Saying “Yes” was a no-brainer but deciding exactly how you want to get married — and what you want to spend — can be much, much trickier. Urban venue or country house? Band or DJ? Beef, salmon or barbecue? Where should you blow the bridal budget and how can you trim it back? For today’s Weekend wedding special edition, we’ve done the leg-work for you and carried out an in-depth bridal survey.
We’ve spoken to more than 50 specialist providers across Leinster, Munster, Ulster and Connaught who have put together weddings of all types and sizes. Drawing on their vast experience, we’ve established the average cost of six central elements of a modern wedding day: the venue, clothing, photographer, cake and band. Then, using their expert advice and insider tips, we’ve identified where it pays to spend more and the best ways to save. We’ve also researched those hidden costs and unexpected extras — from that show-stopping veil to that picture-perfect Instagram spot — that can cause the bill to climb.
So, whether your motto for your wedding is “less is more” or “blow the budget”, read on to see how much you can expect to spend on your Big Day.
The clothing: wedding dress
One word kept coming up with all the wedding boutiques we spoke to around the country: lace. “If you love lace veils, they’re worth the investment,” says Tina Curran, manager at Belladonna Bridal in Galway. “The most beautiful lace trimmed veils use delicate Italian and French laces and silk tulles and can cost up to €1,000.”
If budget is no option, custom-made dresses are the dream and will cost upwards of €3,000 while the big designer names like Inbal Dror and Alice Temperley can retail for up to €8,000. “They only use the best fabrics, lace and hand embroidery,” reveals Alison Daly of Alice May Bridal, Co Dublin, who will be stocking Temperley gowns (at around €3,700) from February.
“A big trend is ‘the second look’,” says Claire Dilworth, owner of Cinderella’s Closet, Co Cork. This could mean spending on two dresses or extra accessories like a Vera Wang-inspired cape. “I also have to mention, the tiara is back!” adds Claire. Thanks Meghan Markle! Not all of us have a granny-in-law who can loan us one…
French Connection has just joined the ranks of high street names selling stunning wedding dresses, with prices as low as €245 for a funky, flattering vintage lace jumpsuit (see dresses on pages 20-23) .
However, don’t underestimate the added value of a dedicated wedding boutique where a trained bridal consultant can guide you through the selection process. Best hopes of a designer bargain are with a sample, off-the-rack gown — De Stafford Bridal in Dublin has launched 25pc reductions on off-the-rack and some boutiques will come down by up to 70pc — but, unless you’re very lucky, every dress will require some alterations, usually costing €200-€350, so always factor this into your budget. And always check the shop’s sample dress is in pristine condition and snag-free or risk paying for professional cleaning. “Non-silk crepes, chiffon, tulle and organza fabrics tend to be the most cost effective options,” explains Louise from The White Collection in Co Donegal. “Silk, satin, embellished, beaded, lace and embroidered fabrics tend to be the most expensive.”
If the dress has drama or detail then ditch the veil or elevate a simple, budget-friendly sheath dress with the addition of headwear. Veils are still a favourite with most brides at between €100-€350 but headpieces are gaining popularity and start from as little as €50.
The clothing: bridesmaids’ dresses
€150-€200 per dress, plus shoes and accessories.
Bigger brands, like Dessy, will cost up to €280 per dress, but the sky’s the limit.
“You can buy a high street bridesmaid dress from about €80,” says Jillian Bolger, editor of Irish bridal magazine The Vow.
The clothing: groom’s suit
Made-to-measure lifts the average outlay to €1,000 but a truly high-end Canali made-to-measure suit costs up to €3,000. Then bring on the accessories: tie, pocket square, cufflinks (upwards of €200) and an outfit (chinos, shirt, knitwear and shoes) for the day after at €500.
Go ready-to-wear. The average spend for an off-the-rack suit at Irish suiting expert Louis Copeland is €600, but prices start at €499 for a Purple Label, two-piece suit available in a range of colours. Renting suits for the groom and groomsmen is also an affordable option.
