Daragh Doyle had a high-level job in insurance for 20 years, but after organising his own wedding last year, he decided to throw the towel in and start up as a planner for same-sex couples who have decided to tie the knot. It’s hard work, he says, but always worth it…
I’ve always loved organizing events, work do’s, family parties that kind of thing. My own wedding gave me the motivation to give up the well-paid job and start doing what I love to do.
There are a lot of wedding planners doing bride and groom weddings, so I decided I’d go with a different focus. If you look at any planner’s website out there, they’ll have the obligatory ten percent given to gay couples. Mine is completely focused on same-sex couples.
My husband and I had quite a traditional wedding with 150 guests. We had a spiritualist ceremony, and we had the big sit-down meal and the disco, and everything you’d expect. It was in a beautiful little village called Borris in County Carlow, in the Step House Hotel. I’m from Wexford originally and my husband is from Limerick, so we did it somewhere in between.
One of the things I’ve found doing this job is that there’s an awful lot of apprehension with gay couples. Even when they’re going to book venues, they’re still nervous, and there are still some venues out there and service providers who wouldn’t be exactly welcoming to same-sex couples. I’ve been through that same experience myself.
I regularly come across situations where certain family members won’t attend the wedding, and even dynamics around table plans and how you deal with putting people together. There are a lot of small differences. Walking down the aisle is another one. In heterosexual weddings, the father traditionally gives the bride away. At my wedding, my mother walked me down the aisle while Mark waited for me at the altar.
I plan to train as a humanist celebrant, so eventually I’ll be able to cover the legal side of it too, as part of my service. I’ve done three weddings since I started and I’ve ten more weddings booked at the moment. They’re all same-sex weddings, although I do plan for bride and groom weddings too.
The last wedding I did was for a couple who booked me only six weeks before their big day. It was for a gay couple who are living and working in London. They have very stressful jobs and the wedding just came upon them. There was a lot of work to be done, but we got there. They were quite a shy couple, and I had to persuade them to walk down the aisle. They had a beautiful outdoors spiritualist ceremony and it was a fabulous day.
My biggest strength is that I’m a people person. I’ve spent 20 years dealing with people in all sorts of ways in my insurance career, and I get on with everyone. I’m supremely organised, and a little bit pushy in the right way, which you have to be in this job. I have a passion for planning. For me it’s not like going to work; I love what I’m doing. Being involved in the most important day of people’s lives is very special.
The wedding I’m working on at the moment is really interesting. They’re an Irish couple who live in Spain, and they’re having their legal ceremony at the end of March with just a small group of friends and family. Then they’re having their wedding reception in Spain. I’m coordinating both the Irish and Spanish parts. As part of the Spanish aspect, they’re having a symbolic ceremony, which I’ll be officiating.
There’s a huge amount of work involved in organizing a wedding, particularly if both of the couple are working. People think it’s expensive to use a wedding planner, but one of my key aims is to make it a very affordable option. I think it saves people money in the long run, especially if the planner has a good relationship with venues and service providers. You can work with a budget of ten grand or with a budget of 30 grand, but you can always do something special.
The other really important thing to look at is the ceremony you want. If you just go for the ordinary HSE celebrant, it can be a cold environment in my experience. The best option is to go for a humanist or a spiritual ceremony, which you can design yourself.
So many people came up to me after my own ceremony to say how beautiful it was. There were actually people who got married in churches who said if they could do it again, they would have done it that way.
To find out more about Daragh Doyle’s wedding planning services, visit rainbowweddings.ie
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This article was published in the print edition Issue No. 335 (November 1, 2017). Click here to read it now.