Right off the top: I can’t tell you how excited I am to be sharing this Ireland Elopement Guide with you. Ireland and elopements go together like ice cream and sprinkles, and here’s why:
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I live in the U.S. myself, but having been born in Ireland and made countless trips home, I’ve got a unique perspective that comes in handy. I was going to list out all the helpful things I could think of for Americans here, but there’s just too much for one Ireland elopement guide. There’s now a whole separate article specifically for things Americans should know: click to learn more about eloping in Ireland as an American!
As a quick spoiler for the legalities: you can get legally married in Ireland, but the process is more complicated and restrictive (including where you can get married) than it is in the U.S. My strong recommendation is that you do the paperwork side of things in the States, either before or after your trip, and then enjoy your elopement in Ireland without a care in the world.
Ireland, being a small island, is a fairly temperate place, climate-wise. The average annual temperature is between 9-10 C (48-50 F). Summer is the warmest season, obviously, followed by autumn, spring, and then winter. But at any time of the year, prepare yourself for rain. I’m not about to write an Ireland elopement guide without mentioning the rain, but I don’t want you to get hung up on it! I know that “Ireland” immediately means “rain” to a lot of people, but I promise it’s not as bad as you think.
In the summer months, luckily, if it does rain it’s often light, not a constant downpour that lasts all day. So mentally prepare yourself for that, bring a raincoat and some decent shoes, and get outside no matter what the weather throws at you. It’s always worth it.
My annual trips home are usually in August, into early September, which is one of the warmer parts of the year. It’s a nice escape from the Washington heat, but it’s not so cold and miserable that I’m grumpily stuck inside all day. So for both the weather and the fact that I’ll already be in Ireland, I vote August or September for your Ireland elopement! That’s also late enough in the year that you should miss the biggest surge of summer tourists.
My other favourite time of year (and honestly, I may change my annual trip plans…) is late April/early May. That may not be the warmest time of year, but it’s actually one of the driest.
If all you’ve heard about Ireland is that it rains a lot, that is technically true, but there’s so much more than that. And Dublin is actually warmer in the winter than Seattle, which has a similar oceanic climate. …Just saying.
Personally, I think the weather in Ireland is gorgeous. As someone who overheats and sunburns easily (…because of course), the ever-changing weather is a delight. And clouds and wind make for both an exhilarating time and gorgeous photos. Can’t recommend it enough.
It’s tempting to just say “everywhere” and leave it at that.
It’s mostly true.
Here are some of the best outdoor places to elope in Ireland by city:
Ireland also has plenty of hotels and indoor locations for small weddings if that’s more your style! Scroll down to read more about the best places to stay in Ireland for your elopement.
Hello, my darlings, my name is Rachel (theyThem). I’m an elopement photographer, and the thought of running wild with you through the Irish countryside makes me giddy. Now that we’re out of lockdown and I can resume my yearly trips home to “recharge my bones,” as it were, I’m stoked to be able to offer some fantastic Ireland elopement photography packages for you. You can learn more about who I am and what I do HERE.
Whether you’re all in on an Irish elopement or still on the fence, I’m here to talk it all through with you! I’m available to photograph elopements in Ireland year-round, but for the best deals, elope during my annual trip home.
Whatever you dream up, I’m on board.
From a wee 5-hour day to a multi-day adventure, you can get married in the Old Country however you like. There are some example elopement timelines below to give you some ideas.
What can your Irish elopement adventure look like?
I’ve often found that, wherever you’re getting married, it’s difficult to truly get the whole picture without seeing a timeline written down. And especially if you haven’t eloped before, you may not have a clear idea of what your day (or days…) can be.
It may surprise you to hear that most people book me for 8-12 whole hours. Not 1, not 2, but 12. Think about it: people who have big weddings get a full day, why don’t you?
For more on this, there’s an in-depth article about dreaming up your own perfect wedding day, and you can read it here: How to Plan the Perfect Timeline
When it comes to planning your elopement, one of the aspects for you to consider is the ceremony itself. Big wedding ceremonies have common scripts to follow, and you can follow them too, but maybe you’re looking for something else… And what Ireland Elopement Guide would be complete without Irish wedding traditions?
Whether you’re Irish yourself or just love the traditions, here’s a list that you can incorporate into your own elopement day:
The phrase “tying the knot” comes from the hand-fasting tradition, involving tying the couple’s hands together with rope, ribbon, or lace. You can personalize the ceremony by selecting specific colours for the cords, signifying different aspects of your relationship.