Formal event dressing requires supportive underwear and shapewear. Many brides will also opt to buy some more delicate lingerie as part of their wedding trousseau.
The venue: urban space
€8,515 (based on a summer wedding, reception only for 120 people.)
“I looked after one wedding where there was no budget and it was extraordinary,” reveals Conor Byrne, events manager at Dublin’s Smock Alley Theatre. “The table runners and napkins were hand dyed silk (coloured to match the bride’s eyes), there was a ‘groom’s reserve’ range of whiskeys, imported specially, full-size trees were potted in Victorian urns, covered in moss with tiny real toad stools — the entire set-up took two days and in total the guests were only with us for about six hours.”
Create a wine lover’s wedding with an award-winning wine list, and a choice of 500 bottles ranging in price up to €2,000 at The Twelve, Galway (which also cleverly treads a chic line between an urban and country venue).
Fancy a city-based foodie feast? Fallon & Byrne in Dublin city centre (pictured below left) can whip up bespoke five-course tasting menus with hand-picked wine pairings, a stunning croque-en-bouche take on a traditional wedding cake and a cheesemonger-created tiered cake.
Urban venues encompass everything from galleries and theatres to hotels and restaurants but nearly all reported back that they like to offer a bespoke service, so there’s often no such thing as a set rate. “There are always ways to make savings on a wedding,” says Conor Byrne. “I’d strongly recommend discussing the menu with the chef. Cuts of meat vary greatly in price so rather than opt for a beef fillet option, perhaps look at a beef cheek option — an overlooked cut but incredibly tasty and tender.”
Trim costs by choosing desert or cake, and a nice Prosecco over champers. “We’ve also noticed a huge increase in demand for vegetarian/vegan choices which can be less expensive,” adds Susan McDaid, events manager at The Chocolate Factory in Dublin.
Fallon and Byrne waives its room hire fee for all midweek weddings — and offers a three-course tapas-style sharing menu plus half bottle of wine per guest — bringing the cost in at €62 per person (its ‘average’ rate is €78, although it’s worth stressing again, all its weddings are bespoke, not set packages).
The venue: country house/castle
€12,855 (based on a summer wedding, reception only for 120 people.)
For a real sense of luxury, opt for somewhere where you have exclusive use of the venue, and treat your nearest and dearest to onsite accommodation. Luttrellstown Castle (pictured above) is only available for hire with the inclusion of all 11 bedrooms and bridal suite (€6,900 including breakfast) with wedding packages on top starting at €135pp. Lough Rynn, Co Leitrim, can do a budget-friendly reception for around €11,000 but exclusivity of the venue can cost anything up to €20,000.
Perhaps you’re a foodie who fancies a country house with a difference (and one where you can arrive by helicopter) such as The Three Towers Eco House and Organic Kitchen at Slieve Aughty Centre, Co Galway. Dine on hand-crafted organic menus, add on a children’s entertainment package with pony rides (from €10 per child) and a pre-wedding Friday night pizza party (from €25pp) before toddling off to bed in a glamping cabin or eco lodge.
Where budget is no option, wedding parties at Castle Leslie, Co Monaghan, can avail of a mind-boggling array of plush on-site activities including clay target shooting and boating. “Other extras that we would suggest include hot air balloon rides, fireworks displays, an open bar to include any champagne in gold flaked rimmed glasses, his and her personalised cocktails, a gin bar serving over 100 gins from around the world — including our very own Figthing Bishop Gin from Castle Leslie Estate — and oysters on arrival,” suggests Eimear Winters, sales and marketing manager at Castle Leslie Estate. Prices available on request only.
You don’t have to be to the manor born to secure a wedding with a country-house vibe. Country house hotels can offer the feel of a stately home reception at a fraction of the cost with venues like Summerhill Country House Hotel, Finnstown Castle and Harvey’s Point all offering packages under €10,000 for a June 2020 wedding.
