Built in 1180 and set on 180 acres of landscaped gardens, ancient woodland and a meandering river, Kilkea Castle is one of Ireland's most magical wedding venues. With over 800 years of hosting weddings under their belt, it's no wonder the gorgeous castle is such a sought-after space to say I do. Sammy Byrne & Ryan Byrne's wedding on the 4th of June 2022 was one of these special occasions. Captured by Weddings by Kara, the joy on their special days is almost palpable!

While attending university in Las Vegas, Sammy got a job as a professional Irish dancer at an Irish Bar in the hotel New York New York. Ryan and his friends were visiting Vegas from Ireland on a lad's holiday and of course, ended up in an Irish bar! "While I was on stage with the band, I looked out into the crowd and laid my eyes on Ryan. He was looking at me smiling ear to ear and I thought he was the most beautiful man I had ever seen." Afterwards, the pair exchanged details and the entire week he was in Vegas, they spent every second together! Unfortunately, that trip came to an end and he had to head back to the homeland. "At the time, Ryan was working on cruise ships so we had to keep in contact over text and Facetime for 2 years until we both decided we couldn't take the distance anymore and it was time to experience life together." Throughout the long-distance relationship, the two would meet at different locations and make a holiday of it. After travelling to 20 countries together, Sammy moved to Ireland so they could be together permanently!

While living in Vancouver, Sammy & Ryan booked a last-minute trip to Jasper & Banff for her birthday weekend. The two spent three days driving through the Canadian Rockies and had planned their last day at Lake Louise, to go to see the crystal clear blue water.

"We finally got to the lake and there was just about no one there because it had been closed to international travellers. I picked a spot and Ryan took a photo of me looking out onto the water. We continued wandering and he took another picture of me facing the lake. He then came up close to me and said, "Did you know the still waters of a lake reflect the beauty around it and nothing is more beautiful to me than you, Sammy." He turned me to him and continued with the amazing speech he had planned, got on one knee and asked me the question I have waited my whole life for, "Will you marry me?" It was the easiest "YES!" I have ever said."

As she was living in Amsterdam and due to COVID-19, Sammy wasn’t able to go to Ireland to have a “dress rehearsal” with her hair and make-up team. Thankfully, with some good communication and a lot of research on her part to find the right team, everything turned out perfectly.

Finding the dress was a very long but exciting process. Sammy ended up going to 17 different wedding dress shops! "I had such a blast going dress shopping with lots of different groups of friends and family that the dress shops really started adding up and I couldn’t find anything that fit exactly what I was after!" She shopped in Vancouver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Ireland and ended up finding her dream dress online. "Once I saw it online, I saw where the closest store was which was in a very tiny Dutch village called Veenendaal. I drove there the next day and decided finally I found my dress!"

Sammy has always loved events and loved the idea of black-tie events so knew she wanted Ryan in a black Tux." I think it is so elegant and classy and luxurious and when else might you have a chance to wear one!" The effect was perfect for their vision, with the tux looking sleek on the groomsmen and Ryan.

Like a typical American, Sammy had a lot of bridesmaids, eight in total! One was her sister, and the others were friends she had made throughout her life, from middle school to college. "I couldn’t have imagined my day without them by my side. I really wanted their dresses to be very similar to my wedding dress as I love when things match so I went on the hunt for a square neck maxi dress with an open back that hugged at the waist and was blush pink to match the flowers. They all looked stunning!"

The couple are both traditional so getting married in a church was paramount. "The ceremony was beautiful and the priest did an amazing job of explaining our love story, starting with “Usually when people start with the phrase “Well, I was in Vegas” is during confession!” Ryan’s sister Enya also sang a beautiful song during communion that made everyone teary-eyed. My favourite parts were walking in with my dad and then walking back down the aisle as husband and wife!"

The venue was the most important piece of the wedding puzzle! Ever since she was little, Sammy always wanted to marry an Irish man in a castle in Ireland. Once she started planning, she had shortlisted around 30 castles and wanted to view them all, but Covid had other plans. "We only were able to view a few and never got to view the one we went with. I found Kilkea online and was immediately obsessed. I wanted something that our entire party could take over for the weekend and feel like was exclusive to us and have enough space for everyone to stay. We also wanted to have a day leading up to the event with everyone and the golf course was a perfect option. I cannot rave enough about the Kilkea Castle and their staff. It was perfection from start to finish and I loved every square inch of the venue from the castle rooms to the carriage rooms to the gardens to the wedding hall to the golf course."

The couple were very adamant about their wedding band. Sammy wanted a very traditional Irish band that played reels and jigs instead of your typical wedding band that plays music from the 90s. After weeks of research, they ended up going with Splitting the Stones band. "They don’t do many weddings and sing mostly in bars around Ireland which I love. Was such a great choice and they got everyone on the dance floor and up Irish dancing!"

- Gráinne