Dreaming of Dubrovnik
WJ’s Lana Richardson opens to doors to Dubrovnik, Croatia and finds out why this stunning city is the destination wedding world’s best kept secret…
There are some places so unexpectedly magical that words fail to do them justice and Dubrovnik is one of them…
And while Dubrovnik epitomises this idea, there is one quote from George Bernard Shaw which I think describes the place quite well – “If you’re looking for heaven on earth, come to Dubrovnik,” he said.
Dubrovnik was nothing like I had in mind. Before jetting off, I’d always associated saying ‘I do’ abroad with tropical climates, the Caribbean sun and sandy beaches. In my head, Dubrovnik was a bit too windy and unromantic to fulfil that fantasy.
But I was so wrong. After just a few days in the region, I came home believing there was no better place on earth to tie the knot.
After a three hour flight from Dublin, I arrived in Dubrovnik and was immediately confronted by unexpected sunshine. The windy coastal city I imagined was peacefully warm at 26 degrees, which, as I was told by a flight attendant, was unusually cold for that time of year.
Upon arriving at our home for the next few days, the five-star Dubrovnik Palace Hotel, we were greeted by our host for the trip, Ines Nanic, managing director of wedding planning company, Dubrovnik Event.
At lunch in the hotel’s Tavern restaurant we had the chance to pick Ines’ brain. Within seconds it became clear that there was no woman on this planet who loves weddings more. Her knowledge was encyclopaedic. She recalled the dates of almost every wedding she’d organised, the couple’s names and a unique fact about that specific day. I was blown away.
She recited story after story and gave us information on the different types of weddings you can have there; be it religious, symbolic, civil or an elopement. We discovered how easy the paperwork is, likening getting married in Dubrovnik, coming from Ireland, to getting married in a different parish in your own home town.
Over the past few years, there has been a sharp increase in Irish couples marrying in Dubrovnik and put that largely down to the simple paperwork and convenient direct flights, but more importantly the deep religious background of the area that Irish couples can connect with.
The Old Town
Later that evening we took a cable car ride above the old town to view its historic architecture from the best vantage point. Even the girl beside me, whose fear of heights was turning her face an unhealthy shade of green was able to let her anxieties go for a moment to take in the splendour of the charming red slated roofs, dramatic mountain backdrop and Adriatic sea surroundings.
Next on the menu was dinner at the world renowned Nautika restaurant. A great spot with an exceptional sea view of the Lovrijenac and Bokar fortresses – filming spots for HBO’s Game of Thrones. As we dined on one of the terraces, a waiter gave us an insight into how the restaurant itself could be transformed to accommodate a wedding reception.
The next day, we were up bright and early and ready to discover what lay inside the walls of the old town. We wandered into what was a treasure trove of fairytale wedding venues. A host of grand and intimate churches, monasteries and palaces were preserved inside these medieval walls.
For me, the stand-out wedding locations were the St Blaise and St Ignatius churches for their jaw dropping interior and Sponza Palace for its subtle grandeur and the clear blue sky above the atrium. On our third day we returned to Sponza to view it fully dressed for a wedding ceremony.
From the fairylights and the pink carpet to the flower petals and elegant chair backs it was incredibly finished. Maybe it was Ines’ passion rubbing off on me, or the intense desperation to get married there myself, but I found it hard to fight back a few tears.
Adriatic Luxury Hotels
During the trip we also managed to squeeze in a view of the Dubrovnik Palace Hotel dressed for a wedding. Down a winding path we found string quartet practicing inside a small round terrace with just eighteen white chairs, awaiting the wedding party, moments before they arrived.
The Dubrovnik Palace Hotel is just one venue in the Adriatic Luxury Hotel Group. We were also lucky enough to visit a couple of others.
With its immaculate gardens and greenery, the Grand Villa Argentina was my wedding venue of choice. I was won over by the villa feel of the various wedding ceremony spots, the lush vegetation and fragrant flowers. I’m not going to lie, for a second I closed my eyes, sang the wedding march in my head and pictured myself in a wedding dress. (I can literally hear my boyfriend running as I type)
The iconic Hotel Excelsior was another highlight. Having undergone a recent refurbishment it has emerged as one of the most luxurious hotels in the Mediterranean. On our third day, we visited the hotel as the Palm Terrace was being prepared for a wedding.
Twenty minutes before the bride and groom were due to arrive, I spotted Ines on her hands and knees perfecting floral arrangement; a telling glimpse into her commitment and the great role she plays.
The entire trip was full of revelations, but the biggest surprise for me was the variety you’re offered if you get married in Dubrovnik.
Before, I assumed there was only one type of destination bride; she was laid back, a bit boho, barefoot on the beach with flowers in her hair. But after being educated in what Dubrovnik has to offer, this is a place for anyone. No matter how you imagine your big day, Ines at Dubrovnik Event can bring it to life.
Without out a doubt, once there’s a ring on my finger, she’ll be getting a call from me. (Run, boyfriend, run)
You can fly directly to Dubrovnik from Dublin with Aer Lingus, with prices at around £212 per person return including taxed and charges. Visit Aerlingus.com to book