The best way to secure your rural idyll at a manageable price tag is to reconsider whether you absolutely have to get married in summer and/or at the weekend since opting for snow rather than sun could save you around €30 per head.
Some venues have varying rates for food choices. “If couples are looking to trim costings I would say not to add the choice of a main course — this saves the couple €18.50 per person,” suggests wedding co-ordinator Debbie Foott from Ballyvolane House, Co Cork.
Ways to save:
Does your venue offer a corkage rate? Can they provide floral centrepieces?
Is there the option to go half beer/half wine on the toast or welcome drink?
If you’re planning an outdoor ceremony, is there an extra insurance cost? Are seat covers and candelabras included? Have you booked in for the night before?
This year sees VAT in the hospitality sector rise from 9pc to 13.5pc, with some predicting this could add as much as €500 to the average wedding bill. Make sure you check reception prices directly with the venue as many places are in the process of updating their packages.
Royal wedding-inspired arches (costing around €8,000) and statement florals are very much A Thing right now. “One high-end package we did recently involved bridal bouquet, bridesmaids, flowergirl, 10 button holes, gorgeous arch, white carpet, hundreds of candles, cherry blossom trees, real trees down the aisle and all table centres for €7,000,” reveals Judi Roche of Balla Florists, Co Mayo.
“You can hang flowers from the ceiling, floral walls, adorn mirrors, windows — you name it, a good florist can enhance it!” says Rebecca Gibson from Boutique Blooms, Dublin. “The price for something like this will double or triple based on the flowers because when you need big quantities they can be hard to come by.”
“Moongates are all the rage now,” adds Shirley Doherty of Love Blooms, Co Donegal. Round floral arbors cost between €1,500-€2,000 and create an oh-so-Instagrammable focal point.Heart set on having high-end, imported blooms like fragrant David Austin roses? Expect to add some 50pc to the price tag.
Semi-DIY is an affordable but classy option. Florists who are also growers, like Sarah Evans from Flowers from the Secret Garden, Co Cork, do great deals on seasonal, home-grown blooms. “I offer a ‘wild and wonderful DIY package’ supplying buckets of flowers for them to do their own and/or provide bouquets and buttonholes for them if they are happy to take whichever seasonal flowers look best and aren’t fixed on certain colours and flowers.” This option starts at €300 and supports Irish grown, seasonal produce. If you’re green-fingered and fancy growing your own, see Diarmuid Gavin’s guide on page 26.
Recycle flowers from ceremony to reception, using pew ends as centrepieces and altar arrangements on the top table. Yes, some churches like you to leave the flowers but usually only so they’re there for Sunday. If a friend or relative is happy to help out, flowers can be ferried from church to reception and back again. “But only do it if it’s practical,” warned one veteran florist. “Poor Aunt Mary doesn’t need to be fighting trying to get a large pedestal into her Fiat 500 — something I have seen happen!”
Focus on the bridal party, since these are the flowers that will feature most heavily in the photos. Stick to big blowsy blooms, minimal varieties and pad with foliage. “If you’re on a very tight budget, splurge on the bouquets and skip the rest,” says Brigid Riley of Fernwood Flowers, Co Meath. “Potted plants, candles or fruit displays are actually very effective table decorations if you run out of budget for flowers.”
Do not rule out the added value of employing a local florist who’ll know what can be done for your budget and even which local priest is allergic to lilies.
Do you have your heart set on having a high-end, imported blooms like fragrant David Austin roses? Expect to add some 50pc to the price tag.
Size and skill dictate price so the sky really is the limit. “Cakes can be suspended upside down to create impressive focal points, be recreations of scenes from a couple’s life or indeed the couple themselves,” laughs wedding planner Bláithín O’Reilly Murphy. “You could be looking at anything from a few grand to over €50k.”
