An elegant 18th Century Manor House nestled at the heart of sprawling woods, courtyards, walled gardens and parkland, Tankardstown House was the dreamy venue for when Laura McPadden said 'I Do' to James Dempsey on the 21st of October 2023. Photographed by Dasha Caffrey, this special day is filled to the brim with stunning details!

The couple met at work, around 4 meters below ground on a bustling building site! Being a non-engineer, Laura was curious about the ins and outs of an engineer's day. James, ever the gentleman, volunteered himself to show her the ropes of setting out in the lashing rain – not quite what she had in mind! "About an hour later, two things became clear: engineering wasn't for me, and I was certain I wanted to spend more time with James, preferably in drier conditions!"

Just after the Covid lockdowns, James surprised Laura with a trip to her favourite city, Barcelona, for her 30th birthday. Despite assuring her that he wouldn't be proposing any time soon to avoid stealing her friend Rachel's recent engagement thunder, he got down on one knee the very next day at a rooftop terrace overlooking the city. "Even though I had a perfectly done manicure, he still managed to catch me off-guard! We celebrated in Barcelona, but our trip took an unexpected turn. With James testing positive for COVID-19 when negative certs were required to fly, and my passport set to expire the next week, we had to make the tough call to separate. It just made the reunion a few days later all the sweeter!"

Laura tried to keep things balanced with a somewhat decent diet, loads of water, and catching some good sleep. "This didn’t always go to plan as I seemed to have a wedding or hen party to go to every second weekend in and around our wedding. Just like buses – all at once!" Her skin, though, was a priority. She went to Sarah Warren Skin in Maynooth every 6 weeks for a facial. Laura wore her usual perfume on the day – Jo Malone English Pear and Freesia.

About a year before the big day, Laura came across Suzanne Neville's beautiful wedding dresses on Instagram. She loved the timeless and clean-cut designs. As luck would have it, Kadee Bride in Athlone hosts an annual designer day in January with Suzanne herself. "Having already tried on a few of her dresses, I had a clear idea of my preferred shape and style. Suzanne worked her magic, sketching a dress tailored to my preferences. The personalised touch continued as we incorporated two detachable sleeves – one with a trendy flair and another more classic – and of course, pockets!"

James chose a classic three-piece tuxedo for its timeless appeal. The made-to-measure suit from Louis Copeland added a special touch, allowing for personalised details like the inner lining and his initials. To distinguish himself from the groomsmen, who also wore tuxedos, James added a waistcoat.

Laura's six beautiful bridesmaids were her childhood friends Jen, Rachel, and Rosie, along with her college pals Ali and Kate, and James's sister Teresa. "They’re the best of the best and I’d be lost without them. They pulled off an unforgettable hen party in Kinsale and kept me remarkably calm on the wedding morning. We even managed to stay ahead of schedule and had to be told to stall the ball before arriving at the church!" With her bridesmaids scattered across the country and having hectic schedules, gathering all 7 in one place was proving to be a challenge. Having come across Shona Joy during her time in Australia, Laura opted for a dark mossy green to complement the vibrant bouquets and the autumn season. Taking a chance, she ordered one dress online as a trial and was thrilled when each bridesmaid loved it too. The wrap style was incredibly comfortable, and its midi length meant they could easily wear it again for another wedding or event.

The ceremony was a traditional church affair, with all of their loved ones involved. "The highlight for both of us was undoubtedly that first glimpse as I walked up the aisle to James – such an emotional moment!" Our favourite was hearing that some friends mistakenly attended the wrong church, witnessing a different bride's entrance before realising their error and swiftly making their way to the right ceremony.  The joy of having two churches with the same name in the village!

While James was still stuck in Barcelona, Laura was knee-deep in wedding research back home. She saw that Tankardstown had a wedding showcase that weekend and signed up in the hope that James would make it back from Barcelona in time. Fortunately, he did and the pair were blown away by Tankardstown’s beauty. "We made our decision there and then. Our first and only viewing a few days into our engagement! We loved the orangery, especially the glass ceiling. We both felt that Tankardstown would be as beautiful on a rainy day, as it would be on a sunny day, which given our mid-October date, it was more likely to be the former! The only hitch was that it was about three hours away from my hometown in Midleton. Not quite the destination wedding my family had in mind!"

We chose The Mixtape as our evening entertainment based on recommendations from Tankardstown and our photographer, Dasha Caffrey. We had never seen them live before but from their online videos and their setlist, we had a feeling they would keep the dancefloor lit all night long - and that they did!

About the best decision, Laura had to say, "Choosing Tankardstown as our wedding venue was undoubtedly the best decision we made. Beyond its breathtaking beauty, the exquisite food, and the seamless organisation, the staff's exceptional service stood out. Our guests even praised how their wine glasses were consistently topped up – always a plus!"

About the worst decision, laura had to say, "Fortunately, everything went off without a hitch on our big day. Mother Nature even blessed us with some sunshine and a stunning sunset for our photos. There isn't a single decision we regret – we had the best time."

- Gráinne