Back in the spring, I was lucky enough to get to attend my friends’ wedding in Ireland. It was my first time in the Emerald Isle, and it was the perfect backdrop for Courtneyann and Joe’s fairytale dreams to come true.
Most of the trip was spent doing wedding festivities – Courtneyann’s birthday and hen party (bach party) were both two days before the wedding, so it was basically a flurry of a few days spent laughing, crying, and dancing the night(s) away. April and I got to come on this trip together, and after the wedding we drove across the whole country to take in the Cliffs of Moher before having to head back to our little New York life.
Destination weddings can be tough to pull off, but this one was so beyond perfectly executed, it was a dream for all involved. The guest list was under 30 people, so it was truly only the nearest and dearest souls spending such a precious few days together, from Dublin to two nights in a storybook castle on Waterford Island.
One of the best parts is that April and I were able to do this trip incredibly affordably, by using Groupon! Between flights, places to stay, and a rental car, I would say the trip should have and could have cost us well over $2000 each. But several months before the wedding, April found us a Groupon getaway deal for Ireland, for only $700 (!!!) each – covering our flights, bed and breakfasts, AND the rental car. Seemed too good to be true at first but it wasn’t! Seriously such an amazing deal, as the flight alone to Ireland could have been over $800 easily. The only costs we had on top of this were food, gas, and our two night stay in the castle. Thank god for Groupon!
We arrived in Dublin in the afternoon on our first day, after a red eye to London and transfer to Ireland. We were thoroughly exhausted and knew we had a busy few days lined up, so once we picked up our car and some groceries/snacks, we just headed straight to our bed and breakfast we had booked for two nights in Dublin to rest and relax for the evening.
We had to be at the Guinness Storehouse at 9:30am the next day, and decided to drive over instead of taking the bus… ooph. Pedestrian and bike traffic in Dublin is CRAZY, on top of having to drive on the other side of the road! It was a struggle to get there (thank you for driving, April!) but we made it in one piece and without any casualties, whew. Once at the Storehouse, we were united with most of the rest of the wedding group to take a tour and then enjoy a casual 11am Guinness in their Gravity Bar – a gorgeous, all glass window-ed bar high in the sky with 360 views of Dublin.
After the Guinness tour, April and I took some time to wander around the main bit of Dublin, stopping into Queen of Tarts for lunch – sooo cute, so good, highly recommend. We walked by the Dublin Castle as well, didn’t go inside but the outside was just lovely 🙂
The hen party (bachelorette party in English/Irish terms) was that night so we headed home to rest up for a bit before heading back out to meet up with the girls at their hotel, the Paramount. Our girls night out included dinner and cocktails at Cleaver East, drinks at Whelan’s Pub (actually the bar where the couple meets in the PS I Love You movie, so that’s quite cute), and the dancing at Copper Face Jacks, a dance-y bar/club that was actually really lively and busy for a Tuesday! The DJ was definitely stuck in 2007 though, all the songs he was playing were things we forgot about from late high school/early college, haha. After dancing our hearts out and no one getting obliterated/too drunk, we all headed to our places for our beauty rest – rehearsal dinner and our first day at the castle was the next day.
Before heading to the castle, April and I stopped at Powerscourt Estate and Gardens on the recommendation of the couple who we had breakfast with at our bnb. Besides the wedding, this was definitely our favorite part of the trip. I’ve never been to Versailles, but this place really reminded me of it. We scheduled ourselves for a half hour to run through the gardens and ended up staying for over two hours because we just couldn’t get enough. The Japanese section was my favorite with all the cherry blossoms in bloom, and there was a bit where you walk through these beautiful mossy rocks that made me feel like I was walking through The Hobbit. We ended up getting lunch at their cafe as well, and usually I’m not a fan of museum-ish place food but this cafe was amazing, so definitely plan on grabbing a bite to eat if you visit the estate!
