Organising the Big Day – Sandra O’Connell – The Irish Times

The Happiest Day of Your Life.

What’s meant to be the happiest day in your life can take an awful lot of heartache to organise. For many couples, leaving the legwork to a professional organiser is the pain-free solution. Forget Jennifer Lopez and Deirdre O’Kane, real wedding planners have just one aim in life – to make you happy. Bit like a husband, in fact.

Wedding Planner

Diana Jacobs set up Wedded Bliss 10 years ago. Though wedding planners are not cheap, investing in their expertise can save you money in the long run, she says. “Anybody starting to organise a wedding will need to pick a huge range of services, from flowers to limos and cakes. But if all they have to guide them is the Golden Pages, how will they know if they are picking someone good? As a wedding planner I’ll know who to use and, more importantly, who to avoid.”

A wedding planner can also save you cash based on the simple premise that time is money. “Time is an expensive commodity for a lot of people, especially where both parties are working. Much better to get someone else in to do all the running around.” Whereas in the past Irish mothers undertook most wedding organisation, this trend has diminished as couples increasingly pay for their own big day.

Jacobs works on the basis of a flat fee, paid half in advance and half in the run up to the wedding. Costs vary depending on the services required, but you can expect it to be more than a grand. Given that couples spend an average of between euro 7,000 and euro 10,000 on their big day, it’s not insignificant.

To some however, the joy of being able to literally turn up and enjoy their big day, without wondering where the limo’s off to, makes it more than worthwhile. “A wedding planner’s aim is to take the stress off people,” says Jacobs. “After the very first meeting with couples one of the most common reactions I hear is ‘I feel so much calmer now’.”

If however you are determined, or financially compelled, to organise your own wedding, Jacobs has a word of advice: “Start early. The good hotels, photographers and musicians all book out very early, so ideally give yourself at least a year. The earlier you start, the more likely you are to have it the way you want it. Leave it too late and you are looking at having to compromise.”

Floral Arrangements

Sarah Rubalcava’s firm Inspired by Nature specialises in floral arrangements for weddings. Costs vary from euro 100 to euro 1500, with most couples spending somewhere in between. Traditional white and cream roses remain the most popular request, though she always suggests the inclusion of some freesia simply because of their delicious scent. Increasingly popular however is the use of single stemmed exotic orchids.

When talking to a florist, always remember to ask about the suggested flower’s pollen content, she says. This is not only to guard against allergic reactions or hay fever, but because of pollen stains. Lilies, for example, are notorious for staining clothing. “A good florist will always cut out the pollen before making up a hand held posy, but the couple should always mention it, just in case.”

And don’t be afraid to ask for something a little different, she suggests. “Because it is autumn, right now we are including berries and fruit in bouquets, or using berries and grasses, foliage and twigs in buttonholes. It gives a nice twist to traditional arrangements.”

Flowers should always work in tandem with the bride and bridesmaid’s colour schemes. These, however, are becoming increasingly dramatic. “I’ve had to work with bridesmaids in vibrant orange, shocking pink and even black, on one occasion, which actually looked amazing. Much of this trend towards colour is coming from the US but it is being introduced here too.”

Given the work, and expense, that goes into wedding bouquets, it is little wonder that many brides are loath to throw them after the reception, as is traditional. Very many now opt to get the real bouquet preserved and have a cheap dummy on standby bouquet for bridesmaids to catch.


Many brides will also consider having their makeup professionally applied for their big day. Given that you’ll be looking at yourself on the mantle piece from here to eternity, you may as well like what you see. Dublin based Kate Conkey bills herself as a “cosmetic engineer”, which sounds a little medical. In fact, she specialises in make up for brides. The service costs around euro 150 and includes a trial run to ensure everybody’s happy with it.

Getting the make up right depends on a lot of factors, says Conkey, who is a former fashion model. “You have to consider the time of year, whether it will be indoors or outdoors and if the bride will spend most time in natural or artificial light. Most of all however, you have to consider the bride’s own style, her skin tones, dress colour and the kind of look she is going for.”

Using only Laura Mercier cosmetics, Conkey says that once applied, the only items the bride needs for the long day ahead is a little concealer powder and a lip stick. “What normally happens is that I arrive at the house on the morning of the wedding to do the bride, and, when the mother sees what I’ve done, gets me to do her too.”

Not alone do brides have the safety net of a good make up artist to hand, they now also, thanks to digital photography, have a photographer who can erase their bags and brighten their smiles at the touch of a mouse. At the very least, they can be sure they’re not going to suffer the dread red eye.


Award winning photographer Robert Mullan from Arklow Co Wicklow says the trend in wedding photography is very much away from the traditional stiffly posed shot to a much more natural look. Digital photography enables him to take thousands of snaps, typically moving around through the festivities looking for images that are true to the spirit of the day.

“Wedding photos are much fresher these days and are similar to the feel of a fashion photography. Previously it was uneconomic to do that kind of work, because to get predictable results the photographer had to work to a predictable formula. Nowadays it’s all much more natural.”

Wedding photography costs range from euro 1500 to euro 3,500, with euro 1,500 being average, he says. If you want the best the rule here too is to book early. Though, not that early. “I’ve had calls from women wanting to book me for a wedding in three years’ time. God bless their optimism!”


The wedding band is also a major decision to be made and a tall order to pull off correctly. John Lowe, sober suited financial advisor by day and rocked up wedding singer by night, reckons he has the balance just right. His band, The Heartbeats, has been going for over a decade, which probably proves his point.

“In terms of music, we offer the 3 ‘m’s”, he explains “that stands for musical, melodic and memorable. If you are going to choose a wedding band, at least choose a band that is reliable. Make sure also that the same personnel that you have seen will turn up on the night, so that there’s no mixing and matching going on. As with anything, you want to get the product you’ve asked for.”