Pop the Cork!

Brittany Swartz and Steven Thompson tie the knot in a garden on the Emerald Isle

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Expansive views from Bantry House provide a dramatic backdrop for this couple’s wedding photographs. Photo by Irina Duane
Expansive views from Bantry House provide a dramatic backdrop for this couple’s wedding photographs. Photo by Irina Duane

“Do you ever feel like you’re home, even though you’ve never been there before?” asks Brittany, recalling how she felt five years ago when she and a friend visited
Ireland, the land her great-grandfather called home. 

While venturing up the west coast, the two women stopped in the small village of Glengarriff in County Cork, where they were told that before going any farther they needed to visit Garnish Island, known for its beautiful gardens.

“I didn’t really go there with any expectations, but I was blown away! It was so spectacular! Everything just happened to be in bloom, and I knew immediately that I would love to be married there one day,” says Brittany, recalling the aha moment that stayed with her while waiting for Mr. Right to appear.

The gardens at Bantry House underwent extensive renovations in the late 1990s, with more planned for the future. It’s a popular venue, open for events during the warmer months of the year. Photo by Irina Duane
The gardens at Bantry House underwent extensive renovations in the late 1990s, with more planned for the future. It’s a popular venue, open for events during the warmer months of the year. Photo by Irina Duane

Make that reappear. 

Throughout high school and college, Brittany had dated a classmate named Steven Thompson; however the two took different paths after graduation. Thanks to mutual friends, they met again 15 years later and sparks flew. 

“It was basically instantaneous!” Brittany enthuses. “Steven told me after he kissed me for the first time—again—that he was going to marry me, and he did!” 

Steven Thompson and Brittany Swartz. Photo by Irina Duane
Steven Thompson and Brittany Swartz. Photo by Irina Duane

It took awhile. Steven moved to Vero Beach to be with Brittany in 2020. While she was busy managing the Farmers Market Oceanside, his IT work took him on the road. They were like two proverbial ships passing in the night.

Then COVID hit. The Farmers Market shut down, the road trips stopped, and Brittany and Steven found themselves together 24-7. Without missing a beat, they put their heads together and created the Farmers Market Drop-off, an online marketplace and delivery service that kept customers supplied with their favorite products and market vendors in business. 

It was a win-win with an added bonus, as Brittany happily points out: “Steven and I learned that living and working together in such a high-stress scenario actually made us stronger and better as a couple, and in ’21 Steven proposed. 

The bride surrounded by Bantry’s gorgeous gardens. Photo by Irina Duane
The bride surrounded by Bantry’s gorgeous gardens. Photo by Irina Duane

“When we started talking about where we wanted to have our wedding, I said, ‘I know just the place. Garnish Island.’ Steven loved the idea, but we were really nervous about what it would cost. What sealed the deal was we learned it was so affordable to get married in such an absolutely stunning fairy tale setting.”

The ring. Photo by Irina Duane
The ring. Photo by Irina Duane

With that decision made, wedding plans kicked into high gear, then came to a screeching halt when Brittany’s father passed away. “We pushed the date forward a year, giving me time to grieve. 

“I think the thing Steven and I hung onto during that time was that the goal for us was to get married surrounded by those we love. My dad passing away really highlighted how important it is to cherish each other and make memories with our loved ones while we can.”

The 12-month delay resulted in losing the Garnish Island venue, so, sight unseen, they selected nearby Bantry House, a historic estate where hillside gardens abounding with rare flowers and statuary overlook Bantry Bay. 

“We had never been there; we’d just seen photos, which were beautiful, but you never know if they’re going to match real life. In this case they did,” Brittany notes happily.

Sarah Tobias, Shina Liu, Brittany, Justina Gioia, Hannah Schoenfeld. Photo by Irina Duane
Sarah Tobias, Shina Liu, Brittany, Justina Gioia, Hannah Schoenfeld. Photo by Irina Duane

“We stayed with our guests at the historic Eccles Hotel, which is very elegant, very old-world, and we had the reception there as well. The hotel coordinator was wonderful. I can’t sing her praises enough. She was with us every step of the way and helped with so many things,” says Brittany, adding that making the arrangements long distance wasn’t always easy, considering the five-hour time difference and communication delays. 

Yet, slowly but surely, things fell into place.

“Britt had done a lot of hunting to find the perfect photographer,” Steven points out. “It seems the trend nowadays is to have high-contrast photos, but we wanted photos that captured us. Britt had found an amazing photographer we clicked with right away during our intro phone call.”

Brittany Swartz walking through the gardens. Photo by Irina Duane
Brittany Swartz walking through the gardens. Photo by Irina Duane

Brittany cites another example: “I had never met my florist before the wedding. She ended up having a family emergency, so I didn’t really have a chance to finalize things, but as it turned out, the flowers were absolutely stunning.”

“Our videographer called the day before the wedding saying he had just come down with chicken pox, so we went with a backup one. We just trusted that at the end of the day it would all work out—and it did!”

“Actually, every single vendor we worked with was amazing,” adds Steven. “They all over delivered, and on top of that, they were really kind, wonderful people.” 

Brittany and Steven said their vows overlooking Bantry Bay in Ireland on May 3, 2023. Photo by Irina Duane
Brittany and Steven said their vows overlooking Bantry Bay in Ireland on May 3, 2023. Photo by Irina Duane

That included the seanchaí, a traditional Irish storyteller, who charmed guests with colorful tales about Irish history and love stories during the cocktail hour after the rehearsal dinner.

The gardens, created by Richard White in the 1800s, include seven terraces. Photo by Irina Duane
The gardens, created by Richard White in the 1800s, include seven terraces. Photo by Irina Duane

“I had a hard time finding a storyteller,” says Brittany. “There are only about seven official ones in all of Ireland.

“They play an important role; in some remote places of Ireland they didn’t get [electrical] power until the late ’70s or ’80s, so people would gather in the pubs and tell stories. We wanted our guests to have a connection to Ireland.”

After their May wedding, Brittany and Steven traveled with their guests to Galway, the Cliffs of Moher, and Dublin before heading off on their honeymoon in Italy, where their first stop was Rome, then Lake Como. They lasted three days in Northern Italy. “It rained almost the entire time we were there; everything was soggy and sloshy,” Steven groans. “We were supposed to finish in Venice, but it just kept pouring, so we returned to Ireland to continue our honeymoon.”

Much of their trip was spent behind the wheel of a car in order to get from point A to point B. Oh, the tales they love to tell. 

“We had some amazing adventures, like driving down mountain roads that were one lane for two-directional traffic, then making a wrong turn,” says Steven, the designated driver, as he recalls more than a few near misses. “First of all, in Ireland they drive on other side of the road; second, I was driving a manual. A lot of the narrow roads have switchbacks and rock walls, so you’re busy shifting while passing within inches of other cars.”

The gardens, created by Richard White in the 1800s, include seven terraces 1. Photo by Irina Duane
The gardens, created by Richard White in the 1800s, include seven terraces 1. Photo by Irina Duane

“We drove through mountains in pitch dark and fog, and the directional signs for switchbacks were so intense, they looked like spaghetti. Everyone was squealing,” laughs Brittany, recalling a white knuckled memory.

She and Steven have many more memories shared with those they hold dear in a country they have grown to love. Given the opportunity, would they do it over again? 

Brittany doesn’t hesitate. “Yes! 100 percent! It was an absolutely incredible experience; I wouldn’t trade it for the world.” 

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