Daragh Doyle. Photo: Gitte Kennedy

Real Weddings

What it feels like to... plan LGBT weddings

Raised in Wexford, Daragh Doyle (42) ditched his job in insurance to do something different. Now he designs ceremonies around Ireland and further afield

My first year in my new career as a wedding planner brought me down roads I could never have imagined or expected.

I was raised on a farm at Killinick between Wexford Town and Rosslare Harbour, and I was the youngest of four. I went to Waterford IT, did a business degree and worked in insurance for 20 years.

But I found that in the last couple of years I wasn't enjoying the job anymore. I'd organised a lot of parties for family members and work events, and I discovered I really had a passion for planning. When the opportunity came up, I took redundancy in May last year.

Advertisement

As a gay man myself I started off with Rainbow Weddings as I realised there was nobody planning gay weddings. Weddings by DD followed soon after. When you consider that only 800 of the country's 22,000 weddings last year were same sex, 80pc of my business is still bride and groom.

Four weeks into my new journey, my brother William was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I was in a position to help run the family butcher's business in Bridgetown, Co Wexford, which my father started over 60 years ago. I was back working in the family business part-time and beginning the journey of setting up my own business at the same time. William he had been a huge support to me, and he passed away in April at the age of 47.

Sometimes in life, out of something terrible, something beautiful is born. Over the past year I have got to know William's two sons Sean (10) and Rory (5) much better and it's been a beautiful experience. I don't have children, and I have to admit I was naive as to the magic and fulfilment they can bring to your life.

Long before William got sick, he asked me to play an important role with his children in the event the day ever came where he would not be around.

While I guess neither of us ever envisaged that day arriving, it sadly has and it's an honour and privilege for me to be in a position to honour that promise, and I know it will give me so much in my future life.

William was my best man at my wedding last October when I got married to my partner Neil from Limerick.

We had a spiritualist ceremony at The Step House Hotel in Borris, Co Carlow - it's a real hidden gem, and we had 150 people at the reception. I gave a very emotional speech about the journey I had travelled to that day and about the marriage equality referendum.

In my wedding planning business, I got an early break when I was approached by a couple who had been treated badly in the lead up to their wedding. They asked me to come in and effectively save the day, which I managed to do.

It turned out to be a very successful wedding and that led to word of mouth bookings. That's the key thing for me. Since then I have received over 30 bookings and recently completed my first destination wedding in Spain for a lesbian couple.

The big difference between weddings between brides and grooms and LGBT weddings is going to be the ceremony. LGBT couples can't get married in a church, so there's an opportunity to have a spiritualist or humanist ceremony.

Sometimes there's a poem remembering the contribution people made to get to the point where LGBT weddings could happen.

I am also now a wedding celebrant and I love designing and delivering really meaningful ceremonies for couples. Couples can hire a planner and a celebrant in one, which leads to great continuity.

But my experience is that their weddings are still quite traditional, nothing too out of the ordinary. People just want to enjoy their day the same as any other couple.

The reason LGBT couples might come to me is that there's still a bit of a stigma out there and some venues may not be welcoming.

Only 51pc of people getting married get married in churches today. Couples are looking at private house venues or trendy New York-style venues in the city centre, and many are moving away from church weddings to go with specially designed personal services, often in beautiful outdoor locations.

There are very few bridezillas. The vast majority of the couples I have dealt with over the last year have been so easy to deal with. But no matter what you do for some people, they will never be happy. It's also important to recognise that and move on.

As a wedding planner, you must be prepared to take on any and all tasks - it's not all glamour by any means. If the toilet needs to be cleaned and there's no one else to do it, then you get out the rubber glove and cleaning kit.

I really enjoy guests coming up to me and chatting towards the end of the wedding, giving me their feedback on the day.

At a recent wedding, an American guest came up to me and said: "Are you the wedding planner? There's no toilet rolls in the bathroom."

It's really informative to listen to feedback, good and bad, and to learn from it. In any career you should always look to learn and improve.

On June 23, Frank Doyle & Son Craft Butchers closed for the final time after over 60 years in business. It employed over 20 people during that time and it will be sadly missed in south Wexford and beyond.

But while one family business ends, another has been born. I love my new career, and I will drive it on and make it the best business it can be in William's memory.

If it's half as successful as the business my father and brother built, I will be very happy. I look forward to the day when my nephews are old enough to come and work with me in the business during their school and college holidays.

For more information, see weddingsbydd.ie and rainbowweddings.ie.

In conversation with Kathy Donaghy