Belleek Castle – April 27th 2019
Photographs courtesy of Dan Sweeney
My Irish castle wedding
By Oisin S Ryan
I can’t believe I’m actually writing this, well I can’t believe I’m actually MARRIED!!! I’ve spent the past two or so years as part of Behind the Wand talking all things weddings and here I am talking about my own.
Ok firstly I should introduce myself. Oisin S Ryan here aka The Guy Behind The Wand and one half of Behindthewand.com. Behind the wand was something I fell into working with after meeting my Fairy Godmother and Work Wife Louise Moran. She walked into my salon one day and after 3 hours of working on her hair, talking all things life and weddings that was it; we had an instant connection for our love of weddings.
After 3 years owning a hair and beauty salon I decided to take the plunge and leave that all behind to follow a life in the wedding industry. Here we are today with loads of new ventures to follow and couples to help with their dream day and I couldn’t be happier.
Right, back to why you’re reading this today. So you’re getting married or you know someone that is, or your just like me and hoping that if I show your boyfriend enough wedding related stuff he’ll get the hint and propose lol. Well he did get the hint and in December 2017 he asked and I said yes… well it was more like “do you have to even ask”.
The ring, OMG the ring it was perfect everything I could have dreamed of. Mainly because we broke with tradition and I got to design it myself. Let’s be honest it’s a gay wedding so there’s not that much tradition to follow, we’re really making our own rules as we go. You’ll see throughout this article some of the parts we did different and what was the “norm”. My ring was designed in Aksoy Jewellers in Cork City. An experience like no other. Being a guy wearing an engagement ring isn’t something you see every day, there wasn’t much choice out there except for your plain bands or classic solitaire set. I knew I wanted white gold, diamonds (yes I like my bling) but how to incorporate the two and have something that still looked masculine. That’s where I can’t thank Aksoy enough, they got it just right. Actual no, they got it perfect!
After the hype of the engagement had settled down it was now time to get to the planning of a wedding day. In this part I’m going to give you advice both from personal experience and what was passed onto me.
My other half (I’m going to be referring to him throughout this post in many different ways apart from his name as he’s not one for the limelight…hey they say opposites attract.) and I had started talking dates for the big day, he wanted to wait a few years and I wanted it sooner rather than later. I suppose my point for a short engagement was one of two things, 1; I was excited and it couldn’t happen sooner, 2; the longer I had to plan I’d have put more stress on myself.
We decided to compromise, and the initial plan was to have a wedding within 18 months but abroad with a small number of guests.
Advice point: after you get engaged STOP! Take time to weigh up your options, pros and cons of venues and the style of wedding you want. Take at least 4 weeks in my opinion.
Off I went on the venue hunt. The first thing with an overseas wedding I found was I had way too much choice, because we love so many countries we couldn’t decide where to have it. Spain, France, Italy after much deliberation we settled on one: Marbella. A dream wedding on the beach, cocktails by the pool, our nearest and dearest with us to celebrate. And then I got to thinking about who wouldn’t be there, family that don’t like to fly, friends that have kids that can’t make it. This started to bother me and I was on the fence. The next thing I found was that a lot of Spanish weddings last only 7hrs, that’s 7hrs for your drinks reception, meal and dancing. Hello… we’re Irish we love a good wedding. I got over that hurdle and found that if we hired a private villa we could have it all there with no restriction. Wrong, most villas have a noise restriction after 12am because there in built up areas. It started to get me down and I felt like we wouldn’t have our dream wedding after all.
Back to the drawing board. Many conversations and many glasses of wine later it was an Irish wedding we would have. The budget was set (and be realistic here, account for the smaller things to as they really do add up. Even socks in Penny’s!) My Hubby is from the south and I’m from the west so we had so much scope for venues.
Advice point: I found if you came out of the cities you got more value for money when it comes to the venues.
Himself wasn’t too pushed on what county the venue was in so was happy to follow me back to my motherland of Mayo. It didn’t take much thought at all as to where in mayo I wanted to get married. Belleek Castle had always been a dream of mine. The issue been, could we afford it. Well I can honestly say I was never so surprised to find how extremely competitive their prices were. Signed, sealed, delivered it’s ours. The date was set; April 27th 2019 I would marry the man of my dreams, in the venue of my dreams!
What exactly about Belleek sold it to us? Aside from the fact as I child I was mesmerized by the castle and wondered what lord lived in there. Well it turns out not a lord but an extremely friendly Baron and his amazing other half Maya.
From the moment we walked through the door to view the venue right through to the morning after the wedding Paul and Maya could not do enough for us. Been made feel at home in your wedding venue just adds to the whole experience.
So as the planning was well underway and the days ticked away (and my god do they fly by) with each passing day another item was ticked of our checklist. Belleek kindly gives you access to your own Moposa account and their checklist is amazing. However I do feel it is aimed solely at your Bride/Groom couple but you can sift through it and pick what you need.
When it came to our invites I knew instantly Stephanie from Paper Love Stationary would be making ours. I had met Steph through Louise (Work Wife) and loved her creativity from day one. After a consultation to decide our style and colour scheme Steph designed the perfect invite for us.
A bespoke invite that resonated all the castle was about. Colours included black, white and our names embossed in copper foil. A piece of art really.
Next it was cake time, this took no thought at all as to who we’d be calling. Baker Boy Cakes! The talented Brian Roche had worked with myself and Louise at some wedding fairs and his cakes do not disappoint.
The challenge being I wanted a crystal geode cake in black and copper. Well Brian if you are reading this give yourself a round of applause. It was spectacular and tasted better then it looked.
