wait to bring my family to stay at Belle Isle!

Photos are a compilation of our photos and photos from the Belle Isle Website.

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Our Irish Wedding Adventure ~ Knockninny Country House & Marina (Post 7 of 12)

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By: Tracey Manailescu

Upon arriving at Knockninny Country House & Marina, we got a feeling of home.  Gayle, co-owner (husband and wife team) gave us a tour full of laughs and warm hospitality. Beautifully decorated rooms, cozy and comfortable furniture with modern appliances make this charming venue a hidden gem. Up to 10 people can stay on-site.

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You can hold your Civil Wedding in one of two places on site. One is in "The Porter Room" which can hold up to 100 guests (60 for a sit-down reception) and has a wonderful view of the Lake. The other is in "Knockninny Gardens" which overlooks the marina, and then rock your reception in the beautiful permanent Marquis, which can hold 180 guests.

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Ireland 2010 1273 Knockninny is a 4 Star rated Country Guesthouse. This venue would be fantastic for a couple who really wants to have the intimacy of a family-focused wedding.

www.knockninnyhouse.com                                                                                                     Location: Knockinny Quay, Derrylin, Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh

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Our Irish Wedding Adventure ~ The Mummers of Aughakillymaude (Post 6 of 12)

By Tracey Manailescu

When we went to Northern Ireland, we had expected to find some unique and different ideas that could be incorporated into weddings back in Toronto.  We also wanted to be able to offer our clients something they could add to their Destination wedding in Ireland. Boy, did we find it!

Tanya Cathcart (Marketing Manager for Fermanagh Lakeland Tourism) took us to meet Jim Ledwith who runs the "Aughakillymaude Community Mummers Centre" in West Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. With excitement in her eyes, she watched our faces to gage our initial reaction upon entering the Centre.  We weren't quite sure what to make of the larger than life straw figures that were everywhere.

Ireland Mummers Jim LedwithPhoto courtesy of: Belfast Telegraph Co. UK      

Jim Ledwith, got right into the powerful presence and tradition that "Straw Boys" had in the past, and can have at weddings today in Northern Ireland.  "Mumming" is apparently Ireland's oldest, surviving theatrical tradition. We had a tour of the Community Centre & Museum, and than we watched a video of actual weddings they have performed at. 

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Ireland 2010 1247Straw Boys at a wedding are meant to bring happiness, good luck, wealth and health to the couple. The tradition started when weddings took place at home (before Church weddings and fancy reception venues became popular).  Now you can bring this tradition into your wedding!

15 Straw Boys (who must remain in disguise) will visit for about a half hour and will arrive after dinner, just before the dancing starts. Their theatrical visit includes music, singing, dancing and fertility related rituals that are supposed to guarantee health, good luck, fertility and happiness to the newlyweds. 

Ireland 2010 1250Some of the rituals that take place are the following:  

  • A "Quack" Doctor will do a routine check of the couple (in the centre of the room) to ensure they are up to the task of making a family (Measuring the bride's hips, etc.)        
  • The Straw Boys then line up and make a long archway (which symbolizes the roof of a house) an older married couple must walk through and step over a broom (much like the tradition of "Jumping the Broom") stating that they have completed a family, and than the newly wed couple will walk through, jumping over the broom, holding hands to signify starting a "new" family together. The Straw Boys will than shower the new couple with corn seeds over their heads.       
  • The older couple than hands over a straw fertility sheath (girdle) that has many seeds in it, which is to be placed in the wedding bed that evening to ensure the continuity of life.
  • The couple will than be seated where they will be "crowned" with newly made straw hats, than they are wrapped together with straw rope to symbolize their "oneness ie. tying the knot!"                     
  • Following this, the couple are led to the dance floor where all of the wedding party and Straw Boys dance. *Girls are NOT supposed to refuse the dance with a Straw Boy. The Captain of the Straw Boys dances with the Bride (supposed to ensure longevity).                                           
  • After the dance, a fruit bread is held over the couples heads (as they are back to back) which signifies that "as long as there is bread in the household, all within would be healthy and prosperous". Then the Captain tells the couple to break it themselves. Whoever gets the biggest piece, will be "the boss of the house".   

It was tradition that if the Straw Boys were well-received at the wedding, they would burn their hats on their way, and go to a pub to enjoy the remainder of their night.  If they were not welcomed, or treated badly, the straw masks would be put up on a high branch of a tree in front of the house, so that all who passed by the next day would know of the couple's cruelty. 

Contact: jim.ledwith@btconnect.com  

Ireland 2010 1251How fabulous would your wedding be with a bit of history incorporated into it?  This is something you and your guests would never forget!  This is perfect for fun-loving, family focused Northern Irish descendants who want to have something extra special!  

I am so glad that Danielle & I were able to experience this (thank you Tanya) and to meet Jim.  Hats off to you!                         