When April and I finally got to Waterford Castle, our jaws dropped. I’ve never stayed in a castle and this one was a real life fairy tale, with lush rose gardens, stone castle walls covered in vines, stunning rooms with huge windows and views of misty fields and forests, and a flowery toilet. The porcelain had flowers on it, I mean, not that there were flowers floating in the toilet – which is what I imagined when April shouted from the bathroom that we had a flower toilet, haha. We had the rehearsal dinner in Emiliano’s, a beautiful Italian restaurant in Waterford town, and everything was perfect aside from the slight snafu of getting our rental car locked in a parking garage overnight – Steve (CA’s dad) and Joe to the rescue!
Breakfast in the castle was perfect. Wish I could have breakfast in that gorgeous, sun filled breakfast room every day. After Joe helped us retrieve our car, we started getting ready for the wedding. I really don’t have enough words to describe how insanely intimate and beautiful the ceremony was. It took place in the Great Hall of the castle and they had a string quartet playing throughout, and I was just bawling the whole way through.
After the ceremony we had cocktails, champagne, and group photos outside the castle. My gown was vintage from the 1960s, picked up at Amarcord in Williamsburg – side note, if you’re ever in my neighborhood this is a vintage shop must stop. I bought the gown back in December for this spring wedding. CA and Joe had a Polaroid camera that we all used from that point forward, in lieu of a guestbook, which was an amazing idea. Now they have so many amazing and candid polaroids from their beautiful day!
Dinner was so beautiful as well, all flowers and candles and great conversation. After dinner it was time for a traditional Irish craic, ie party, at a pub in town. We had a little bus pick us all up, a wonderful bartender who didn’t mind when I hopped behind the bar to make shots, and a great little 3 person band while we all danced the night away.
After the craic the bus shuttled us all back to the castle, and us younger folk ended up in our castle bar until 3am, drinking vodkas and champagne, talking, laughing, me crying some more, and soaking up those last moments. Afterwards we all escorted CA and Joe to their suite, cracking up about it – with the whole castle vibe, it really felt like what they did in the olden days of escorting the bride and groom to their wedding night/bed, haha.
After an amazing breakfast again, it was time to hit the road, but not before exploring the castle grounds some more. Waterford Castle actually has this super cute fairy walk you can take through the woods, with little fairy houses all over – cutest! We shot some photos and then it was time to head to the other side of the country, to get to the Cliffs of Moher.
We got into town pretty late, later than we expected – the sun was already setting, which was sad because it sets over the cliffs and I would have loved to see that, but we were so hungry we had to go on a food hunt, on top of which the first two dinner places I found on google maps were actually closed. Third time was the charm though, and we had a cozy, filling supper at a pub – can’t remember what it was called now, but it was the only open one in town – and got to sleep almost immediately after.
We hit the Cliffs the next morning, and they really were awe inspiring and definitely vertigo inducing for me. We had to drive all the way back to Dublin that day – all the way across the country again – and stopped a few times, but at this point in the trip it had been a lot of excitement and emotions and not much sleep so we were thoroughly exhausted and just wanted to get to our bnb for the night as soon as possible. But before that, we drove up to see the Howth Cliffs, also just outside Dublin. I may have loved these even more than Moher, an absolute must do/see if you’re only doing Dublin (or east coast of Ireland). I even saw some crazy guys cliff jumping into the frigid water where someone had built a diving board of sorts!
Once we finally got to our bnb, it was time to immediately head out again to grab dinner. The whole trip, April had been looking for somewhere to shoot photos that had specifically a bridge, stream, trees, and castle ruins, but to no avail – until we were walking down the road in Swords and pass the Swords Castle ruins. They had it all. Of course. But it was already dark out and we had to leave at 5am to catch our early flight out, so we had no chance of shooting there. Dinner was quick at Empire, a really cool looking library-esque pub, and then it was straight to packing and bed!
Seriously loved being able to see one of my best friends get married to the most incredible man of her dreams, in her favorite country, and get to spend a couple days exploring the country myself. What a dream, and so lucky that we didn’t have to spend an arm and a leg thanks to Groupon!