A lucky horse shoe is pictured in the window of a vintage Rolls-Royce wedding car at the London Wedding Show at ExCel

The Vow

The guest's guide to Irish weddings: 20 things to look out for in 2016

1. DIY weddings: Spray-painted jam jars, hand-written invitations and other homemade trinkets are finding their way into ceremonies and onto reception tables. Wedding planners are also embracing the trend, and some are offering weddings with a DIY appearance but with less of the hard graft

2. Elopements: Once associated with bohemian love affairs and romantic novels, running away together is now something of a package deal. Many wedding planners offer week-long 'elopements' around Ireland for a couple and some friends, which include coastal weddings and a romantic road-trip.


3. Couples are taking 'tying the knot' to literal levels with Celtic handfasting rituals. During the ceremony, the couple's hands are tied together with twine to represent their commitment to each other.

4. Owners of houses like Hilton Park in Monaghan offer to rent their homes for weekend-long wedding-house parties in the style of Downton Abbey. Other stately homes such as Huntington Castle in Co Carlow and Wells House in Co Wexford open doors to couples looking for old-world opulence.

5. While modern elegance is still big at weddings, many couples will also give a nod to their ancestry with photos of their grandparents' weddings. The retro pictures are seen as an authentic alternative to the vintage trend.

6. Handmade place names at receptions are also popular, as are themed tables. Many couples name their tables after places, cities and memories that have particular meaning for them. Handwritten invitations are also a key feature, with many relatives being recruited for design duties.

7. While guestbooks are still a fixture at many weddings, some couples instead choose 'fingerprint trees', where family and friends use ink to stamp their fingerprints on a framed picture of a tree for the couple.

8. Sweet carts, or little carriages full of jars of bonbons, remain on trend for Irish weddings. Normally brought in for younger children, the sweets on offer are often quickly devoured by adults as well.

9. For a lot of weddings, the party begins with a giant board game. Jumbo-sized Jenga and chess pieces are not unusual at weddings. The games are a good way of breaking the ice for guests who don't know each other well.

10 . Quirkier dress trends: While many girls still dream of a white wedding, they are all too ready to bend the rules. Some brides choose brightly-coloured shoes to match their bouquet, while others ditch the traditional train in favour of a shorter hemline.

11. Hangover: As guests are more likely to party hard these days, hangover kits are now a wedding essential. More and more newlyweds arrange for packages of painkillers and other cure-alls for friends and family.

12. Tractors: Some couples bring new meaning to 'country-style' weddings, with some brides arriving to the church on tractors and trailers, bedecked in practical wellies.

13. Barn dances: In keeping with the rural theme, some couples organise barn-dance style weddings instead of fancy hotel dos. While these remain a rarity, less affluent couples still consider them an option.

14. Urban weddings: Trendy couples are swapping grandiose churches for graffiti-clad warehouses for a more modern take on their weddings. Venues favoured by hip brides and grooms include the Chocolate Factory and the Drury Buildings in Dublin.

15. Culture club - gallery weddings: More cultural couples opt for artistic spaces, theatres and galleries for their nuptials. The National Gallery and Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin are favourites for artistic types, alongside Crawford Art Gallery in Cork.

16. Bake-off weddings: Wedding cakes have become something of an art form in recent years, but the 'bake-off' craze has also taken its place at reception tables. Many brides now rustle up their own multi-layered, iced sponges for their big day, with bakes that would make Mary Berry proud.

17. Tayto sandwich weddings: For some, the promise of a slap-up meal is the highlight of a wedding. But more and more people are choosing the comfort of a crisp sandwich instead. While some high-end venues won't permit the snacks on their premises, packs of Tayto are finding their ways into wedding welcome packs - along with the essential slab of Kerrygold and a sliced pan.

18. Destination weddings: More and more couples are choosing to travel for their nuptials, and Ireland is a popular destination. The Yes vote in last year's same-sex marriage referendum has continued to attract same-sex couples to Ireland for their wedding day.

19. Homecomings: At the same time, Irish emigrés are returning for their weddings so that friends and family can join in the celebrations.

20. Buffet: While a sit-down meal is always welcome, sometimes self-service cannot be beaten. More and more couples opt for buffet or barbecue-style catering, much to the delight of hungry guests.