An increasing number of American couples are heading to Ireland to get married, according to wedding industry insiders.
One bride described having her big day in Northern Ireland as ‘a literal fairytale’.
There are certainly no shortage of beauty spots in Ireland that continue to attract lovebirds to fly across the ocean enjoy the most important day are their lives.
The Dark Hedges, The Cliffs of Moher and Dunluce Castle are just some of the destinations becoming popular wedding destinations.
Such destination weddings are known as ‘elopements’ within the industry, although most couples aren’t eloping in the old fashioned sense of the word.
When James Rogers and Genesis Reyes were planning to get married, a destination wedding in Ireland was at the top of their wish list.
The couple met in Boston and have spent time living in South Korea, where they made friends with an Irish couple.
It was a combination of their spirit of romance and adventure along with their friendships with the Irish couple that got them thinking about eloping to Ireland.
Genesis said: “We wanted to elope but we still wanted it to be more special that a town hall or a park or somewhere local.
“There is a couple from Ireland, who were our best friends in Korea, and we thought it would be cool. We always wanted to go to Ireland, and they could be our witnesses.”
The 700 feet tall Cliffs of Moher are among the most stunning sites in Ireland and, in recent years, have developed a reputation as one Ireland’s great wedding venues.
Websites dedicated to giving couples the dream wedding in Kerry have surged in popularity in recent years and it is a pattern completely in keeping with modern attitudes young couples have towards how to celebrate their big day.
Eloping in Ireland say : “We’ve had the honour of planning fabulous Cliffs of Moher elopement weddings & vow renewals for couples from all over the world. An elopement wedding or vow renewal at the Cliffs of Moher is a truly unique experience. The scenery is incredible and the setting unrivalled for a very memorable occasion.”
Of course, the Cliffs of Moher are part of the famous ‘Ring of Kerry’, as well as the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’.
Not only is it a wonderful destination in itself but it is also in close proximity to so many stunning attractions that only further cement its status as either a dream wedding location or a holiday of a lifetime destination.
Places such as the Burren, Doolin Village and the Aran Islands are all within a couple of hours travel time from the cliffs.
The idea of ‘eloping’ to get married in front of a relatively small group of witnesses is also appealing to some couples, with weddings becoming ever bigger and more expensive – why not find a different way to make it special.
If that means shrinking it down and using the money in a different way, such as travelling to a dream location then why not?
It would certainly be more memorable to the people present than another expensive wedding in a huge local venue – and it gives the happy couple the perfect reason not to feel they have to invite everyone they have ever met.
For James and Genesis this only added to the appeal of going to Ireland.
James said: “With pricing, its like $45,000 for a venue and $30,000 for food, it’s just who has that money and who is it for.
“We just wanted our wedding to be a surprise without outside influence.
“It’s really about being present on the day and then we can have a party with everyone when we get home, once the intimate part is over.”
Another American couple, Jamie and Corey Barrows, agree that destination weddings not only provide a special experience but are also easier on the purse strings.
Jamie said: “I think elopements are becoming more popular. Wedding prices are getting ridiculous – our wedding wasn’t outrageous, it was doable.
Wedding photographer Rob Dight pointed out that many Americans are amazed that so many fantastic attractions and beauty spots in in such close proximity to each other.
He has worked with couples from all over the world since 2014, and says his favourite locations are along the coast in Northern Ireland.
He said: “It is the best place to photograph by a mile and I have done shoots all over the world and Ireland.
“It is just stacked with places, all within five minutes of each other.
The medieval ruins of Dunluce Castle make a stunning backdrop for a happy couple’s big day.
To make things all the better, the Co Antrim landmark is within short driving distance of several other must visit destinations.
Wedding guests and maybe even the bride and groom could really make the most of their trip on a lifetime with visits to places such as the Giant’s Causeway, Bushmill’s Whiskey distillery, Carrick-a Reed Rope Bridge, the Gobbins and the Titanic Museum, before partying the night away in one of Belfast’s many bars and clubs – as long as they don’t tire themselves out for the big day of course.
Dunluce Castle was the destination where Jamie Barrows and her husband Corey tied the knot, and the West Virginian couple described it as an “unforgettable experience”.
They added that, in many ways, having fewer people at their wedding made it even more special. It can be better to share the day with the most important people rather than getting married in front of hundreds of guests.
Jamie said: “I didn’t want the wedding with 50 or 100 people – I just wouldn’t want all that attention on me.
“Just my parents, my sister and really close family and I wanted to get married in Ireland. I just wanted it to be more about me and my husband, just an unforgettable experience.
“There are just so many different locations and experiences. I also had the best pictures of my life.
“I can remember sitting with my family having a charcuterie board looking at the castle. It was a literal fairytale.
“A lot of people get family pressure but no-one in my family was upset. I feel like they just knew it was what I wanted.”
Owen Crane conducts wedding ceremonies for couples in several locations across Northern Ireland and says the demand has increased significantly since 2019.
He told the BBC: “It started with a handful the first year, then it just grew more and more every year.
“Last season was really busy. It has been part time up to now but next season looks like it will be full time with the elopements.”
His experience is echoed by Annette Scott who also conducts ceremonies and says the wedding industry is developing in Northern Ireland
She said: “Something is happening with weddings. Many people are becoming less commercial and like the idea or romantic notion of the emphasis being on them and what matters most.
“It is not eloping in the true sense of the word but I believe it is a term that has evolved to have a slightly different meaning.”