-AS SEEN IN BRIDAL GUIDE MAGAZINE-
Perhaps with the notable exception of Pam and Jim and the Obamas, the happily ever-afters of love stories don’t start with the office Christmas party. But for Samantha née DeTore Vuksanic and Rob Vuksanic, that's exactly where their once-upon-a-time began. Rob, an engineer at Cashman, a construction and energy firm, won a 10-day escape to the idyllic Kilkea Castle, a 180-acre expanse framed by woodlands and a golf course with 140 accommodations spread across the stone castle, carriage houses and lodges.
Their experience as guests of the 12th century retreat was so memorable that they decided to host their friends and family for a wedding once they became engaged. They were wowed not only by the setting and the sense of living history, but also the cuisine. “We remembered from our trip that their restaurant had some of the best food we ever had,” says Rob “We didn’t realize when traveling to Ireland just how good the food could be,” adds Samantha, who also always dreamed of being married in a castle.
Tying the Knot
In addition to hosting golf outings, tours to neighboring historical sites and a falconry experience for guests, Samantha and Rob showcased the traditions of Irish weddings during their vows. "We wanted our ceremony to be more than just a couple of I dos and some legal language," they explain. In addition to the lighting of a unity candle with their parents, and a ring warming with 15 guests, the couple performed a handfasting ritual. The Celtic tradition, during which the bride and groom cross their hands over each other and clasp before their wrists are wrapped with ribbons by the celebrant, is said to be the origin of the term "tying the knot."
In the Heights
One of Ireland’s most spectacular attractions are the Cliffs of Moher, towering rock outcroppings that stand on the island’s southwestern coast. Stretching nearly eight miles along the shore, the UNESCO site is also a favorite destination for Rob and Samantha. “Hands down, walking up towards the cliffs and leaning out to get an understanding of their epic height is a must for every visitor to Ireland,” they suggest. True to their word, the bride and groom arranged a tour of cliffs for their wedding guests.
Rob’s boss surprised the couple and their guests by hiring a bagpiper. The traditional musician led the bride and groom, along with friends and family, from the ceremony area to the castle for the cocktail hour. The magical moment was one of the most memorable fairytale details for them and their guests, they say.
There’s a "little secret area behind the castle’s rose garden, along the creek, that’s ideal for pictures." The couple also loved getting photos in the lattice tunnel area, replete with vines and surrounded by greenery.
One of the oldest distilled spirits in Europe, it is believed that whiskey dates back to the 12th century when monks brought the process used for perfume to the island from the southern part of the continent. With their guests, Samantha and Rob visited Jameson Distillery in Dublin and Teeling, a small-batch outfit that’s the first distillery to open in Ireland in more than 125 years.
Tasting tip: "In addition to Guinness tasting 100% better than it does in the States, you need to try black pudding before you know what's in it."
Sure, its gorgeous setting was a major selling point for the couple to host their wedding at Kilkea, but the cuisine held equal appeal to Rob and Samantha. “We incorporated a blend of typical Irish dishes and some more accessible cuisine,” they say. “All of the food was unbelievable!” The five-course menu included a goat-cheese-and-baby spinach starter, butternut squash soup, filet of beef and seared halibut. For dessert, guests savored cheesecake and a decadent chocolate cake.
The marriage requirements are strict here. Couples must apply for permission to marry and meet with the Registrar in the county in which they intend to wed five days before the ceremony. Documents such as passports, notarized birth certificates, a marriage application, and, if applicable, death certificates or annulment certificates, along with a fee must be submitted at least three months prior to the intended date. The couple may also be asked to submit the following: the intended date of marriage, the type of ceremony, the names and birth dates of the witnesses and details of the proposed officiant and venue.
Ireland — The Emerald Isle — the picturesque, idyllic countryside with its endless rolling green hills dotted with sheep and native shrubs, thatch-roofed cottages, and more than 30,000 castles is a fairytale destination IRL. Rich with historical sites, sweeping golf courses, traditional distilleries and folks with that famed Irish smile, the country that’s about five hours from America's east coast is a robust destination for every traveler. Add all the trappings of staying in a bona fide castle and, well, it’s a storybook setting for a honeymoon. The circa 12th century Kilkea Castle, only an hour's drive from the bustling capital of Dublin, is an idyllic property, stretching over 180 photogenic acres.
There are woodlands and rose-filled gardens, a spa with thermal waters and 70-par golf course, along with 140 individually appointed guest rooms scattered amid private lodges, a stately carriage house and the ancient castle itself. Among the accommodations, the Fitzgerald suite, named for the former owners, is a standout thanks to its spectacular property views. The on-site experiences include falconry, horseback riding, fishing and bird watching. All is best savored before with a stop in the hotel’s pub or with a memorable high tea (room rates start at about $170 a night).