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Our Irish Wedding Adventure ~ Lough Erne Golf Resort (Post 5 of 12)

Lough Erne Golf Resortby Danielle Andrews Sunkel 

Upon arriving at Lough Erne Golf Resort we were struck by the vast amount of green around it. Not one, but two Golf Courses!  The Photo above shows just a section of the beautiful main building which backs not only onto their Champion Golf Course, but also Lough Erne (Lake).  The photo below shows the private 2 bedroom, self-catering cottages.

DSC03433We were warmily greeted outside by the best Bellman in history, Neil. The main lobby is so beautiful and soothing with dark wood, muted walls, plush seating everywhere, including in front of several open fires! Afternoon-tea-in-garden-hal

We were given a quick tour of the leisure facilities and their authentis Thai Spa, where we immediately booked our Spa appointments for that evening (purely for research, you know). 

Infinity-pool (Photo from Resort website)

Neil then brought us to our room, giving us a little tour along the way, he showed us around our gorgeous suite and taught how to work the tricky terrace doors, LOL.  One thing I really liked was a little pamphlet titled, "50 Things to do".  It listed 10 things to do in the rain, 10 things to do in the sun, 10 things to do with children, 10 things to do with a car, 10 things to do without a car.  What a fabulous idea!!

The view was absolutely stunning from our terrace suite.  Here is a photo I took:

DSC03397_2When we informed him we had Spa appointments, he showed us these handy back stairs which led directly in to the spa so no one would see us go downstairs in our bathrobes and slippers.  He was so wonderful our entire stay, that we insisted on getting a photo with him at tea the next day.

Neil, Tracey Manailescu and Danielle Andrews Sunkel

Thai-spa-corridorDown the stairs and in to the Spa we went. Lough Erne possesses the only authentic Thai Spa in Ireland.  We were led in to a room with beautiful music, candles, relaxing lounges and treated to an exoctic fruit juice shot while we waited for our Thai Masseuses. I had a head, neck and back massage and Tracey was treated to a scalp massage.  After our fabulous treatments we were brought to another peaceful room where we were treated to green tea and assorted fruits, set at our individual chaises, we were invited to stay as long as we liked.   If we didn't have dinner reservations, I wouldn't have moved the rest of the night. It was the perfect ending.

Deep-relaxation-room-1As if we weren't already spoiled enough, we headed to Lough Erne's Catalina Restaurant for what we affectionately call, "The BEST Dinner of our Lives!!"  Chef Noel McMeel's amazing menu is based on foods found directly in the County of Fermanagh.  Collette McMeel (no relation to Chef), was the sweetest hostess and sat us in front of terrace doors overlooking the Golf Course.  We started our feast with a selection of homemade breads (Tracey's favourite was the curry bread!), Irish Crab salad and Scallops.

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Danielle Andrews Sunkel at Lough Erne in IrelandFor the main course Tracey had the Mixed Grill which is a selection of all the local meats and I had the Fillet of Fermanagh Beef Rossini, we had to savour every single bite as it was just that good.  Our dishes came with entree sides, but little copper pots arrived on the table with seasonal mixed vegetables and the best darn scalloped potatoes in the world!  For dessert I had a souffle, while Tracey had a selection of Irish Cheeses with Port.  With our coffees came homemade fudge and hand-dipped chocolates.  We thought our friend, Alanna McQuaid (Lough Erne's Canadian Groups Representative), was exaggerating when she said Catalina's was the best restaurant in the world, but My Goodness,  she was spot on!

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The next morning we went to Catalina's for a fabulous Irish Breakfast plus buffet, then went for a walk around the grounds. 

Tracey Manailescu and Tricia Ellse at Lough Erne Golf in IrelandWe then met with Events Manager, Tricia Ellse, who showed us the many places available to have Wedding Ceremonies and Receptions at the resort.  Ireland's Marriage Laws are such that on-site Civil Marriage was only made legal in 2007. Marriages must take place in a licensed area, if a venue would like to offer multiple Ceremony areas, they must license each one. New-ross-suite-may-09-1I particularly loved their private outdoor terrace for cocktail receptions and the main walkway for the bride and groom to enter from.

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All in all, we had a fabulous time at Lough Erne Golf Resort.  The people who work there are so warm and friendly, they truly make you feel welcome and valued.  The venue is absolutely beautiful and it has all the luxuries modern couples demand with a comfortable, luxurious old-world atmosphere.  For more details about the resort, be sure to visit their website.

Lough-erne-aerial-1Photos are a combination of our own, and photos from the Lough Erne Golf Resort website

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Our Irish Wedding Adventure ~ An Introduction to Fermanagh (Post 4 of 12)

Enniskilcastleby Danielle Andrews Sunkel

When choosing a location for a dream "Wedding Away", not only must the location be perfect for the Bride and Groom, but you need to make sure that surrounding area boasts a wealth of entertainment and sightseeing for the wedding guests as well.  

We firmly believe, the only way to know what a place really has to offer, is to go see it in person.  It would be impossible to see all that the island of Ireland has to offer in a week, so we focussed our "Irish Wedding Adventure" on the County of Fermanagh in Northern Ireland.  The Irish say there are no coincidences, so I guess it was providence that we were invited to stay in Enniskillen, Fermanagh's largest town, and unbeknownst to them, the birth-place of our great-grandfather.  

