I had passed the audition with flying colors. I was to be the leading man in Christina and Joe: The Wedding. It was only a minor part compared to Christina who was to be in the leading role of Bride, as well as Producer, Director, Location Scout, Casting Director, Costume Designer, and the entire Art Department. She threw me an Executive Producer nod and gave me final cut on the menu (provided she agreed with it).
It was a relief following the proposal not having to hide things from her again. The four days of withholding the truth of the hidden ring and the full day of pretending I wasn't about to propose to her had taken its toll on me. I decided I probably wasn't cut out to be the guy who went on frequent "business trips" to the west coast to visit his second family. It was nice to be able to sit in the passenger seat for a while. Unfortunately for me, my fiancee is a tough task master and before long I had spreadsheets coming out my arse and I was reciting the pros and cons of every hotel in Ireland better than my times tables.
Money was to be our first obstacle. We didn't have any and weddings are expensive. There was never a question which country it would be in and that meant added expense which meant a probable long engagement. We settled on August 2014 pretty quickly but went back and forth on dates for a long time.
Bearing in mind that we had already been engaged for 9 months before our trip to Ireland in April 2013, some of the parties involved (i.e. this guy) were already "weddinged-out" before we officially began the planning process. It felt more like a business trip than a vacation home. We had wall-to-wall meetings with photographers, hotel managers, and other shitty wedding stuff that had to be done. There was also the little matter of the Pre-Marriage course which will be covered in another blog post.
Before we got home we decided we would look at 4 hotels, all in Galway. We had a little bit of a pecking order going into things, Galway Bay having a slight edge over the Westwood with Connemara Coast as a dark horse. The Salthill Hotel was the people's favourite and it sounded like there would be uprising were we to pick somewhere else. We had crammed these 4 hotels into one day and were hopeful we would not have to make further appointments. It is important that I not understate the gravity of this visit. We didn't have a boat load of cash or the vacation time to waste on another trip to do this stuff.
Salthill HotelAfter two fruitless appointments with photographers we visited the Salthill Hotel the following morning. I knew little about it aside from the location being excellent and the cult-like following it had among family and friends. We met with the Wedding Co-Ordinator there and were somewhat underwhelmed. Being veterans of a negligible number of Irish weddings, we were not well-versed in what to look for but that didn't stop us nit-picking (The reception is going to be IN the reception area? You're on the water but you can't even see the sea?, and other such silent and silly complaints were trotted out by us after we left). We were careful not to be too critical for fear we would have to later convince ourselves that we were in love with the place. It's definitely a great location for a wedding but it didn't feel right for us. Moving on.
We made our way to Newcastle to the Westwood which was my local during college. We would sometimes... okay, rarely (almost never) go there to play cards and drink a few pints and frequently (once) saw Michael D Higgins there. It was practically home. We got a quick breakfast and everything was feeling right. This was going to be the place. I just knew it.
The lady we met here* eventually sauntered over. We had clearly interrupted her mid-morning cigarette break. She made her frustration known to the receptionist just out of our hearing, before plonking down into an armchair. "Well?", she asked, as if she was an investor on Dragon's Den (Shark Tank) waiting to hear our pitch. She also offered tea. There was clearly no intention on her part to follow through had we accepted said tea. We asked to look at the wedding packages. She seemed a little put out that we didn't have them to hand ourselves and spent some time looking for the relevant information.
She could have walked us into a room that mirrored Westminster Abbey and told us we could have our wedding there for a half bag of peanuts and we wouldn't have taken it. She had already lost the sale. If she didn't want thousands of euro, we weren't going to beg her to take it. We feigned interest by asking a couple of questions and left, disappointed and flabbergasted. There was nothing wrong with the hotel itself aside from the trestle tables. Please God let the next one be better.
Galway Bay Hotel
We were probably a solid country mile on the obvious side of subtle in our feelings towards the venue. This put us in a vulnerable haggling position when we sat down with Siobhan to go through the finer details. Our strategy was simple. I was responsible for the haggling and Christina would pretend to be invisible as she is American. She did not have years of men coming to her farm and screwing the aul' lad out of perfectly healthy calves. I, on the other hand, was ready to spit on my hand and ask for a couple of bob luck if it came to it. We discussed dates, days, and prices, cut a few things and asked for some things to be added. Siobhan didn't have all the answers for us right away but assured us she would later in the day.
We went away happy with what we had achieved there. This place just felt right. Everything we had seen was what we had imagined and hoped for. At this point we had a little time to kill before our meeting at the Connemara Coast.
Connemara Coast HotelHaving sipped Bucks Fizz on the steps of the Connemara Coast on Ladies Day morning of the races a couple of years back, I knew it was well out of our price range but a boy can dream, can't he? We were shown around the hotel and while the location is absolutely stunning and the hotel has plenty of merits, it was out of our price range and didn't have the same feel as the one we were now besotted with. At this point we were anxiously awaiting Siobhan's call as if we were a pair of teenage girls waiting for Bieber to reply to one of our increasingly desperate tweets.
When the call came as we sat with our eventual photographer, I fangirled so hard that I almost missed the call. I felt like the nicest terrorist in the world as I listened to Siobhan concede to most of our demands. We did a virtual hand spit and agreed to meet the following morning to sign the papers. That went off without a hitch following another small round of negotiation. We stood up, beaming as if we hadn't just signed away our earnings for the next 18 months. "See you at Christmas for the menu tasting," we declared.
*She was not the normal wedding co-ordinator - apparently the real guy is supposed to be great
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