A chance ‘swipe right’ on the dating App Tinder proved to be fateful for Strabane native Laura Nealis and her husband Jonny McKenna from Ballybay.
Laura explained, “Technically, we should have never gotten the opportunity of ‘swiping right’ as neither of us were intending on travelling too far to find a match’!
“When we realised that Jonny was sitting in Belfast Airport while I was at home, we knew a little bit of magic was involved. After his granny’s funeral, Jonny was catching a flight back to London, where he lived at the time, much to my disappointment! “However, he was returning to Ireland a week later for a wedding and asked me to be his plus one, and of course I said yes, even though we were complete strangers. The rest, as they say, is history!” Just eighteen months later Jonny got down on one knee in the beautiful Manor House Hotel in Enniskillen in a proposal that left Laura in tears – happy ones of course! She remembers, “After dinner, we went up to our room before heading downstairs for a few drinks. Jonny had asked me to close the window and when I pulled back the curtains there was a ring box sitting on the window ledge. “My heart raced, but when I opened it, it was empty!! “I turned around to give off (haha!) and he was down on one knee. I don’t really remember anything he said as I could hardly hear him through my wailing and crying but I saw the sparkler alright! “The ring is stunning – a white gold ring with a large princess cut solitaire surrounded by 64 diamonds on each side of the band, I couldn’t have picked better myself. “After I stuck back on the false lashes that I had cried off, Jonny had told me that he had the ring box down his sock all night, waiting for the perfect moment. Back in the room was supposedly the only time I stood still long enough for him to ask.”
And the couple didn’t stand still for long when it came to organising their wedding, which was planned for 18 months later.
First up, Laura went dress shopping, and it was in Beautiful Day Bridal Cottage in Greysteel, just outside Derry, where she fell in love with an unusual dress that was guaranteed to steal the show! “I am not one for shopping so as excited as I was, I wasn’t looking forward to traipsing around lots of wedding dress shops. Luckily, the first one was as far as I needed to go. “I went to Beautiful Day Bridal Cottage with my mum and two sisters and didn’t really believe that I was ‘The Bride’ – they were more excited than me! It was all a bit surreal.“The minute I walked in, I spotted the dress, mainly because it was on the end of the rail and because of the colour. The dress was an Essence of Australia dress in the colour moscato, and depending on the light, looked different shades varying from pink to nude. “I was instantly drawn to it, but my two sisters weren’t so keen. I tried on three white dresses, and none of us were impressed. I asked to try on my dress and it was perfect for me in every way. I even had tears from my family, that’s when I knew! “The experience was amazing, surreal but amazing. When I put on my dress I fell in love and knew that it was perfect for me. I was also excited to hear what everyone thought of it on the day. “Most of them were shocked as they had expected me in the traditional white dress. My closest friends knew that I had always said I wanted a pink wedding dress, though they never quite believed me. Beautiful Day and Ciara were so friendly and helpful – Ciara even hand made my veil in the exact colour and material as my dress.”
With the dress sorted Laura decided to go with a black and white theme for the rest of the wedding – so her perfect dress could shine but not overwhelm the entire scheme. The bridesmaids, Laura’s two sisters, went for white dresses in a twist to the usual bridal party ‘look’. “We visited ‘She’s Fabulous’ for our bridesmaid dresses and my mum even got her outfit there too. Kathryn had an amazing selection of dresses and they were custom made to the girl’s sizes, with matching headpieces for them to wear on the day. “Because my dress was coloured, we decided that it would be a nice contrast for the girls to wear white, and they suited the colour so much better than me too. I tried to keep the main colours as black and white, the men’s suits were classic, and it was nice that my dress stood out among the bridal party.”
Leading up the big day everyone in the couple’s families helped out. “The best part of planning our wedding was doing it together. I couldn’t imagine planning and organising a wedding without the support I had. “Jonny organised all the music and entertainment along with finding our amazing photographer and videographer. “Together with my family, we picked what seemed like thousands of sloe berries to make my mum’s sloe gin, one of our favours on the day. My parents and sisters also painstakingly assembled hundreds of fine laser cut boxes for the macaron favours and tied hundreds of ribbons with tiny personalised labels for the gin bottles and boxes. I couldn’t have done it without them and we had great craic along the way.” But Laura was worrying in the lead up to the big day that everything wouldn’t come together. “The most stressful part was the few weeks leading up to the wedding. All the final little bits and confirming everything arrived at the same time. I wanted everything to be perfect, and for our guests to have a special experience at our wedding. The months of planning all came to a head at the same time but thankfully, everything went smoothly and it was well worth it in the end.”
And so, on 13th May, 2017, Laura walked up the aisle in The Church of the Immaculate Conception in Strabane, and married Jonny in a ceremony that was her highlight of the day. Jonny’s highlight was ‘seeing our guests enjoying themselves and having a good time – seeing all our hard work paying off!’ That hard work was evident at both the church and at the reception at the Lough Erne Resort in Enniskillen. “We wanted it to be a classy affair, a spectacle and a real ‘day out’ for our guests – we tried to cram as much in as possible! We didn’t want any lulls in the day and we incorporated lots of entertainment and little bits to keep everyone engaged in the day. “As a lot of our guests were travelling from Monaghan, we had ‘The Pizza Rocket’ outside the chapel. After the ceremony everyone had a slice of pizza and sweet treats to keep them going down the road to Enniskillen. “At the hotel, we had beer and cocktails for the guests on arrival, and a selection of canapés including mini cheese burgers for them to enjoy while listening to a ukelele trio.
“The day was amazing from start to finish. Neither of us stopped smiling, and our guests commented on this and how happy we were. We both really enjoyed it and it certainly was ‘our day’.
“Looking back we wouldn’t change a single thing – the day was perfect and one of the best days of our lives so far.” As regards the budget Laura noted, “Thankfully we were very fortunate not to have a budget – my parents gave us everything we wanted and enabled us to make the day one we would remember forever without having any regrets.” Now happily married the couple think that ‘married life, or even life together with someone in general, is exactly what you make it. We like to have fun and enjoy each other’s company as we intend to spend many many years together.’ Starting off that fun the couple had their first dance to Tennessee Whiskey by Chris Stapleton. “Jonny and I sing together from time to time, he plays guitar as well, and this is always one of our favourites to blast out.” They also had some time out after the wedding with a honeymoon that took them to Amsterdam for three days and an extended break in Sorrento in Italy. As for advice for other brides. Laura said, “Don’t stress – it will all come together and work out perfectly. “Enjoy your day because it goes far too fast and remember what the day is about, celebrating your love for each other so take it all in and dance like there is no tomorrow!”
WEDDING SUPPLIERS INFO
Reception location: The Lough Erne Resort
Wedding Dress: Beautiful Day Bridal Cottage
Bridesmaids dresses: She’s Fabulous
Groomswear: Debonair Groomswear
Make-up: Live Beautifully – Bronagh McGrath
Hair:The Hair and Make-Up Lounge at Wellbeing
Flowers: McGarry Wedding Flowers amd Venue Stylists
Room Décor: McGarry Wedding Flowers & Venue Stylists
Rings: H. Samuels
Cake: Lough Erne Cakes,
Transport: Glendale Limousines
Photography: Sarah Fyffe Photography
Videography: Rabbit & The Fox Films
Entertainment: ~ Spraoi Trad ~ The Beat Boutique