Planning A Wedding in Ireland from Abroad

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You may have had to do a double-take on the title there, but this morning we’re not talking about planning a wedding abroad. Actually, it’s quite the opposite – planning a wedding in Ireland from abroad. With emigration at an all time high, there are hundreds of couples who are planning to return to Ireland for their dream wedding. But how do you plan an entire wedding from another country? To kick off our series of posts on the topic, this morning we’re speaking to newlywed, Roisin Durham, who explains how she and her husband, David,  planned their wedding from Sydney, Australia, without having a meltdown.

Roisin and David met while working together as digital directors for competing media agencies in London in 2006 and moved to Sydney five years ago.

“A big group of friends from our work circle in London had relocated to Sydney and tempted us to relocate through a long stream of Facebook photos of beach life, barbeques and outdoor adventures. What was initially intended to be a year’s stay has turned out to be a life changing experience where we’ve developed our careers, made new friends and adopted the Aussie way of life,” Róisín explains. 

The Engagement

On her 30th birthday, David presented Roisin with a “This is Your Life” style scrapbook, alluding to the fact that the couple’s best years were still to come.

“The last few pages told the story of our relationship through photos from our time in London and our travels. Then came the next page which was just a photo of a diamond ring. With that, he popped the question with a temporary ring which had a beautiful emerald stone.

Although Sydney offers an amazing backdrop, and of course is more or less a safe bet when it comes to the weather, having the majority of our friends and family attend was the greatest consideration for us, so a wedding in Sydney didn’t even come into it. Despite Dave hailing from England, I’d always dreamed of a wedding in the Irish countryside so there wasn’t much of a debate! I wasn’t precious about getting married in my local church either, so we ended up at The Church of the Immaculate Conception, Rathfeigh Co. Meath and the reception was held at Tankardstown House, Co. Meath.”

The Planning

“With Sydney being 12 hours ahead of Ireland, maintaining a regular flow of communication with suppliers wasn’t always possible. Any correspondence via Skype had to be coordinated at times that were suitable for both us and them. Responses to emails took a minimum of 12 hours! For suppliers not on Skype, we found ourselves on the end of some very long and expensive phone calls.

There was added stress because Dave isn’t Irish or Catholic so he had to apply for an apostille to be issued on his birth cert. This can take up to six weeks. We had to have release papers signed by the priest in our local parish (Bondi) who then sent them on to the Bishop’s office in Ireland. We only learned days before the wedding that our papers were never sent, so a frantic mission to get hold of the approved papers ensued.”


  • Decision-making

“I never had myself down as the indecisive type until I began planning a wedding overseas. Not being in the same country means there’s less assurance that the choices you are making are 100% what you want. Specifically for florists, photographers and cake-makers, not having the luxury of being able to visit them and see the actual products before booking is quite difficult.  You rely solely on photos, online forums and your own instincts. Hair and make-up trials aren’t possible, so again you need to commit based on recommendation alone. Choosing a wedding band was one of the trickiest decisions as YouTube clips don’t do them justice! Luckily our gamble paid off.”

  • Travelling home with a wedding dress

“Having bought my dress in Sydney, I was faced with having to make the 23 hour trip home (via an overnight stay in London with the future in-laws) with my precious cargo. The dress was hanging in a dress bag and was handed over by the designer with strict instructions to keep it horizontal or vertical to ensure the Italian silk wouldn’t crease. Despite chancing our luck with the ‘we’re flying home to get married’ card we didn’t blag first class seats, but the dress did! We parted ways with it with a sense of relief as the air hostess hung it in the first class wardrobe. At our first destination (Dubai), I was more than a little dismayed to find that the dress had slipped from the hanger and had most likely suffered 13 hours at the bottom of the dress bag. After that, I relaxed a little and came to the conclusion that the dress would need to be professionally steamed regardless, which was good because Aer Lingus don’t have the luxury of first class cabins on flights between London and Dublin, so the dress was shoved into the pilot’s locker, which is only slightly more roomier than an overhead locker in the plane’s main cabin.”

We couldn’t have done it without:

  • The Internet

“The wedding probably wouldn’t have happened without it! From Google, Ebay, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, wedding blogs/forums and Skype I was able to search, source, compare, chat and be inspired on every wedding-related detail.”

  • Family

“My Dad and Aunt were my venue scouts, visiting a lot of the places we’d shortlisted from browsing online. My Dad took photos and emailed them so I could get a realistic view (the good and the bad), instead of only relying on the glossy photos in online catalogues. We sent David’s parents all of the UK invitations in one batch and they posted or hand delivered them individually – this saved us the expense of posting from Australia. My Dad did the same for the Irish invitations. He was also kept busy sourcing my birth certificate and baptismal certificate which needed to be posted to Australia to present to the Bondi parish priest.”

  • Bridesmaids

“Two of my three bridesmaids live in Dublin and were available to hunt for decorations, collect one of the cakes (we had a cheese cake too) and try on bridesmaid dresses that I was finding online. They’d send me photos on Facebook which was a massive help. My sister Caitriona was the most invaluable support and sound board for all aspects of the wedding planning too. As she’s also planning a wedding abroad we were always sharing tips on shortcuts.”

