Getting to Know Ireland Wedding Planner, Tara Fay
I believe working with an Ireland wedding planner is a very personal experience. Right from the very first time you meet (in person or virtually!), it’s about building a relationship, getting to know each other, and most importantly, developing trust. After all, your wedding planner will be managing one of the biggest days – and biggest investments – of your life. By the time the wedding rolls around, my clients have become friends. In fact, I often feel like part of the family! So before you get started, I think it’s important to get a sense of who your planner is. I often find I’m asked some of the same questions about myself, my business, and what I do. I thought I would take some time today to answer them today so that you can get to know me.
So hello! I’m Tara, the owner of Tara Fay Events. As well as being an Ireland wedding planner, I also have three kids, a husband and a dog. (Although I’m more of a cat person, my husband isn’t, so I had to choose him or the cats!) I was born in Ireland, where I live now, although I have also studied and worked abroad. I still love to travel, as well as restaurants and food in general and adore going to new locations and new hotels and checking them out. My kids have happily inherited my love of hotels and restaurants (as well as my love of setting a beautiful table!), so whenever I get some time off, we love visiting new places all over Ireland and beyond.
I take every single day and trip as a learning experience. When I go into a supermarket in a new country or town, I’m like a kid in a sweet shop, and I love seeing how different countries or cultures create tablespaces and designs. One of my favourite things to do is drive through a new place and just look at the general surroundings or sit at a café or in a restaurant and people-watch. Or walk down a shopping street and window shop, and see how the display has been put together.
Unlike most wedding planners, I was an Ireland wedding planner before I got married. My wedding was on a free weekend, so had to fit around clients’ weddings and events. I also worked all the way through my pregnancies and after having my children. I was lucky I had a great team in place so clients didn’t notice my temporary baby brain, but it’s not something I would recommend, as your body and brain do need time to heal after having a baby.
My favourite part of the wedding day is just as the ceremony starts. It gets me every single time! Another favourite wedding day ritual for me is going for a blow dry. I have wild, curly hair that tends to go quite frizzy, so on the morning of a wedding, I always have a blow dry. It’s my time to think through the day and get myself in the zone.
About Tara Fay Events
My company, Tara Fay Events, was the first event company in Ireland to specialise in private parties, weddings, corporate, and social events. We started in 1997 and, since then, my team and I have created and produced some of the most memorable weddings in Ireland. Our clients include celebrities and leading business figures from Ireland and around the world. Our strength is in tented weddings as we probably have the most experience of anyone in Ireland with this and my production team is one of the best in the country, if not in Europe. We’ve had our work featured in a number of top magazines, as well as on national radio and television. And speaking of television, I’m also the co-presenter of RTE Ireland’s breakout My Big Day: Home or Away alongside my colleague and friend, Bruce Russell. Together we have another brand called Bruce and Tara Live.
I’ve been lucky enough to have several career highlights. However, probably one of the stand-outs is hosting the Engage! conference at Adare Manor in 2018. I approached Rebecca and Kathryn of Engage! in 2016 and asked if they would consider bringing their conference to the Emerald Isle, not really realising what was involved. Every single person who signed up to work on it went above and beyond to help us showcase how Ireland is the perfect location for your destination wedding. Afterwards, I had the opportunity to lead a fam group of fabulous planners around some of my favourite Ireland wedding venues.
Work with the Irish Tourist Board
For the past six years, I have been working closely with the national tourist boards to promote Ireland as a destination wedding location. In Ireland we essentially have two categories: Fáilte Ireland is the national tourism development authority and Tourism Ireland who are responsible for marketing the island of Ireland overseas. Weddings were not a tourism category supported by either agency, but I started lobbying both agencies as to the value of the destination wedding market to Ireland. I think they were so sick of me that they eventually agreed to fund research into the market. This led to a committee of five-star properties, which has led to a joint venture between both agencies called the Luxury Travel Working Group, of which I am part.
How did you become an Ireland wedding planner?
I started as an Ireland wedding planner before there really was a wedding industry here. So not only have I grown the industry, I have grown with the industry.
Back in 1997, I found myself at a crossroads in the job I was in. I had always been interested in events and weddings and my father said: “You need to stop talking about this and do something about it. What’s the worst that could happen?” So I made the decision to intern with an event company in Los Angeles, and become a wedding planner. During my time there, I worked in every part of the company, learning as much as I could, from the flower room to the art department, props, catering, etc. I’d come in early, stay late, and work every hour they would give me. It gave me an all-round education.
When I came back home, I started my own company as an Ireland wedding planner. People thought I was completely mad, that it would never catch on. But I was excited by the challenge! I started off with a lot of US couples planning Ireland destination weddings as well as doing private events for Irish clients. From there, my reputation grew, mostly by word-of-mouth.
“We had the most amazing experience from start to finish even with a Pandemic thrown in! Tara is world class in what she does and delivers. Having Tara as our planner meant that Brian and I could sit back and enjoy every bit of our wedding knowing that Tara had every little detail under control. Tara was involved in every part of the wedding from bridesmaid dresses, wedding dress, styling, flowers, marquee, invites, entertainment, etc. – which I really valued and lent to the whole magical experience.” – Sarah
What does an Ireland wedding planner do?
I always say that wedding planning is a vocation, not a job. You really have to choose to do it and love it, because it is so all-encompassing!
The first thing I do as an Ireland wedding planner is to listen. Every person and couple is different, and it’s up to me to really listen to what they want so that their event is unique to them. I love meeting them for the first time and getting them to start thinking about their weddings. Often, they’re not entirely sure what they’re looking for, so it’s about asking the right questions and getting them to give me the information to create the magic. For example, I might ask what type of experience they want to create for their guests, or how they want to feel afterwards. The décor and everything else flows from that. It’s so rewarding when later you show the client what you are thinking or images of design, and there’s a look of shock on their faces as they say: “Were you inside my head?” And it’s even better when you get to show them the reality on the day.
