Your Destination Wedding at Waterford Castle in Ireland
But who can go to Ireland without exploring some of the places that we Americans have heard so much about? And why go back to the states without experiencing what so many American couples dream about when they consider a European wedding: a castle location?
In my parents' generation, a very typical and most welcome wedding gift was a piece of beautiful Waterford crystal. For all of those reasons and more, my husband and I decided to spend an evening at the beautiful, historic Waterford Castle.
Waterford is a bustling town, situated along the Kee River. We were the only car to load onto the little four-car ferry. The island is very private (310 acres), with just a golf course and the castle, and a scenic tree-lined drive to each. It was raining as we approached the castle, so the trees were heavy with water, creating a tunnel of iridescent foliage. We were enjoying the scenery when suddenly a stag jumped in front of our car! He crossed the drive and bounded into the field, stopping and turning long enough for us to take a photo! His appearance lent such a perfect touch to the classic castle scenery that we wondered if he was mechanical!
A little further and we could make out the castle peeking through the turning fall foliage. Immense and majestic, covered in red ivy, the 16th century stone building is a glorious sight. We were greeted at the door by the doorman, and we entered into a drawing room richly appointed with oil paintings, tapestries and a giant fireplace. After putting our umbrellas in an elephant foot stand, we checked in. Then we were escorted to the Presidential Suite (bridal suite) which is by any measure enormous, including a large sitting room complete with a sofa, large table, a small library and a TV. The bedroom is large enough to be adorned with two sofas, easy chairs, a vanity, and a king sized poster bed with tapestry curtains. The fireplace is ornamental and a majestic touch, but nothing can compete with the view from the room's monumental windows overlooking the rustic fields below. The bathroom has a very tall, solarium windowed ceiling, two pedestal sinks, a clawfoot tub large enough for two, with a showerhead.
Deidre met with us and gave us the grand tour of the castle, including the dining room which is appointed with remarkable oil paintings, including one larger than life by Romney. The walls are paneled in a rich brown, and the ceiling is a sculpted plaster. A fireplace and grand piano complete the dining room, where wedding receptions take place. Depending on the size of the group, dancing can take place in the dining room, or in the conservatory just off the dining room. A lovely pink drawing room, complete with a bar, bow windows and comfortable seats, is also available for cocktails and entertaining.
After the tour we made our way back to the mainland for a quick shopping trip. We were directed to the City Centre where we found designer shops and gift boutiques. "Kelly's along the River Kee" had everything we needed in the way of souvenirs and keepsakes, from Irish linens, claddagh rings, grow-your-own clovers, penny whistles, shot glasses, beer mugs, lucky stones and clovers, to traditionally costumed dolls. We poked our heads into the Granville Hotel a couple of doors down and found that it would be an ideal second hotel for a wedding party. The bar and restaurant were very inviting, and seemed perfect for entertaining, and for overflow guests.
We rushed back to the castle, parcels in hand, and dressed for dinner. The piano played Irish favorites while we enjoyed some of the most amazing food we have ever eaten. We were treated to an appetizer of apricot wrapped in chorizo ham. My husband chose a starter of tempura prawns served with mushrooms, while I thoroughly enjoyed a dish of grilled goat cheese served with an aubergine caviar sauce with delicious garlic undertones. It simply melted in my mouth. For dinner we both chose wild game. Glenn had the wild mallard served on a mushroom risotto, and I had medium rare venison over a pistachio spaetzle. We hardly had room for dessert, but the maitre d' (who is also the wedding coordinator), tempted us with chocolate. She promised it would be a conversation piece, and it was certainly that and more! It was a chocolate cake shell which oozed a warm chocolate sauce when you cut into it. It was served with vanilla ice cream. The flavors and the temperatures mingled into a heavenly union.
Back in the room we found our curtains drawn and the sheets down. We sipped glasses of complimentary port, soaked in the bath and tucked ourselves into the most kingly bed we had ever slept in. "Slept in" is the operative term here, because we didn't even budge until 10 AM! Luckily the front desk called us, or we would have missed breakfast all together. They graciously offered to serve us in our rooms, and we accepted. We put on our Waterford Castle robes and slippers and ate at our leisure. We packed up, and took a few more photos, including one of the resident hare (which is as big as a small dog). No stag on the way out, but we admired the 18 hole championship golf course...actually my husband was drooling. Another two or three days at Waterford Castle, another taste of the molten chocolate cake, another night's delicious sleep in the presidential suite and a chance to roam the grounds would have been bliss indeed. What a lovely, short stay we had. The castle's private island was beautiful, the castle itself was as elegant and stately as we could have hoped, matched by the service, which was gracious and attentive.
For couples looking for a castle setting of true authenticity and privacy, the Waterford would be an excellent choice. Once on the island, it is easy to feel a million miles from one's worries, and at least a thousand years removed (except for modern conveniences) from the present day. If your wedding party and guest list extends beyond the castle's accommodations of 19 rooms and suites, you can find rooms, restaurants, and activities a ferry ride away. (The ferry runs 24 hours a day). The world famous Waterford crystal factory - which hosts tours - is a fifteen minute drive from the ferry landing. The Waterford has an on-site wedding coordinator, and their chef will work personally with a couple to tailor meals to their wishes.
The Irish are known for their warm and colorful blessings. "May the road rise up to meet you, May the wind be at your back..." You will no doubt look back at your stay at the Waterford Castle as a rare pleasure and a blessing. I know we do!