First International Wedding at Crom Castle
Crom Castle, Co Fermanagh, has hosted its first ‘international’ wedding. Americans Craig Keighron and Susan Folino tell Judith Cole how they fell in love with the historic venue over the internet.
It is often said that getting married is taking a step into the unknown, but for one young couple who tied the knot in Fermanagh last week, it was more like a giant leap.
Americans Craig Keighron (34) and Susan Folino (32) were wed at a joyful and touching ceremony at Crom Castle on Thursday last – the very first time they had seen the property in real life.
Living almost 4,000 miles away in Detroit, Michigan, meant that popping over to view the venue wasn’t exactly practical and they simply had photographs on the castle’s website to go by.
But they were convinced it was their dream location and, as soon as they drove up its winding lane and saw the magnificent turrets pointing at the sky, they knew they had made the right choice.
Twenty friends and family members also made the trip and stayed for a few nights in the castle’s West Wing which, since opening to the public earlier last year has played host to three weddings. This, however, was the first `international’ wedding.
Craig and Susan, both engineers at the same company who met at the office coffee machine, had wanted to find a special destination for their wedding. Their first choice was Ireland – particularly Northern Ireland – and, when they searched on the internet for special locations, Crom in Newtownbutler was the first to come up.
“We looked at other places but Crom made a lot of sense, and when we contacted Heather Whyte, the marketing manager, she helped make it all so easy,” says Craig.
Adds Susan: “We didn’t worry about not seeing the place in real life before coming over because we communicated a lot with the people at the castle and the marriage registrar at Fermanagh District Council. Everyone was so nice to us that we really believed nothing could possibly go wrong.”
The couple had Ireland in mind because of Craig’s family heritage. His great grandfather and grandfather were born in Sligo, before moving to Detroit when his grandfather was a young boy.
“Coming to Crom made a lot of sense for us,” says Craig. “We also wanted a small wedding – it’s like having a dinner party with your closest family and friends.
“About 20 people came over with us and, when we told them we were getting married in Ireland, they thought it was a great opportunity to visit. We certainly didn’t force them to come, but they were really keen to see the country.”
The recent increase in security at UK airports didn’t put them off, either.
“Well, we had everything booked quite a while ago and although we knew what had happened we were determined to come,” says Susan.
Adds Craig: “There was no turning back and, anyway, we don’t worry about stuff like that.”
The weather was certainly on the couple’s side for, despite a lot of rain and wind in the week before the wedding, the sun came out on the day itself. And seeing the castle in real life was a dream come true.
“We fell in love with the castle as soon as we saw it on the internet but it was even better in real life,” says Susan. “We were driving up the lane towards the castle when, suddenly, we saw the turrets over the hill. It took our breath away and we had to stop the car and get a photograph.
“I think that the photographs on the website don’t do the castle justice. It is just beautiful in every way.
“We had planned to go out and about when we were here but we haven’t because it’s just so lovely, with the gardens and the lake. We don’t have anything like this back home and, although you can visit castles over here a lot, to stay in one is something else.
“As well as the beautiful countryside around the castle, the interiors are magnificent and the bedrooms just heavenly.”
For Susan, the morning of her wedding was spent getting ready, having her hair styled in Enniskillen and a special bridal makeover. After that, it was into her stunning dress – which she had carried with her on the plane – and on with the ceremony.
Craig, meanwhile, took a more laid back approach. “I played tennis on the court at the castle and then I played football for a few hours,” he says. “Then I realised time was moving on and I had to go get married.”
The marriage ceremony took place in front of a Grecian water urn in the castle’s magnificent, flower-filled L-shaped conservatory, and afterwards the party spilled out into the Earl of Erne’s private gardens for photographs to be taken. Then, they had a feast fit for a king and queen in the conservatory.
“It was everything we had dreamed of and everyone enjoyed the day tremendously,” Susan says. And after another night in the West Wing, the couple were off to Wicklow for their honeymoon.
“When we first arrived in Ireland we spent a few days in Galway and Sligo and saw the pub my great grandfather owned,” says Craig. “After the wedding all our family and friends planned to go home and we were heading to Wicklow, just the two of us, for our honeymoon. It’s been wonderful and everyone has had a great time.”