Statistics from WeddingDates.ie reveal there is a ten per cent uptick in Irish brides choosing to marry abroad or elope. Wedding planner Tara Fay (founder of Xena Productions) corroborates this. She believes some brides opt for weddings abroad with the mistaken idea they cost less. “This is not necessarily the case unless it is a small wedding,” says Fay. “The overriding factor when it comes to choosing locations abroad is the availability of direct flights.” Fay has organised weddings in Portugal, Spain, France and Italy, and is delighted Aer Lingus has just launched direct flights to Brindisi, following on from Ryanair’s new route to Bari last year. “This will really open up Puglia. There are some great olive groves as settings and the charming and beautiful village of Borgo Egnazia is fabulous.” Other favourite venues are the exclusive Finca Cortesin and The Marbella Club in southern Spain. “I also recommend the charming and beautiful town of Cascais in Portugal which has a range of great venues and is only a short distance from Lisbon.”
Professing your vows in a gothic cathedral commissioned by King Louis IX or a chapel decorated by Matisse might seem idyllic, but there are strict protocols to consider before marrying in abroad. You will need a formal letter from your parish priest outlining your eligibility to marry in another country, as well as Baptismal and Confirmation certificates, all submitted to the priest of the parish in which you want to marry at least two months before your wedding date. The most important thing to bear in mind is that you must have a civil wedding ceremony before you can be married in a Catholic church abroad.
These are things a good wedding planner will know. “In every country the residency laws differ for civil and religious weddings,” says Fay, “so each couple needs to research these in advance. Some countries also have specific post-wedding requirements. Paperwork may have to be filed within a tight time frame after the wedding, for instance. If this is not done, the wedding is not legally recognised.” Fay dispels the myth that a wedding planner comes with a prohibitive price tag and we can see how good prior knowledge (the sort that can even be obtained in a two-hour consultation with her) is well worth paying for, for a wedding overseas or at home.
If we were eloping, Château La Carrière in the Dordogne, south-west France, would be our top choice. Newly-opened, this picture-perfect wedding venue, on a stunning estate with panoramic views of fields and forests, is owned by Irishwoman Tanya McGilligan, and her Dutch husband. Their passion for interiors, attention to detail and hospitality combine in this fairytale venue, where a formal French Garden, a period conservatory and the foot of an old chestnut tree are some of the places in which to exchange vows. They work with local wedding planners and suppliers to ensure guests have a seamlessly enjoyable day and stay. There are multiple terraces and staterooms where drinks and dinner can be served, while The Elephant Bar is best for the after-party. The Château sleeps 18, so for an intimate wedding, pre-moon or an exclusive hen party, it makes sense to book the entire venue. The rooms are elegantly decorated while the Bridal Suite in the north wing is romance personified.
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