You’re newly engaged and thinking wildly outside the typical wedding box:
Let me tell you — it’s a great idea. I did it. You can, too! But this blog is best suited to brides who, 1) Have tight purse-strings, 2) Are willing to forego some traditional wedding customs, and 3) Are open to cutting your guest list in a major way.
If you match this description… we might be bride twins! And, you’re in luck. When I planned my wedding-week on the Ring of Kerry in August 2017, I kept track of every penny we spent. From the house rental, to the vendors, the honeymoon, and more.
This list should give you a solid estimate of what you can expect to spend on a destination wedding in Ireland. Granted, of course, that you go about it the same way I did.
The Budget-Friendly Destination Wedding Requirements:
- Rent a house or house(s) on the same property with plenty of bedrooms and baths for all or most of your guests.
- Make sure the property is beautiful enough to have the wedding directly on the property, and spacious enough for a reception, without needing to rent a tent or costly china, linens, etc.
- Put some funds aside to help out your friends or family members who are a must-have at your wedding but wouldn’t be able to afford the travel expense without your help.
Also – to let’s be totally realistic – you should be prepared to spend around $20,000, all-in, for your wedding in Ireland.
This will pay for more than your wedding day, if you do it right. But please, please do not go into debt for your wedding. Make sure that you have the funds to pay it off in full before your flight leaves, and that it will not leave your emergency funds high-and-dry.
We spent just over $30,000 on our wedding-week in Ireland, honeymoon, and pre-flight marriage celebration. But, over $10,000 of these funds went directly to lessening the travel costs for some friends and family. If you think you might have a similar situation, factor in these assistance costs into your estimates below.
If you have ~$20,000 set aside for your Irish wedding (or wedding in a similar foreign country), you’re ready to move on to the estimating phase.
How to Estimate Your Irish Wedding Costs
Once you have a good handle on your budget, it’s time to gather cost estimates for A through Z.
This is the fun part, if you’re a geek bride like me.
I can give you the breakdown of what I paid for my wedding week at the Westcove House in Co. Kerry, but your costs may be different if you stay at a different venue, or if you don’t financially assist some friends and relatives.
In any sense, I can fill in much of the costs for you and tell you where these numbers may deviate up or down:
Wedding at Home: $1,200
In case you haven’t heard, having a legal wedding in Ireland is pretty complicated. I found it much simpler and more affordable to get legally married at City Hall in my hometown, then have the full ceremony and reception in Ireland.If you decide to do the same, expect to pay around $1200 for a small, immediate-family-only, marriage and dinner at home. This covers the cost of the City Hall ceremony and license, a simple white dress and shoes, small bouquet, and dinner for around 15 adults and 5 children.
To get this cheaper, skip dinner for 20 and have a simple barbecue with immediate family in the backyard. Or, keep the marriage ceremony and dinner to just the two of you.
Flights: $1,100 and up, depending
Since we live on the East Coast, flights to Ireland in peak season are around $500 each, if booked as a group. In reality, we paid $4,935.10 towards flight costs to help out some family members who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to attend our Irish wedding.If you have some family members or friends who are integral to your wedding story, but couldn’t attend without financial assistance, add their ticket costs to your budget. As an alternative, you could also pay $3,000 or more towards your total group flight invoice, to reduce your guests’ individual ticket prices by $100, or so. Now is also a good time to figure out how much your airport parking will be while you’re away for 2 – 3 weeks. Ours was $120 for 18 days. (We found a 50%-off parking coupon.)
It’ll be hard to get this flight cost lower for the two of you. If anything, budget higher here.
Car Rentals: $480 and up, depending
Our share of the car rentals, plus gas, was around $480 for 1 week. In reality, we paid $5,387 towards rental vans and our rented car. Why? To help ease the financial burden on our guests. (We have some friends and relatives who wouldn’t be able to travel abroad if we didn’t help out here.)
We had the money saved, so we rented 4 large vans for the group to share, and 1 car for ourselves.
This is where some serious travel coordination came in. We knew that some friends and family would want to rent their own car so they could take their own day trips. But for those who preferred to take day trips in a group of 6 or 7, we rented 4 large vans. We had to figure out who would want to travel together day-to-day, if they could all fit in one van, and so much more craziness. Also realize that the vans will have to transport luggage on the way to your rental house and on the way back to the airport. So you can’t squeeze 7 people in each van and call it a day; you’ll need to figure that 1-2 seats may be taken up by everyone’s luggage, strollers, wheelchair… you name it.
But I’ll save that fun for another post!
Four vans + 1 car = $5,387 total. And about 4 – 5 other couples rented their own cars on their dime.
Now, in these early months, you may not know exactly who would be coming to Ireland or who would want to rent their own car. That’s OK for this estimating phase. If you know that you would have to assist some guests with a car rental, budget $850 per van — which includes the highest/best insurance package. (More on insurance in a different post!)