How many times have you been at a wedding where the cake lies uneaten as everyone hits the dancefloor? Ditch the waste — but retain the iced focal point — by hiring a fake cake (or even a fake tier) for between €50-€70. If you still want something to munch on then a supermarket iced cake can be picked up from as little as €40 for smaller wedding parties. Pick sponge over fruit, butter-cream over fondant and simple decorations (like shop-bought flowers) over hand icing. See if there’s wiggle room on price if you can collect yourself rather than paying for delivery.
Watch out for options like cupcakes, donut walls and cheese cakes. “These are difficult for venues and caterers to portion correctly and don’t tend to keep as well, meaning there can be a lot of wastage,” warns wedding planner Bláithín.
Check whether cutting and serving the cake is included in your wedding package. Some venues charge for this separately, and it can cost up to €200.
Ways to save:
Some wedding cake suppliers offer a fake cake for your photos and pre-sliced, iced traybakes to serve to your guests, priced at around €75 per 50 people.
Hiring a professional photographer all day (from the first prep to the last dance) will set you back around €3,000-€4,000 with the inclusion of high-end leather albums for the couple and parents. About 50-60pc of couples also have a videographer at their wedding with an average cost of around €1,000.
Hiring a drone has become a popular ‘extra’ (costing between €300-€1,000) but make sure your drone operator has all their insurance and flight permissions in order… and cleared their flight path with all wedding personnel. “I’ve heard stories of priests stopping ceremonies because the photographer has a drone following the bride up the aisle,” revealed one Leinster-based photographer.
OK, you could go down the cheap and cheerful route of handing your guests a bunch of disposable cameras and snip your photographer budget to a couple of hundred euro, but remember it’s your photos that will last longest and research shows couples often wish they’d spent more on snaps. With that in mind, Weekend spoke only to professional photographers registered with the IPPVA. “Couples also should know that any experienced wedding photographer will also guide them on their timings for the day,” reveals Dublin-based photographer David Duignan. “We’re the only supplier that’s actually with the bride and groom for the entire day and after shooting hundreds of weddings, we have seen it all, we know what works and what doesn’t.” Hire an experienced professional photographer and you don’t need a ‘second shooter’.
Ways to save:
You can potentially save some €200 by waving your snapper off before speeches and reduce costs by as much as €900 by going USB only and making your own album.
Your photographer (possibly with an assistant or second shooter) and videographer will be with you all day long, so you’ll need to make sure meals are provided for them.
Dry ice, LED dance floors, indoor fireworks… there are a lot of extras many bands can offer to help make your party go off with a bang. Cork-based boppers Love Bugs offer all the above, plus band and DJ for €3-500-€4,000.
Also, why stop at just a band and DJ? Wow guests with choralists in church and a string quartet at the reception and dinner.
Reassuringly all the bands we spoke to said they cost what they cost and wouldn’t charge more for their act even if the client said money was no option.
Go the Spotify playlist and speaker hire route and you could have a dancefloor in action for little more than €100. But any band will tell you that what they offer is so much more than a set-list. A professional wedding band, like those listed on weddingbandassociation.ie, not only know how to get a party jumping but also come with guarantees and the appropriate sound equipment.
Do you have to have a DJ? For €2,500 Pump Up The Jam will provide a two-hour set from a six-piece live 1990s band (in costume with glo-sticks) and a DJ doing requests/oldies for half an hour before the band as well as a full-on set after, usually until 2am, including sound and lights and a dedicated sound/light man, but their lowest price point (band only with sound and no DJ) is €1,900. “You don’t need to spend 5k on entertainment but the difference between a band costing €1,000 and €2,000 can be quadruple rather than double the value,” says Cormac Moore from Pump Up The Jam. “If you have to choose to save then rather than spending on a band and a DJ, pick one — a band or a DJ — and spend the right money on that.”
Ways to save:
It’s worth asking whether a four-piece band perform as a three-piece. Some bands can but not all of them advertise the
fact and it could shave several hundred euro off the bill.
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