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Weddings on a budget - how to blag a venue bargain

written by Jennifer_Duggan
07.09.09 Posted in Finance 1 0

During the Celtic Tiger weddings were all about bling, now they are all about budget. Extravagance and luxury don't go well with the pay cuts and job insecurity that come with a recession.

It's not fun living til debt do us partIt's not fun living til debt do us part

So chocolate fountains and ice sculptures are out and DIY invitations and high-street wedding dresses are in.

It is estimated that the average cost of a wedding in Ireland is between €20,000 and €25,000. Getting engaged in the middle of the recession, with just four months to plan and save has meant my fiance and I have to stick to a tight budget. With reduced salaries we didn't want to end up promising till debt do us part. But with a bit of research and imagination we've found it is possible to save money and not compromise on the important things.

After the excitement of the proposal, it is time to get down to the business of organising the logistics and venue is usually top of the list. Depending on the number of guests this is usually the largest part of a wedding budget. Before the credit crunch, it seemed hotels could charge whatever they wanted. Now however, most businesses have to be competitive so there are savings to be made.

Menu prices

Menu prices between different hotels can vary considerably in price from around €40 to €100 a head. However, a wedding mid-week can bring a sizable discount. Many hotels will offer discounts of up to 15pc for weddings held Monday to Thursday. All-in packages are also becoming popular with many hotels offering a deal that includes food, wine, photographer and a band. These can often come in much cheaper than sourcing each item individually.

Let them drink wine

Even if you have your heart set on an expensive venue there are ways of keeping costs down. With many weddings being cancelled or postponed due to the recession, many hotels may be more flexible on prices so it is worth negotiating. Often venues will allow the bride and groom to bring their own wine for a corkage fee. Buying the wine in bulk, north of the border or in France, can bring down the cost. Some hotels offer an option of having a buffet meal instead of table service. It is often considerably cheaper and creates a more relaxed atmosphere.

Location, location, location

Since 2007 civil marriage ceremonies can take place in a location other than a registry office, giving greater flexibility. However there are certain conditions and the location must be indoors so any dreams of getting hitched on a beach are out. Many hotels can be considered as a location for a wedding ceremony as can a number of historic buildings. It gives the option of having the ceremony and the reception in the one place. This cuts down on transport costs.

While traditionally wedding receptions are held in hotels, there are a number of other possibilities that won't blow the budget.

One option that is becoming increasingly popular are marquee weddings. This gives couples the choice of having their reception at home, in a garden or other venue. While the bride and groom will have more to organise such as catering, hiring tables etc, it can help to keep costs down. Having a marquee can give the freedom to get creative and organise a bespoke event which is as formal or as causal as the couple wish.

For food lovers an option can be to book out their favourite restaurant. Many restaurants now accommodate weddings with reasonably priced menus. This is a particularly good option for an intimate wedding with a smaller number of guests.

Get me to the church in Spain

Getting married abroad has become very popular for Irish couples over the past few years. Popular destinations include Italy, Spain and Malta. Many travel agents offer deals for weddings abroad and costs can come in as much as half the price of an Irish wedding.

A new trend known as weddingmoons, which combine both the wedding the honeymoon is another money saver. Many travel companies offer to arrange the ceremony at the honeymoon destination. This is ideally suited if the couple want to jet off to an exotic location by themselves or with a small group of friends and family.


Where to look:


Mid-week deals

The Slieve Russel hotel in Cavan offer a midweek wedding package for 120 guests for €9,900. It includes 5 course meal, half bottle of house wine per person, sparkling wine reception, band and DJ, photographer and eight complimentary bedrooms.

All-in packages

Weddings by the Water is an initiative from a group of hotels which have come together to offer a package for small weddings. The five hotels; The Aghadoe Heights House and Spa, Bellinter House, The Ice House, Lisloughrey Lodge and Wineport Lodge offer a package entitled Small and Beautiful. It includes everything from champagne reception, canapes, food, wine, photographer and entertainment for fifty guests for €9950.


For tents with a difference LPM Bohemia offer tents from Mongolian yurts to Indian marquees to a huge grand pavilion. They are responsible for many of the quirky tents at Electric Picnic and offer styled or themed interiors.


Fallon and Byrne restaurant on Dublin's Exchequer Street offers a wedding service in their upstairs function room. Menus start at around €30 for a buffet meal to €38 for a three-course sit-down meal.

Weddings abroad


Topflight organise weddings in a number of different locations including Italy, Spain and Cyprus.


Sandal resorts in the Caribbean can combine weddings and honeymoons. They organise packages in exotic locations such as St Lucia and the Bahamas.

Can be booked through



Jennifer Duggan lives in Ranelagh in Dublin with her husband. She is a freelance journalist with secret dreams of writing a Booker-prize winning novel. She loves sleeping and shoe shopping, though obviously not at the same time.

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