It was jewelry designer Michelle Campbell Mason’s birthday when the first sparks of her relationship with real estate developer Zach Vella began to fly. The two had met previously through mutual friends and, shortly after, ran into each other again during Michelle’s birthday outing in New York City. Two and a half years into their courtship, Zach proposed at their NYC home on Christmas Eve.
The preparations for a destination wedding in Ireland soon started with wedding planner Colin Cowie at the helm. Ashford Castle was selected as the wedding venue and, paired with the natural beauty of the location, served as inspiration behind the wedding décor.
“IT WILL BE HARD FOR ME TO TOP THE FEELING OF BEAUTY, JOY AND SERENITY I HAD IN THAT MOMENT.”
“The castle is fabulous on its own, so we wanted to make it feel organic and understated,” Michelle adds. While there was no specific theme in place, the ambiance was incredibly ethereal and channeled an aura of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
When the big day arrived, the bride and groom were married in the ruins of a 13th-century monastery. “We came to find out that nobody had been married there in 600 years, as permitting is impossible at historical sites,” says Michelle.
“Somehow, Colin’s team worked their magic and made it all happen. It was beautiful beyond words and so grounding to be in a space with such a long and interesting story.”
Before making her entrance, the bride took a friend’s advice and paused for some solo reflection. “My friend said to step back and watch every event for a few minutes,” she explains. “I took a long moment before crossing the bridge to the wedding ceremony—I was alone, watching the water rush down the river and the candles burning on the ruins. It will be hard for me to top the feeling of beauty, joy and serenity I had in that moment.”
The couple was married by Zane, the groom’s brother, who also created a traditional Irish “loving cup” for the ceremony—an heirloom the newlyweds plan to pass down to their children. Michelle also wore her grandmother’s wedding ring to honor her memory.
For the reception, a Bedouin-style tent was set up along the lake in front of Ashford Castle, and the interior was transformed into a dreamlike forest with two long tables topped with large, dripping white candles and a mixture of white wildflowers, peonies, lilies, organic blooms and moss. Guests later transitioned into the drawing room for dancing, where a live band performed. Taking full advantage of the castle’s various spaces, a late night party with DJ Coleman was set up in the dungeon, where the newlyweds and their loved ones danced until 6:00 a.m.
Zach and Michelle topped off their wedding experience by chartering a boat for a few weeks of sailing and island hopping around Turkey and Greece.