I love live music at any wedding, but some traditional Irish music? In a magical place? Can’t beat that. Three of my favourite instruments for live Irish music are the fiddle, the harp, and the uilleann pipes. (Uilleann pipes are the Irish version of the bagpipes, pronounced “ill-en.” They’re quieter than the Scottish bagpipes and have a beautiful sound.)
Ireland has a long history with lace. Either or both or you can carry a lace handkerchief on your wedding day. Handkerchiefs can be embroidered with the date of the ceremony and/or your names or initials.
In the present day, I wouldn’t say that all Irish people are superstitious, but…we’re a little-stitious. There are all kinds of little traditions to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck, and this is one of them. You can either place the coin in your shoe or, in the more modern version: glue it to the bottom of your shoe.
Claddagh (pronounced “kla-duh”) originally referred to a town near Galway. A Claddagh ring features a heart held by a pair of hands, symbolizing love and friendship, respectively. A crown perches on top of the heart, signifying loyalty. (Some Irish folks have been known to wear Claddagh rings without the crown as a form of protest against the British.)
According to tradition, Claddagh rings are worn on the right ring finger with the heart facing the wearer signifying that they are “spoken for,” or turned away from the wearer signifying that they are single or open. Claddaghs are worn as engagement rings on the ring finger of the left hand with the heart facing away from the wearer. During the wedding ceremony, the ring is turned around (or a new one is added if not used as an engagement ring) with the heart facing toward the wearer.
All of my couples get a full packing list to make sure nothing is forgotten, but here are the basics when it comes to traveling in Ireland:
As we discussed above with the weather, you should bring a raincoat. I don’t care what time of year it is, you need one. And Murphy’s Law states that if you bring one, you likely won’t need it. But if you forget it…? Rain every day.
I don’t make the rules.
You’ll also need a good comfortable pair of shoes. They don’t have to be running shoes or hiking boots (unless you’re doing some serious hiking), but you’re going to find yourself doing a lot of walking. Not just on your elopement day, but every day. Ireland has pretty good public transportation, but be prepared to spend a lot of time moving around!
Like most “variable” climates, my best recommendation for clothing is “layers.” Light layers will keep you comfortable through sun, wind, rain, and who knows what else. And if you’re feeling optimistic, throw in a pair of shorts and a tank top. Who knows? You might get lucky.
One other valuable thing to remember is a plug adapter. The outlets are different over there! Another thing to keep in mind is the U.S. runs on 120 current, and Ireland runs on 230. So even if you use an adapter, you can’t use things like your hairdryer unless they’re “dual voltage.” Lots of small appliances these days are, but make sure to check yours!
For my usual packing list, head over to the “How to Visit Ireland for Americans” article!
Whether you’re going traditional with suits and white dresses or you’re into colours, kilts, two-piece outfits, or costume pieces (hello, Lord of the Rings), getting married outdoors comes with some considerations.
Whatever you choose to wear, pick something that makes you happy! Comfortable, happy people who feel good about what they’re wearing enjoy themselves more and look more relaxed in photos. Pretty sure it’s science.
If you’re spending any part of your elopement day outdoors, make sure that whatever you’re wearing allows for movement. I’m not talking about gymnastics moves or anything, as long as you don’t feel restricted.
If you’re into skirts or dresses, something with light fabric catches the wind nicely. Layers add a full effect and some warmth, and more simple pieces can add an air of elegance or whimsy. If it’s going to be chilly on your elopement day, I recommend nude-coloured leggings for an extra layer of warmth.
I say this for all elopements, but Ireland, in particular, has that mystical feel that makes it doubly true: feel free to accessorize with something you wouldn’t wear on a “normal” day. Do you want a sparkling hairpiece? Perfect. A crown? Yes, please. A hat or cape that you’ve been eyeing? Always. Put flowers in your hair, wear jewelry that you think is fun, go elegant, or pagan, or both. Whatever makes you smile: do that. The Irish landscape will take care of the rest.
For those of you not already living in Ireland, you’re going to have to travel with your wedding clothes! And for most of you, that means a flight. Or two.
No matter what you wear on your wedding day, my number one rule is to never ever put your wedding clothes or accessories in checked baggage. Carry-on only, my darlings. For something as special as your wedding day, the last thing you want is lost, delayed, or damaged luggage with your beautiful outfits inside.
Don’t risk it.
And a top tip I have for you is to call your airline and ask if you can tuck your garment bags into one of the wee closets on board! It’s not a guarantee, but for something like wedding attire, the airline may be totally willing to help you out.
