IT IS said two things never go out of fashion whatever the economic climate â€“ funerals and weddings.
And the wedding business is one of the busiest in Limerick and across the rest of the country. The Irish have as much of an obsession with weddings as they do with property, and attending funerals.
Recent figures from the Central Statistics Office show that there were just over 1000 weddings registered in Limerick in 2008, the most recent figures available.
It is a tide that lifts every boat â€“ florists, dressmakers, hotels, bars, restaurants, and airlines all get a boost.
Sean Lally, manager of the Strand Hotel in the city, said they have witnessed â€œdouble digit growthâ€ in their bookings for weddings recently, with particularly strong growth for same-sex ceremonies and even enquiries from abroad.
â€œWeddings have gone through the roof in the past 12 months. Itâ€™s a huge growth area. Before many couples wanted to get married out in the country, but weâ€™ve seen a complete U-turn there and more couples are coming back into the city,â€ he said.
The first same-sex male wedding in the mid-west was held in the Strand within the past six months, and their sixth floor penthouse is proving popular for all wedding guests, offering panoramic views of the city.
The demand for weddings is witnessed by the glut of upcoming events in Limerick, with two major events scheduled for next month, to ensure there will be no â€˜Bridewarsâ€™ or â€˜Bridezillaâ€™ moments.
And increasingly, couples are looking overseas. For some it is a choice to forego the traditional Irish wedding of 200-plus guests, and have a smaller, more intimate day. Others just long for an extended break in the sun. The company, Creation Travel on Cecil Street, has seen a rise in demand for weddings abroad in recent years, albeit a small dip this year in comparison to 2010. Popular hotspots include weddings in RomeSorrento, Malta and Lanzarote, with honeymoons to Mexico, Mauritius, and Hawaii, among their most advertised.
Mary Conway, an agent with Creation Travel, said the size of the wedding entourage they cater for rarely rises above 90 guests, and generally people have chosen smaller groups to 30 to 50. Is it worth breaking with the norm? â€œWell, a bride came back to me recently and I asked her if the wedding was everything she wanted. She said â€˜It was everything I wanted and moreâ€™.â€ Then there are honeymoons, with breaks in the Maldives, costing anything up to â‚¬6,000.
But is bigger necessarily better? Whatever about the big ceremony, many couples are choosing something different.
In Limerick, one venue - particularly for the sporting orientated - stands above all the rest - Thomond Park. The seat of Munster rugby first began hosting wedding receptions in 2009, following its â‚¬40m redevelopment, and will be marketing them even more in the coming year. While Catholic ceremonies are still predominant in county, civil ceremonies are prevailing in the city, allowing couples more freedom to completely break with the old routine.
In fact, civil ceremonies are becoming so popular that it estimated that they may overtake religious ceremonies in the coming years.
Some couples might be waiting for the recession to blow over therefore they put down their desposits, but many believe there is actually bigger value to be found now. Some have favoured their own specially produced â€œDIY weddingsâ€, but wedding planners are still in demand for those with a bit more cash to spare.
Rebecca May, a former Royal florist in Buckingham Palace, who is now based in Limerick with her company Rebecca May Weddings and Events, has found that irrespective of the recession peopleâ€™s weddings can still be lavish occasions of luxury, because it is a day that happens only once in their lives (in theory).
â€œI think everybody wants what they want on their wedding day and I donâ€™t think that changes radically because thereâ€™s a recession on,â€ she told the Limerick Leader. â€œWe have to find all sorts of ways to make things affordable. We like to think we go 150 per cent to make it happen.â€
She recently worked on a wedding in Ahane, county Limerick, which had an â€˜Electric Picnicâ€™ feel, complete with six foot toad stools in the garden.Some of the weddings she has worked on have cost as much as â‚¬200,000.
Weddings increasingly have become a booming industry for photographers.
IPPA accredited Castletroy based photographer Dermot Culhane has seen demand go through the roof since he shot to prominence after winning a number of awards in his student days at Limerick College of Further Education.
He is almost fully booked for 2012, and is already pencilling in dates for 2013. He may photograph one or two weddings a week, but he never tires of the job. â€œI really love what I do. I definitely donâ€™t take it for granted. This is my absolute passion. I feel very privileged to be present at someoneâ€™s wedding and take their photos because it is something they will cherish for the rest of their lives,â€ he said.
Fellow photographer Sean Curtin, who works with the acclaimed photographic practice, Press22, has now also branched into wedding photography in the past year and a half.
And not only is demand for the big day high, but he has seen a new phenomenon - couples requestingengagement photographs, showing themselves in less formal and more natural poses. While these could be seen as an added cost to the bid day, Mr Curtin said it has the added bonus of allowing the photographer and the couple form a relaxed and comfortable relationship before they officially tie the knot.
While some photographers offer photos to be taken for as low as â‚¬500 for a wedding, this photographer, with 15 years experience under his belt, warns couples to see their work in advance, â€œbecause there is no going backâ€.
A day to remember - October 2!
- The Absolute Hotel & Spa will hold a â€œOnce Loved Dress Saleâ€ on Sunday, October 2, from 11am to 5pm, in association with sellmyweddingdress.net. Over 200 wedding dresses will be up for grabs, ranging in price from â‚¬250 - â‚¬2,000. Collections include once worn, new and ex-sample dresses; and both buyers and sellers are welcome to come along. To find out more about the sale, call Kathleen on (087) 6523558 or email email@example.com.
- The Milk Market in Limerick will host the inaugural Weddings & Vintage Fayre on Sunday, October 2, where there will be 40 stall exhibitors, fashion shows and hair and make-up demonstrations.