Advice point: We had our cake cut at the drinks reception and served out with the desert at our meal. Empty plates all round!
Suits, what’s a wedding without the perfect suit. Not going to lie bets were on that I would rock up in a wedding dress lol. Our suits were custom made for us by the team at Tom Murphy’s Menswear in Cork. We had Alex on hand from the get-go and he was just excellent to deal with. He knew exactly what we wanted.
For our groomsmen we hired their tuxedos from Oliver’s Menswear in Ballina, Co. Mayo. As for my stunning bridesmaids, they wore black glitter, fitted dresses with an off the shoulder bardot neckline. I was lucky enough to find them on Quiz online.
The ceremony, strangely enough this was the one part of the day I got nervous about. That moment you’re standing there, your bridesmaids have walked up the aisle and now it’s your turn. Thankfully I had my godmother to hold my hand the whole way (my mum had passed away a few years ago and this felt like the only one who could do the job just as much justice). Those few seconds I can barely remember, yet there I was side by side with the man I was about to marry, the whole ceremony was personalised to us, we had our best friend (work wife) Louise marry us. It was so special. She used Union by Robert Fulghum as the core of our ceremony. To keep with tradition we had unity candles yet we lit the flames from a memorial candle that burned in memory of my mum. Our vows we wrote ourselves and kept them secret until the day. Bad idea really, his vows blew me away, I really wasn’t expecting them and tried to compose myself as I went second. Before we knew it we had said I Do and it was onto the drinks reception.
You’re probably wondering when did we get a chance to have our photos taken. We broke with tradition on this one and had them done before the ceremony. As that wasn’t starting until 3:30pm I had arranged to have the formal picture with our wedding party taken between 1-3pm. It was the best decision ever, it meant we got to enjoy the drinks reception with our guests. From here on in our photos were all natural and caught off guard and being honest they are my favourite ones really.
Words can’t express how amazing our meal was, from service to the food itself everything was exactly what we had imagined. The top table was slightly non-traditional as we kept to the wedding party only. We had Drunken Bullock as our main course. It’s Belleek’s speciality, its fillet steak flambéed in Jameson on a sword, a total showpiece but tasted amazing.
Speeches! The one chance in life your friends get to roast you in front of 100 plus people and yet you just sit there and take it. In our case, we were lucky (maybe because we had them warned lol) yet it cannot go unmentioned my bridesmaid Cora’s speech was A1. She got the whole room singing her own rendition of Sweet Caroline called Sweet Gay Friends of Mine, it was epic.
So as I’ve previously mentioned the hubby is not a fan of the limelight so a first dance was a no go for him. Instead, I had the band get everyone on the floor for Sky Full of Stars, and then I got him in the middle for our dance (he couldn’t run away now ha-ha). Yet the biggest surprise of all was yet to come, none other than the beautiful Sandy Kelly surprised us by coming to Belleek to sing Crazy for us. I’ve been a fan of hers since a kid and Crazy is one of my favourite songs. And just like that before we could blink the day was over. The last dance was had, the last song was sung and our day was over. It really is the most special day of your life and it really does go by that fast.
I’d do it all again if I could and I wouldn’t change a thing.
IF YOUR DAY IS COMING UP THERE’S A FEW THINGS ID HIGHLY RECOMMEND.
Take 20mins on the day with your new husband or wife. Just take it all in the two of you. You’d be surprised how little time you spend together on your wedding day once you start mingling.
Get a videographer, you will not regret it. So much happens you don’t see. Also you get to relive the day each time you watch the video. We had Dan Sweeney from Cork and his work is outstanding.
Photographer. Invest in a good one, they say pictures speak a thousand words well your wedding photos speak ten thousand. John Channing was our choice, he was so fun to be around on the day. He understood the other half HATES the camera and yet made him feel at ease, also his photos are natural and unpoised so you can really see the fun love and laughter of the day.
The band… everyone says people talk about two aspects of a wedding and that’s food and music. That is exactly the case. We booked Who Knows from Galway. Not only was Dave so nice to deal with from day one, but they kept the dancefloor hopping all night.
Good makeup and tan, yes even if you’re a groom a tan is no harm. Nothing worse than looking like Casper the married ghost in your photos. Beyond Beauty in Ballina looked after my party and the girls are just fab. Ok, I may be biased as they’ve been friends of mine for years. That being said Loraine made the girls and myself look flawless.
Ceremony and drinks reception music, it sets the tone for the day and filters any silent moments, not that there will be. Susan Ryan my talented cousin did ours and she blew us away. Ok I come from a musical family (which I didn’t pick up) because my other cousin Hannah Ryan and Rob played me down the aisle to Cannon in D on the Violin and Cello.
Flowers, yes they can be expensive however if you have a Louise like I do and you can buy from the wholesaler you can save on them. Lou did our flowers for us they were simple, yet perfect; exactly what we wanted.
Well that’s all on my wedding day, it really does go by in a flash. Savour every moment and above all enjoy. We had the perfect day and we hope you have too.
Video: Dan Sweeny
Photos: John Channing Photography
Band: Who Knows
Reception Music: Susan Ryan Wedding Singer
Rings: Aksoy Jewellers
Cake: Baker Boy Cakes
Invites: Paper Love
Suits: Tom Murphy’s Menswear
Tux Hire: Oliver’s Ballina
Dresses: Quiz Clothing
Make Up: Beyond Beauty Ballina
Hair: Myself (yes I am that crazy)
Venue: Belleek Castle