How did you meet your (now) husband? We met 10 years ago on holiday in Jamaica! I am Canadian and was living in Toronto, Andy is from Kildare and was studying for the year in Chicago. We were both holidaying with friends in Jamaica (during Spring break) and just happened to be staying at the same resort. We had a few fun nights out together as a group and, at the end of the holiday, we invited the Irish boys to Toronto to visit us. That is really when our relationship started. We did some trips back and forth between Toronto and Chicago, and then Andy moved back to Ireland... and a year later I followed him! We now live in London.
Do you have a proposal story? It was just before Christmas and we were going our separate ways for the holidays that year - me to my family in Canada and Andy to his family in Ireland. On the night he proposed, we were having our last romantic Christmas evening together, watching carol singers at Royal Albert Hall, having a nice dinner, etc. We were back home and having a glass of wine by the fire, opening our gifts to each other when he said ‘I have another gift for you’ and out popped a stunning yellow diamond ring!
What was your wedding date? July 4th, 2015
Location (Ceremony and Reception)
Where? Adare Manor, Co. Limerick, Ireland
What made you choose there? Initially, we weren’t sure if we would get married in Ireland or somewhere abroad - I desperately wanted to go somewhere warm and sunny! During a trip back to Ireland to visit Andy’s family, we visited at a few venues. The 3rd venue we visited was Adare Manor in County Limerick, which is close to where Andy’s father grew up and where his grandfather still lives. Notwithstanding its proximity to Andy’s family, I had never actually visited the Manor before; however, the minute we drove in the gates I fell in love with the place (which made Andy very happy) and choosing it as our wedding venue was unquestionably one of the very best decisions we made. Not only is the venue beautiful, but the warmth, professionalism and genuine nature of the staff knows no bounds - they definitely took a lot of the stress out of planning the wedding and, in particular, allowed us to sit back and enjoy the wedding day itself rather than worrying about proceedings.
How was the weather on the day? I would say that it was typically Irish. Although it rained while we were getting ready, and then amazingly, the sun came out when I was leaving for the church and it shone brightly all day until the bell for dinner, at which point it started to drizzle again. We were really, really lucky with the weather.
What made you decide to get married on this particular date? It was coincidence really. We had a few options with the venue in July or August. When we thought about it, the 4th of July weekend was perfect as we had lots of family and friends travelling from Canada and the US and that weekend was a bank holiday for them (US Independence Day is the 4th and Canada Day is on the 1st). We also really wanted to get married in July or August to give us the best chance of having fine weather in Ireland on the wedding day (which we had).
The Wedding Details
Theme? Simple, classic and elegant. I wanted something to compliment the venue, work with the décor and not against it. The colour pallet was black and white (as we had a black tie wedding) with neutral colour tones with a hint of metallic (silver, gold, rose gold). I asked the women in the bridal party to bring out the metallic touches through the form of sequins in their dresses or accessories after I had chosen my wedding gown. My sister, mother of the bride and mother of the groom all had different layers of sequins/sparkle in their gowns.
Where did you draw your inspiration/ideas from? I have to say, most of the planning inspiration came from my sister. She had an amazing evening wedding in an art gallery in Canada a few years before. She is incredibly stylish (being a writer in a women’s fashion magazine) and I used some of her pallets and themes from her wedding planning folder she handed to me when I got engaged. I also turned to Pinterest so I could share with my mom and sister what I was thinking and I read many, many magazines and blogs. My husband was a great sounding board along with our wedding planner at Adare Manor. She knew the best local suppliers, understood what I was going for and could make recommendations which helped simplify my search for vendors.
Were any aspects of your wedding D.I.Y? If so What? I didn’t want a lot of DIY to our wedding as we had to travel from London to Ireland and also I didn’t want family to be running lots of errands before the event. However, that isn’t always how it works out! The most DIY we did was in our stationary and goodie bags.
We closed each invitation with a wax seal that was made with our initials (A&A). I felt it was a lovely finish to our invitations and I enjoyed sending them off to friends and family to set an early tone for our black tie wedding and the historical Adare Manor.
Additionally, instead of party favours at the dinner, we made little welcome goodie bags for those who travelled a long distance. We included some treats and snacks from our diverse backgrounds. So from Andy and his family in Ireland we had Emerald’s (chocolate covered toffee) and Tayto Crisps. From my Canadian background we had Coffee Crisp chocolate bars and little jars of maple syrup. From UK and my father we had Polo mints. From Norway and my mother we had Firklover chocolates. For our wedding party we also gave them Irish Waterford Crystal bowls/candle holders as a special thank you. We had our stationary company make small welcome cards and each bag was waiting in the rooms for our guests when they arrived, just in case we were not there to welcome them personally. I heard the next day at our BBQ that the crisps and chocolate came in handy late in the evening when people needed a little snack after dancing into the early hours and mints never go wrong! For me, it was great fun filling the bags with my niece in our hotel room, particularly when she kept on eating all the Polo mints!