If you’re going to fly with your outfit in carry-on luggage, here’s what I recommend for dresses and suits:
With a more traditional dress, you’re going to want a garment bag. That will protect it and hopefully keep the wrinkles to a minimum. Carefully place your dress in the garment bag and remove the hanger. Lay the bag flat on the ground, then fold it in thirds, longways. So, fold in one side, then fold the other side on top. From the bottom, gently roll up, squeezing out the air as you go. Depending on how much “poof” and extra fabric your dress has, you should be able to fit this in a standard carry-on bag.
Although you may not be able to fit much else.
Some garment bags have handles on them, which I think is neat. You can fold your dress in thirds (top and bottom) and carry it like a poofy briefcase. That way you still have your carry-on luggage for other things like clothes and toiletries.
Hang up and steam your dress once you get to where you’re going. If wrinkles really bother you, pick a fabric that’s more forgiving, like lace.
Suits are a wee bit more complicated to fold, so feel free to look up some YouTube videos! (Apologies in advance for the male-assuming language in most of them.)
The basics: fold your trousers in half, then roll them gently. Place your shirt right side down, then fold in the sides and sleeves. Fold in thirds or roll gently.
For a suit jacket: put your hands in the shoulders, bring them together, then reverse so the jacket is inside out. You can tuck the trousers into the shoulders and then fold them up gently. There are also some nice garment bag options that fold up small!
Hang up your suit once you get to where you’re going. Steam or iron if necessary.
I can’t possibly list out every decent restaurant in Ireland, as enjoyable as that would be. For some regions, I have specific recommendations, but here are some basics:
This may not matter to you in the slightest, in which case scroll on, but for my celiac and gluten-intolerant friends out there, Ireland is an excellent place for you to eat! Celiac disease is particularly common in Ireland, compared to the rest of the world, so they know what they’re doing. One of the many reasons I love visiting is the chance to eat gluten-free bread of average size, not the tiny, sad slices you get in the U.S.! Keep an eye on labels, obviously, and double-check with restaurants, but you’ll likely have a much easier time than you would in the States.
Irish pub food is a genre all its own and not one to be missed. If you’re looking for hearty comfort food, a great atmosphere, and a chance to hear live, traditional music, put the local pub(s) on your list.
…I know, right? Who would’ve thought? Ireland doesn’t have the same “foodie” reputation as some other countries in Europe, but if you’re looking for something fancy, there are Michelin Star Restaurants all over the place.
Ireland is an island, after all, and in many coastal cities and towns, you’ll find fresh, delicious seafood. I highly, highly recommend it.
For my American friends: you truly don’t know what you’re missing out on when it comes to chocolate. I would be remiss if I didn’t add this section, so get on that Cadbury’s train and try some Irish chocolate. The plain chocolate bars are great on their own. You can also try the classics (Flake, Yorkie, Mars, Twirl, etc.), and if you’re looking for something nostalgic from my childhood, try a “99,” which is a vanilla ice cream cone with a flake bar stuck in it like a wee, crumbly chimney.
When in doubt, ask the locals. They know where the good restaurants are. They may not always give away their secrets to tourists, but I’ve always found locals very happy to point me in the right direction.
As with the food, I’ve got specifics for specific places, but these are my general tips:
Like most places, services like Airbnb and VRBO haven’t been kind to locals in the big cities. Properties are being bought up as rentals, making it more difficult for locals to stay. I’ve had good luck with Airbnb in more rural areas if I can tell that the listing is for a cottage on a local’s land, or a guestroom added onto their house, or a Bed & Breakfast.
I’m not usually a hotel human myself, but if I were on an elopement adventure…there are some rad hotels in Ireland. A lot of the buildings are old and full of history, and they’ve been lovingly restored to give you an incredible experience without roughing it. These are beautiful backdrops to your wedding day, too, both for getting ready and for your ceremony or dinner, if that’s what you’re into. There are some gorgeous hotels that cater to small weddings.
Staying with locals is always my preference. You can be fully immersed or tucked away in a private guest suite. There’s something for every preference. You can read all you want online, but no one knows a town in Ireland like the people who live there. Stay with them, talk to them, and learn from them. I guarantee your trip will be better for it.
Those are my best tips, distilled down into this Ireland Elopement Guide! If you have any questions, want to learn more, or you’re ready to talk about your very own Irish elopement, you can get in touch via my contact form or email me directly at email@example.com!