17059_319067885478_534695478_5165719_2816476_nThe wonderful George, of Diamond Taxi, brought us from Dublin to Fermanagh in his beautiful Mercedes 320, a great way to travel indeed!  

With the backdrop of castles and green rolling hills, Fermanagh has much to offer the Sportsperson, the Daytripper, the Historian or the Spa-enthusiast.  There are so many unique ways to occupy ones-self. We'll be highlighting some of the castles in further Blog Posts, so right now I'll focus on other activities.

Lough Erne, Fermanagh, Northern IrelandLough Erne, (which is really two lakes that widen from the River Erne), runs 38 miles through Fermanagh, travels north, then west in to the Atlantic Ocean.  This allows for boating/cruising, waterskiing, jetskiing, rowing, kayaking, fishing, any watersport you can think of!  There are also many bike paths throughout the County, which offer challenging or pleasure trails.  If Shooting is your thing, Ireland still allows the practice. The mountains offer a challenging hike and Tracey made sure, there are no bears to worry about, LOL!

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The world famous, Beleek Pottery, calls Fermanagh it's home. A tour of the facility is a must, to truly understand all the work that goes in to every hand-made piece.  Maeve took us on a tour of the facility, introduced us to the potters and the painters and showed us step-by-step 12 day process each piece goes through. We then shopped (and bought!) in their on-site store.  A piece of the very reasonable, famous pottery would be a great Wedding Favour for the guests who made the trip to Ireland with the couple!  Beleek showed us items from their gorgeous new Wedding and Jewellery lines.  They were so gorgeous, Tracey even tried to buy some of the samples that have not yet made it to production!  Manager, Tricia, treated us to lunch in their Tea Shop and we even got to meet some of the top Executives.  The Belleek Pottery factory is a sight in it's own right.

 Belleek_pottery_600For those who enjoy fine-dining, we had amazing meals at both Catalina's and Scoffs Restaurant & Uno Wine Bar.  Going to the Pubs in the evening is a must and Enniskillen has many to choose from.  Blake's of the Hollow has been operated by the same family since 1887!  Pat's Place, Charlie's and Crowe's Nest are all quite popular.  (We went to Charlie's.)

While in Fermanagh, we were fortunate to have the tour guide of all tour guides:

Tanya Cathcart at Castle Coole, Fermanagh, Northern Ireland

Tanya Cathcart, Marketing Manager of the Fermanagh Lakeland Tourism Board ushered Tracey and I around to show us some of the highlights of the County.  Before taking us to see the Mummers and Knockninny (which will be featured in their own Blog Posts), we went for lunch at the quaint, thatched-roof Sheelin Tea House, a must for ladies visiting Fermanagh.

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Rain or shine, winter or summer, this beautiful County has something to offer everyone.

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Our Irish Wedding Adventure ~ Beautiful & Unique Places for Weddings in Ireland (Post 3 of 12)

by Danielle Andrews Sunkel

In subsequent Blog posts we are going to feature beautiful Castles and venues that we had the pleasure of visiting and experiencing first-hand. I also wanted to feature venues that, although we didn’t get a chance to view them, had we more time, we sure would have liked to.

Martello Tower Sutton

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Located in Sutton, 12kms from Dublin city centre, this tower was built in 1804 with 10-foot walls in effort to keep out Napoleon, Napoleon never attacked, but everyone else did.  Weddings can be held outside on the grounds, or intimate weddings can be held inside the tower.  The newlyweds can then stay in the two bedroom multi-level housekeeping suite inside the tower.

Cloghan Castle

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The main tower of this keep was built in 1239!  In 1973, the rest of was you see was added using reclaimed and local materials.  Guests and the wedding couple can stay at the Castle and the main ballroom holds 120 guests.  Civil Ceremonies are available at the Castle as well.

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Knappogue Castle

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Built in 1467, this Medeival Castle has 5 places to hold Civil Weddings or a Blessing in their on-site St. Mark’s Chapel. 

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With many room to host the wedding, their historic Main Hall can seat up to 150 at long tables in Medeival Faire while the Castle Entertainers delights guests. 

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Boasting a Victorian Walled Garden, a Rose Garden and set amongst rolling hills, there are many ideal places for wedding photos. Mead, of course, will be served.

Dunboyne Castle Hotel

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This Castle Resort combines the beauty of old, with the luxuries of new. There are on-site banquet facilties, pools, a spa and very luxuriously appointed guest rooms.

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Lough Rynn Castle

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This luxurious castle is a fully-functioning hotel on 300 acres and boasts a championship golf course.  Weddings can be held outside or in.  While the castle is traditional, the banquet facilities are quite contemporary.

Kilronan Castle

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A castle hotel set on 40 acres, this location has 85 bedrooms and boasts a gorgeous spa.  There are Wedding Packages and a discount for Weekday Weddings.

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