A wedding planner is really there to create experiences for people, as well as beautiful events. It goes beyond making sure that everything runs smoothly, managing vendors, and handling any challenges that crop up. It’s about creating a level of service that guests will remember, from the moment they walk in right to the end of the event.
I consider myself very lucky to be able to work in this amazing industry as an Ireland wedding planner. Yet I never forget the job I am there to do – creating an experience for my clients that they will never forget. Most of the time, they never want to leave me! I am adopted by the family and work with them for future weddings and events (even funerals). Mainly, though, my clients say that they enjoy every second of the planning as well as the wedding day itself, as they know everything will be looked after in such detail, and that I have a calming effect on every single person involved. My clients are king, as are my vendors, and treating everyone with respect results in hugely creative and enjoyable events.
“Like pulling a rabbit of a hat, we knew that anything we could have asked for or wanted, she could get done. The experience working with Tara and her team was awesome. Totally carefree! Her whole demeanor on every call was so calm. She just rolled with the punches…and there were some punches with our wedding! But Tara was always accommodating. And the key for us was that if we didn’t know something and we said, “Tara, figure it out!”, she would. And it was stunning!” – Gerhard & Aureana
As an Ireland wedding planner, do you work with a team?
My team is incredible and some of them have been with me for many years. They all stay in the background and let me shine out in front, but without them, I could not shine.
On a wedding day, it’s not about us. We are there to support our couples and be both everywhere and nowhere. The team members are like hidden fairies – you would never even know they are around unless someone needs them. In fact, one of the nicest things I heard recently was when a guest asked about a member of staff that they thought was part of the hotel team, since they looked to be so capable, and it turned out to be our production manager.
My clients love all my team members, as they say they are hugely respectful of them and their guests, and that they go above and beyond in everything. And it’s not just the staff that are there on the day. One Tara Fay Events team member that most people at some point get to work with is Trina. Although she has worked with me for over twenty years, she is never on-site. She prefers to stay very much in the background and be office-based, but her work is absolutely vital.
“Tara is so professional; she is reassuring and thoughtful and her team are just a continuation of that. Everything was flawless and she made the things important to us, important to everyone on our wedding day.” – Emily
What is the difference between a wedding planner and a wedding designer, and which services do you offer?
A wedding planner is responsible for the logistical elements of a wedding and is usually involved from the very beginning of the wedding planning process. They are also on-site to coordinate the wedding day itself. On the other hand, a wedding designer is focused on the visual aspects of the wedding. They create a design concept and work with vendors like florists, stationery designers, and lighting technicians to ensure the aesthetic is carried through each element of the day.
For some weddings, I work with an external designer, while others I design myself. If I am creating the design, it’s based on what the couple wants. However, even when working with a designer, it’s my job to advocate on behalf of my clients and remind everyone that it’s not our wedding; it’s the couple’s wedding. As one of my brides from this year said: “my concern with hiring a planner is that they would create the wedding based on their own style and tastes, and not ours, but you completely got our aesthetic.” The design will still be based on the client’s requirements, but I manage the design process on behalf of the client.
“We wanted our wedding to be an authentic representation of the things that are important to us and we needed to find a planner that would take the time to get to know us and help flesh out what that representation looks like in the form of a wedding. Tara is the perfect combination of professional and personable. She made us feel so supported throughout the process but also brought so many new ideas to the table that we may never have thought of. I sometimes felt that Tara could see the pictures inside my head, that I couldn’t always find words for, and then they would appear like magic.” – Emily
Why get married in Ireland?
There are so many reasons to plan a destination wedding in Ireland! The dramatic landscapes, the world-class hospitality, the yummiest local organic food, our rich cultural heritage, and amazing venues from castles to cliff tops. You’re probably not going to come here for the weather, but it’s because of the rain that we get a countryside that is so rich and lush and green!
But as an Ireland wedding planner, I think my favourite reason to get married in Ireland comes back to something we call ‘meitheal’, which basically means community spirit. This can also apply to weddings as the Irish love a wedding! If a wedding is happening in a small village in Ireland, the whole village will come out to have a look at the bride and cheer the couple on. It’s the welcome you get from the whole country that makes a wedding in Ireland so unique.
And, of course, there’s the craic! That feeling of fun and music and family and joyful emotions all wrapped up into one. There’s a reason Irish weddings have a reputation for being the most enjoyable!
What are your favourite Irish wedding venues?
In Ireland I work at all the main five-star properties, including Adare Manor, Ashford Castle, Ballyfin, The Merrion, Virginia Park Lodge, and Ballynahinch. I love all of them, and I also love discovering hidden gems as I travel around the country.
Beyond Ireland, I have worked everywhere from French vineyards to Italian villas. It’s always exciting to explore a new destination on behalf of my clients and immerse myself in the local culture.
What are you looking forward to in weddings after COVID-19?
I cannot wait for my destination wedding clients to be able to come to Ireland for their site visits, food tastings, hair and makeup trials, and so on. While we have adapted successfully to current events, there is only so much that can be communicated on a Zoom call or via video links or photos.
And, of course, I am also looking forward to my couples having weddings without restrictions, or where they don’t feel as restricted. What a time of celebration that will be!
Got any other questions for me? Don’t hesitate to get in touch!
Slán go Fóill,
Images by Doreen Kilfeather, Barry McCall, Kieran Harnett, Fred Marigaux,
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