Elegant rooms, lawn games and an on-site cinema await at Rosedale House, which is a 25-minute drive from Dublin. // © 2015 Rosedale House
Feature image (above): LGBT couples are welcome to marry at the almost 800-year-old Ashford Castle. // © 2015 Carnation Hotels
On May 22, voters in the Irish Republic said “yes” to same-sex marriage. After a solid 62 percent of participants voted to amend the country's constitution, the Emerald Isle became the first country in the world to legalize gay marriage through national referendum.
I was fortunate enough to be on Irish soil during this legendary referendum and commemorated the event with revelers of all backgrounds in Killarney’s many pubs. Between pints of Guinness, there was much talk about friends or family members who might be popping the question or planning a wedding near future.
Everyone I asked seemed to have a different opinion about which locations in Ireland were the most romantic, iconic venues for same-sex couples to tie the knot. While the vote might still be out on that subject, what follows are four unforgettable locations to say “I do.”
Located on the shores of Lough Corrib in County Mayo, Ashford Castle is emerging from a multi-million-dollar restoration. The nearly 800-year-old castle hotel is also celebrating the historic referendum on gay marriage with Gay Wedding and Gay Honeymoon packages.
“While Ashford Castle has long been a favorite of LGBT travelers, in the wake of the vote, gay couples tying the knot or celebrating their honeymoon will be some of the first to experience the properties' completely renovated Victorian and East Wings that house the grandest suites, the elegant George V dining room and Connaught Room,” said Niall Rochford, general manager of Ashford Castle.
The dream-wedding package includes a consultation with Ashford Castle's resident wedding coordinator, as well as accommodations for the couple and champagne upon arrival; a red carpet entrance; a five-course dinner from a choice of menus; a selection of canapes; three glasses of house wine per person; floral arrangements and candles; use of the PA system; a 15 percent service charge; and more. Pricing for the Castle Wedding, with a minimum of 75 bedrooms/160 guests per night, starts at approximately $63,050.
In medieval times, mead — an alcoholic beverage made from fermented honey — was thought to increase fertility and virility. Therefore, newlyweds were told to drink it every night for a complete moon cycle (about 29 days). According to representatives of Knappogue Castle, from this ritual came the ever-popular term “honeymoon.”
At Knappogue Castle, couples can get their honeymoon started properly — with two welcome goblets of mead. Afterward, they can continue the medieval traditions in grand style with a wedding banquet, complete with a harpist, a fiddler and a chorus, each decked out in medieval garb. As there were no forks or spoons in medieval times, wedding guests will slurp their soup, eat meat with their bare hands and use a knife for everything else.
Wedding ceremonies can take place within the castle itself or in the property’s manicured gardens. Other inclusions are a red carpet entrance; champagne for the couple; use of a ceremonial sword to cut the wedding cake; personalized table menus; ivy-clad candles on all tables; and services of a wedding coordinator who will help with all of the arrangements.
If it’s not enough to have your wedding at a private Georgian home, Rosedale House also offers guests use of its on-site cinema and private nightclub. Set in South Dublin, near the city center and the airport, Rosedale House offers a cozy yet elegant retreat away from the hustle and bustle.
Through Oct. 31, couples can take advantage of its Summer Mid-Week Wedding package (available Monday through Thursday). The package includes Bridal Suite accommodations for the newlyweds; five Stylish Boutique accommodations for guests in the main house; seasonal menus and the services of a private chef; tables decorated with candelabras, candles and tea lights; and expertise of a wedding planner. House rental costs approximately $2,256 for a minimum of 90 guests.
The Shelbourne Dublin, A Renaissance Hotel
Imagine walking the red carpet — at one of Dublin’s most historically significant hotels — as a bagpiper serenades you with Irish standards. Expect this opulent welcome and more with The Shelbourne Dublin, A Renaissance Hotel’s Something Blue wedding package.
The package, which costs approximately $191 per guest, includes a four-course dinner menu; arrival drinks and a reception; one-half bottle of wine per person; a champagne toast for all guests; floral arrangements; sterling silver candelabras and votive lighting; a 15 percent service charge; and a suite for the newlyweds. The couple can get a hot towel shave together at Jonathan’s Barber Shop and/or take advantage of a pair of spa treatments.
The Shelbourne — the site where the Irish Constitution was drafted in 1922 — has become a popular venue for civil partnerships in recent years. Thanks to its central location and elegant surroundings of stately artwork, chandeliers, decorative stained glass and marble, the hotel will continue to be a dream wedding venue for same-sex couples.