Also, if you plan to stay in Ireland an extra week or two for your honeymoon after everyone leaves, multiply $480 by the number of weeks you expect to stay. We were in Ireland for 17 days and spent just under $1,000 on the rental car.
Estimate: $480 per car or $850 per van
Lodging & Wedding Venue: $1,110, or $7,706, or 10,000 Euros, depending
Here’s where you realize that spending money on a traditional, 5-hour wedding in the U.S. is the most foolish thing you could do with your wedding budget.
Instead, find a large house to rent that fits ~30 people, plus nearby lodging for overflow as needed. The costs of these house rentals vary wildly across Ireland. You can rent castles and huge manors with butlers and maids to wait on you and your guests hand-and-foot. Many of these large houses will cater a wedding for you, with all the bells, whistles and rose petals to complete the fairytale. These types of venues are quite expensive, however, and are more like the cost of a fancy hotel for every guest, for 7 days. (Hint: $30 – 40k for lodging alone.) I can’t afford that, but bless you if you can!
For a more budget-friendly option, shop for large house rentals on sites like homeaway.com. You might find something like the Westcove House in Co. Kerry, with 4 lodgings on 1 property, directly on the ocean, and can sleep 33 people. And if you’re extra lucky, the house you find may also include a friendly staff of caretakers who do mom ’n pop catering for larger groups. (Hint: Wedding reception — check!)
Whatever you find, there are a few different ways you can pay for it —
1) Pay for the entire property yourself (which is what we did);
2) Share the costs with your guests; or
3) Find an affordable but small rental property best suited for a wedding and have your guests stay at a nearby hotel. We rented 3 of the 4 properties on the Westcove House estate, and 1 neighboring farmhouse apartment, for $7706 total. If this cost was split between other guests who didn’t need any financial assistance, our share would have been $1,101.
I shopped for the best venue and contacted 14 properties for pricing. Similar properties to the Westcove House started at 10,000 Euros for the week and couldn’t sleep as many people as the Westcove House.
Still, 10000 euros is a safe number to budget, if you intend to cover most or all lodging costs. Over the next few weeks, continue shopping for your favorite venue and secure a complete breakdown of wedding-week costs for your top 2 or 3 properties.
Option #1: 10,000 Euros
Option #2: $1,100
Option #3: ~7,000 Euros
Food & Drink: $4,500
The lovely caretakers of the Westcove House offer catering services to all tenants. We hired them to cater our Wedding Reception, the Hangover Brunch, freezer meals for easy dinners throughout the week, plus provide breakfast groceries for each day of the week. The wedding meal, cake, and hangover brunch totaled $2,600. After breakfast groceries, freezer meals, and other alcohol to – ahem – enjoy throughout the week: $4500 total.
A few ideas to get this cheaper:
– Skip the hangover brunch
– Find a less expensive caterer
– Skip breakfast groceries, freezer meals, and all food for week
Though mom ‘n pop, our catering costs ended at $79 per person. Looking back, this feels high. However, food in Ireland tends to be more expensive than what I’m used to paying in New England. And remember — this is after converting costs from Euros to USD.
Estimate: $80 – $137 pp
Wedding Day “Other”: $7,433
By now you should have solid estimates for your City Hall legalities, flights, car rentals, lodging/venue, and food. Of course, these things do not make a wedding! Here are the remaining costs that I paid, and what you could expect to pay, to finalize your Irish wedding day plans:
Bridal Gown, Accessories & tailoring: $1525
Groom’s suit & accessories: $1080
Wedding Bands: $600
Wedding photobook: $300
TY cards: $65
Other / Incidentals (travel clothes, garment bag, passports, etc.): $1,000
To get these cheaper, you could:
– Find a cheaper wedding dress or suit
– Find a cheaper wedding band, or inherit a grandmother’s ring
– Watch your spending on incidentals
It’ll be tough to find a less expensive photographer, cheaper rings, and less expensive vendors. I’m confident I found some amazingly affordable opportunities here!
Honeymoon & Wedding-Week Day Trips: $4,000
To be fair, we splurged quite a bit for our honeymoon. We didn’t stay at $700/night hotels, but we slept in luxury and dined finely. A perfect way to cap off the perfect wedding week, and begin a perfect life together as husband & wife. (SO cheesy, I know! But true 🙂 )
Think about it: Guidebooks usually suggest to plan on $100 – $150 per day for a budget-friendly vacation. A 10-day honeymoon at those costs end up at only $1,500!
However, you’ll want to splurge a little bit on your honeymoon. Maybe you go for the $200/night hotel rooms. Maybe you get a bottle of wine with each meal. In any sense, budgeting $200 – $400 a day for a honeymoon seems fitting. But cheaper is totally doable.
In conclusion, adding up these estimates come to $20,000 – $30,000, depending… on… a lot. This is where every situation will be unique. Use these costs as both a guideline and reality check. When you’re ready to get into the nitty gritty details, read on and contact me for questions along the way!