Real Wedding on a budget: Ciara & Kieran

Next up in our Real Wedding Series, is Ciara Fitzgibbon from Cork who managed to have a budget wedding of €5,000 without sacrificing any of her big plans. I think you’ll find her story inspiring! Over to Ciara….

My husband and I got married last July, outdoors under a blue sky in sunny Cork. With many of our guests choosing to contribute towards our wedding instead of buying us extra toasters, our grand total for the day came to well under €5,000.

Our wedding ceremony, reception and photographs all testify to the fact that you no longer have to spend €20,000 to have your dream wedding. My hope in sharing our photos and story in this blog, would be that other women wouldn’t feel that the financial situation facing many of them has to put a stop to their enjoying the best day of their lives.

After eleven months of our long distance relationship between Cork and Dublin (or UCC and Trinity to be exact!) my husband Kieran proposed to me on a sunny day on Fountainstown Beach, in Cork. Soon after, we sat down and made a list of all the things that were very important to us to have for our wedding. For me it was that we could invite as many of our friends as possible and for Kieran it was that we had fantastic food and that our guests really enjoyed themselves.

Our budget was made pretty simple by the fact that we were both still college students! Our guests and especially our close friends and family contributed to various different aspects of our day instead of buying traditional gifts. We also had a huge amount of friends help us out on the day with so many different things.

All of our invitations, programmes and stationary for the day were hand made by us and designed by our friend. She was amazing when we first started to discuss the sort of style we were going for as I wanted the wedding style to be classy and timeless and to reflect our personalities. Our invitations had our silhouettes on them with handmade green paper and a small pink ribbon. The silhouettes became the motif for the day and green and pink, our colours. We also included a customised map of how to get to the venue printed on tracing paper.

My beautiful dress was bought in Pronuptia in Cork. Knowing I was on a tight budget, this is one area where I expected to have to compromise. With my best friend and bridesmaid, Sarah, in tow, I tried on a beautiful strapless lace dress which was so wildly beyond my budget that it was almost embarrassing just to be standing in it. You can only imagine our faces when the sales assistant told us that it was originally €2,500 but that the shop was closing down and they were selling the dress off the rails for €500! The dress was dry cleaned at no extra cost and even came down in price again to €300 before two of my best friends told me that they wanted to buy it for me. Many bridal shops sell dresses for up to half price when bought off the rails. This is a great way to save money but still get your dream dress.

I saw the duchess satin dresses on sale in Coast and immediately knew they were perfect for my two bridesmaids! The green was exactly the shade I wanted and the satin tied in nicely with the champagne satin bands on my dress. These too were a bargain, reduced from €290 to €115. I bought them a year before the wedding in the summer sales and even though I thought it might be a bit early I was amazed to find that they were back in the shop the following summer, and at full price! These too were a wedding gift from one of my aunts who wanted to contribute towards the big day instead of buying us a kettle!

Another area where we saved money were our rings. After going back to the shop where my engagement ring was bought, we decided to shop around. We went into small family owned jewellery shops and after quoting our best price to a few different jewellers, we managed to get €400 off the original price we were given! One shop owner even asked us, “Did Eddie Hobbs send ye?!”.

With 180+ guests we knew that holding our reception in a hotel was well beyond our budget and we began to look at alternative venues. The Ardfallen Centre in Douglas was perfect for what we needed. Set in lovely grounds the centre has a church, rose garden and a couple of large halls. We decided to have our ceremony outside beside the rose garden under a large tree on the lawn. We decorated the tree with paper lanterns and satin ribbons and a friend of ours who is an artist kindly made a ‘chuppah’ type structure for us to say our vows under. We wrote our own vows and planned a ceremony that reflected our desire to put God first in our marriage. Kieran and I are both Christians and attend a local Church called Grace Christian Fellowship. As well as our vows we sang worship songs and had our friends pray with us. It was very informal and over within half an hour, short and sweet!

After the ceremony we went on our own with our amazing photographer Tamryn Kerswell to do our photos. After working in the Lewis Glucksman Art Gallery in UCC for many years, I knew straightaway that it was where I wanted our slightly alternative wedding portraits to be taken. We were greeted with chocolates and champagne and lots of smiles. The gallery is available for hire for photo shoots and much more. Getting our photos taken in the gallery was one of our favourite parts of the day as we took two hours out to let it all sink in. For more information, email

Tamryn was fantastic! She was so easy to work with and really open to trying different things. She kept cool and calm the whole day and I would work with her again in a heart beat given the chance! Her photography website is, it’s well worth a look. She also came over to take a few photos of us getting ready that morning and smiled and laughed the whole time!

When we saw our photos we were ecstatic. I couldn’t have been happier with the mix of posed and candid shots. She made everything look fantastic and really captured the atmosphere that was felt on the day. So many people have complimented them that I have honestly lost count! Tamryn’s photography is personal and there is something very unique about her photography. I’m so glad she could be there on the day.

The reception hall in Ardfallen had been decorated by us the day before and looked amazing! We covered the ceiling with organza and tulle that had been bought on sale and used pews that were already in the hall for the top table. The centre pieces were simply branches with pearls and beads hanging from them, set in black glass vases bought in tesco! To create a focal point in the massive hall we placed two huge silhouettes above the top table and hung lanterns and white fairy lights around the edges of the hall.

For our first dance we had over 200 tea light candles in glass yoghurt jars places in a circle around us as we danced to Lou Reid’s ‘Perfect Day’. The yoghurt jars had been collected from over the past year by all of our yoghurt eating friends!

Instead of just the traditional Irish fruit cake we had 200 cupcakes with a fruit cake on top! Our amazing friend Rachel made all of the cupcakes and decorated them for us as a wedding gift. The cupcakes came in three different flavours and looked amazing. We served these after the dessert and I couldn’t count the amount of compliments we received! The fruit cake made by Kieran’s family topped the whole thing off and was delicious.

The most, and possibly only, stressful thing to organise was the food for the day. We had designed a menu of BBQ’d food and buffet with a chef but unfortunately three weeks before the wedding he had to pull out due to reasons beyond his control. With very little time left to find a replacement, one of my very good friends Nadine offered to organise the food. It was absolutely a community effort with about 10 people making different dishes after Nadine dropped them the ingredients and sometimes even the recipes! She also designed the layout for the day and made sure everything was where it was meant to be. We finally found another chef who is also a friend to step in on the day to oversee the food, several others to serve it and even one to make sure that everything was moving smoothly.

We are so blessed with a great community and it is something that all of our out of town guests remarked on. Without all these helping friends the perfect day that we enjoyed simply wouldn’t have been possible. Our wedding was full of love and lots of great friends and it all made for a day that none of us would ever forget!

Would YOU like to share your real wedding story with the blog readers?! Send us in some photos and your wedding story and we would love to publish it! Contact Us here.

Ciara Crossan

Ciara is the Founder and CEO of WeddingDates and has a particular love for quirky & unusual weddings! Considered a wedding venue expert, lucky for her she has visited hundreds of stunning wedding venues all over Ireland and the UK.

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