  • Our Venue

“The wedding co-ordinator at Tankardstown was really helpful in advising on how to structure the day and determining the flow. We used their seating plan template and they were also able to recommend wedding singers and bands to us.”

Advice for Other Brides Planning a Wedding in Ireland from Abroad: 

  • Use Pinterest

“I was obsessed with pinning to the multiple boards I created for every aspect of the wedding. Most of the boards had shared access with the bridesmaids so they could get a sense for the look and feel I was after. They could also contribute by adding related pins that they thought would inspire me. I also used the boards to share with suppliers, again to give them an insight into colour scheme and the overall wedding themes.”

  • Delegate the Little Things

“There’s no point in being a complete control freak! Try to outsource of least 20% of the control. Don’t be shy in asking for help or accepting offers from family and friends, especially when it comes to the little things. Despite being home a week before the wedding, the time went by super fast so the list of ‘little things to do’ became more stressful than it was worth and so we didn’t bother with them in the end. You read and hear that the little things don’t matter and no one will have known any different on the day, but with a little more organisation and outsourcing, they probably would have happened! By this I mean the favours, lawn games for guests, photo props, table numbers, bride and groom signs etc. Although seriously, don’t stress the small stuff after the day itself!”

  •  The Legal Bits

“Prioritise getting the paperwork done sooner rather than later and allow for any delays that may happen on either end. Submit your application to marry at least three months before the wedding date. We did ours through email. Make an appointment for when you arrive home to finalise the papers and pay the fee at least five days before the wedding date – this is a mandatory. Collect birth certs and baptismal certs from home, as you’ll need them wherever you live as part of the release process at your local church if you’re having a catholic wedding. Neither our local or wedding parish required us to do a marriage course, but that will change depending on circumstances.”

  • Transporting the Wedding Dress

“Secure the wedding dress to the hanger with double sided tape!”

  • Securing Deposits

“Be prepared for the fact that the majority of suppliers don’t take credit card or PayPal as a form of payment for deposits or for full service. This was really frustrating as we had to either pay our local bank to do a foreign currency transfer, which incurred an additional charge, or ask a relative to pay in cash on our behalf.”

  • Time Management

“You’ll need to be home at least seven days before the wedding,  so consider how you will spend this time based on what’s left to tick off the list, as it will undoubtedly be chaotic! I had booked in a hair and make up trial, meal and wine tasting at the venue, meeting the priest, the florist, the photographer and what ended up being three trips to the marriage registration office in Naas so that we could actually legalise the wedding! You may decide that you are less precious about finalising some of the above so you could scratch some off the list. Just be prepared to map out each day and have appointments made in advance.”

Some invaluable advice from Roisin there!  Are you planning a wedding in Ireland from abroad? We’d love to hear how you’re getting on – why not leave us a comment below?

10 thoughts on “Planning A Wedding in Ireland from Abroad”

  1. As Róisín’s Aunt I was so proud of the way in which she managed her perfect wedding day from the other side of the world. On the big day you would never have guessed! The church, the reception venue and all those little details that bring a perfect day together were beautiful.

    I think if Roisin every fancies a career change she would make an excellent wedding planner!
    And the dress was just perfect!


  2. Kim Coates says:

    Planning my wedding from Australia for New Years Eve in Ireland, going through a very similar situation, thanks for the tips!:)

  3. Aoife says:

    We’d have to agree, Fionnuala. Some very practical tips and tricks there that we’d never have thought of!

  4. Nolsq says:

    Hi Roisin,

    Some great tips there, thanks you!! We are organising our wedding from Sydney; its new years eve this year.
    I need to order my dress ASAP and don’t know where to start looking. Your dress is stunning!!!! I am just wondering where you got it? That style is something that I am after also.


  5. Monica Blain says:

    We know how difficult it can be for couples planning a wedding from abroad. We offer a fantastic wedding planning service to take the stress off the couple and their families. We are prepared to offer a service to suit each couple and their budget.
    We will help you with full or partial planning or if you need help sourcing particular suppliers.
    We also offer help with planning destination weddings to most Countries in Europe.

  6. Jade says:

    Tremendous help! Can’t thank you enough for the tips, although planning from Korea has added a few more difficulties!

  7. Roisin Thanisch says:

    Thanks for the compliments @ nolsq… I got my dress from Helen English in Paddington. You’ve plenty of time left to find your dress!

  8. Kit says:

    Photos are beautiful Roisin. I would agree securing the deposits is pretty difficult.

    Got Engaged a few weeks ago and the early stages of planning for a wedding from Sydney for this summer in Ireland.

    Everything going smoothly so far thankfully and all the major things booked. It helps when you know reputable local vendors and trust their work. These people are professionals in their own field and have been doing this week in week out so I trust them completely to deliver.
    Looking forward to having a fun relaxed wedding and enjoying being home among friends and family to share in our celebration.
    We will be coming back to Australia after the wedding so dreading that part already. Saying goodbye gets harder every time.

  9. Audrey says:

    Just got engaged, also in Sydney (is the whole country here?!) so this is great info, thanks a lot.

  10. Grace says:

    I’m planning an Irish wedding from Japan, with a relocation to Hong Kong in the works over the coming months too! Just to throw something else into the mix, the groom is a Kiwi. It’s great to read about other brides who have done or are doing the same! Congratulations to Róisín and Dave – their wedding looked wonderful!

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