Bridesmaids – who/relationship? My sister
Groomsmen – who/relationship? Andy’s brother
Flower girls/Page boys – who/relationship? My niece and Andy’s cousin (Andy was a page boy at our page boy’s parents’ wedding when he was young).
Wedding Gown (the most important part!)
What made you decide to come into Karen Willis Holmes? I had an idea in my head of the type of dress I wanted; a simple long, satin gown with a low back. I was looking for something that had a bit of detailing to complement a black tie wedding as well. I found a dress that fit the bill at a London designers boutique in Knightsbridge. My mom flew over from Norway and I tried dresses on at the boutique. I was almost sold. I asked if I could make one or two small changes but they wouldn’t allow any design alterations! So, I went back to the drawing board and began to look for dresses by just going to store after store. After a few months, I honestly grew tired of the dress search. I had tried on so many, I worried I was getting confused and wouldn’t be able to decide or I thought I had potentially missed ‘the dress’.
After months of searching, my deadline of when I would need to order a dress started looming and I decided to go back and try to find the dress I originally liked at a different boutique which sold a wider array of dresses including the brand that I had previously tried at the Knightsbridge boutique.
While trying on the same dress, I fell in love with the stores selection of sequined KAREN WILLIS HOLMES gowns. I knew sequins was perfect for a black tie wedding! I put on the KAREN WILLIS HOLMES Anya dress, it was still simple, fit me well, complemented by body and it felt like my wedding dress. I felt special, glamorous and beautiful. I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t seen these dresses in London before, and I had been searching and searching! That said, I wanted to be 100% sure it was truly “me” because it was a step away from what I originally had in mind, so I made one more visit where my sister and mom added their respective endorsements via facetime while a friend steadily held my iPad. Hands down, they both loved it.
How many gowns did you try? I would say I tried on between 35 wedding dresses.
What did you especially like about your gown? I loved the diverse array of sequins, more fluttery across the top and became smaller and tighter down the dress. I also loved the train. It was very fluid and looked lovely in the church flowing behind me and in pictures when my husband picked me up. I really enjoyed picking up the edge of my train when I walked as well, I could show off my shoes and my dress didn’t change shape. I had the train bustled for both under and out as I couldn’t decide and I wanted to show my mom and my sister both options before I finalized the look. Because of the vast array of sequins you couldn’t see the buttons, which was brilliant. These two bustles came in handy as my husband stood on my hem as we started our first dance and the first bustle button popped off!! I was able to just pick up the edge of my train in my hand and still dance, the train length enabled the dance to still look elegant. It was very handy to have a second bustle that night though! The only alteration that I made (other than just fitting) was to lower the back ever so slightly, as I really wanted a backless dress (although the dress didn’t really need the change).
One other thing that I didn’t really think about but I really appreciated in the dress was how the front kicked out when I walked. With the weight of the sequins on the dress, the hem kicked out so I never stepped on it. I had seen so many other brides tripping on their dress (if they slouched even a little, their front hem caused them to step on their dress). I loved that I never had to worry about it!
I loved the fit of the gown, it flowed along my curves and it was simple enough that I bought an additional belt to switch out in the evening to dress the gown up for night. I didn’t use it in the end as I loved the dress as it was, but the additional features of the gown enabled me to dress it up even more which was such a lovely benefit. It really is very versatile!
Who is your bridesmaid dress supplier? My sister wore a Nicole Miller evening gown from Holt Renfrew in Canada.
Where did you get the groom and groomsmen’s suits? My husband’s tuxedo was from Givenchy, the best man was wearing a tux from Reiss.
What accessories did you choose to finish your gown and also for those in your bridal party? I wore my own aquamarine and diamond ring that my husband gave to me on my 30th birthday as my something blue. I had bought a matching bracelet and earrings from Stella & Dot but in the end, I wore the bracelet and my sister wore the earrings as they matched her dress perfectly! It was really nice to have the matching set worn between us. My earrings were a pearl and diamond drops, a gift from my new parents-in-law.
Where did you get your shoes from? I wore silver sparkly Christian Louboutin heels. I had the front soles done by the boutique with a red rubber sole which stopped me from slipping as well.
Did you wear a veil/headpiece? Where did you get this from? I bought a simple raw edge veil that I tried on at the same time in the boutique with the KAREN WILLIS HOLMES dress. They just worked really together. The veil tucked into my up-do and hung to the floor, I had the veil trimmed so it hung to the lower part of the dress where the train pulled out so it wouldn’t get caught in the dress. I also placed a sparkly clip in the side of my hair.
What advice would you give brides organizing their wedding?
I had some advice which someone gave me early into planning my wedding which was: at the beginning, sit with your fiancé and each of you write down the top 3 things you want from the day. For the items that make both your lists, that is what you should focus on and invest in.
My other advice is to invest time and energy in finding the right photographer. I knew the photographer I wanted from the moment I saw her portfolio online. I looked at the images and thought – these pictures are how I want to look back and remember my wedding. I would highly recommend that you do not short cut on your photography as it is the lasting memory once the images in your head are gone. The pictures our photographer took captured our joy and happiness, our friends and family and the special moments I started to forget a few days after. I still haven’t stopped looking at the photos and, when I do, I smile to myself every single time.
What advice would you give brides searching for their wedding gown? Try not to go to as many stores as I did!
In all seriousness, I do have the following tips:
- In London, the big boutiques charge you for each visit (c. £50) so it can get quite expensive. Try going during the week day after work or at lunch - some only charge on weekends.
- When you go, be selective and know what you want to try on, there are only so many dresses you can try in an hour.
- Finally, know your budget. A few friends had two dresses on their wedding day - a long one for the day and a shorter one for the night. I preferred having a few accessory changes as I didn’t want to take my dress off! Also, I played with attire for the weekend of my wedding. I had a cream bouncy short dress for the rehearsal dinner together with a great pair of cream Valentino ‘rock stud’ shoes. I also wore a long, low back white Alice & Olivia beach dress the day after at our BBQ with wedges and colorful accessories.
Photographer – Christina Brosnan (Brosnan photographic). I fell in love with her photographs so I just had to work with her. Since receiving my photos, I have fallen in love with my own wedding photography! She was just so easy to work with and very, very capable. She had ideas of where to shoot and just took us where we needed to go. It was easy, fun and I enjoyed every minute of our couples shots.
Videographer – Best Day Productions. I love the 8mm film he uses which produces a more old fashioned, grainy video. Classic but a bit on the edgy side.
Music – Simon Morgan in Ireland help us organise our music in the church and at our drinks reception. He pulled together musicians after speaking with us on what we were looking for. He made some amazing recommendations of both vocalists and musicians, which fit really well with the tone of the day and venue.
For the main event, Andy insisted on the 80’s tribute band, Springbreak – one of the very few requests / demands he made for the day, and I have to say that they were an absolute blast and had everyone on the dance floor from start to finish.
Adare Manor recommended a local guitarist and singer, Brian, for the after-party in the cellar bar who did a fantastic job. An added bonus was when one of our friends, jazz pianist Michael Kaeshammer, got up on stage with Brian and the two of them jammed, with some help from guests, until the very early hours!
First Dance – SpringBreak learned Elton John’s Your Song for us on the wedding day. It was a lovely fit with their 80s music and didn’t clash with the rest the night.
Celebrant – Father John McNamara is a friend of Andy’s family. He was so kind on the day, going to great lengths to explain part of the service to those that are not of a Catholic background. He even went so far as to give blessings to those not baptized at the wedding.
Stationery - Leeming Brothers Stationary. I really enjoyed working with them. They did all our stationary, from Save the Dates to the Thank You cards. The consistency, quality and elegance of our stationary was lovely. When they sent me a sample, the had sealed their envelopes with wax which I loved so much I used their idea for our wedding invites, getting a wax seal made of our own. We now want our own personal stationary as a couple, which we plan on working with Lewis and his team at Leeming Brothers to make in the future.
Cake - CocoaMoiselle. She was excellent, we had a dessert table which looked scrumptious! She was so accommodating, even making a traditional Norwegian festive cake for my family. For our wedding cake, I like carrot and my husband likes chocolate biscuit, so we had both in the different tiers of our cake. We didn’t have a speck of cake left. Everyone kept on talking about how good the biscuit cake was, so we are going to be getting some for Christmas cakes this year – they are just too good! I love the fact that I now know someone I trust and can go to for treats, cakes or desserts.
Hair - Kayleigh from Niall Colgan Hairdressing in Limerick. She was excellent. Fun and a very, very talented stylist. I would highly recommend her to any bride!
Make up – I did my makeup myself. In the lead up to the wedding I visited Bobbi Brown, Mac, Benefit and Laura Mercier makeup artists for all the tips and to get the right colours for my wedding day look.