“When we left that day, we had no doubt in our minds that we would be getting married at Shamrock Lodge and we would entrust the most important day of our lives to their capable hands.”
Names: Tracy O’Toole and Cathal O’Connell
Wedding location: Shamrock Lodge Hotel
Photographer: Clare Frances Photography
Tracy and Cathal worked together many years ago at the King’s Hall in Belfast. Tracy was the Marketing Manager and Cathal worked in security, before Tracy moved on from the role. A few years later, the venue manager, their friend Stephen, asked her to get him a coffee “and get one for Cathal too”. When she arrived onsite, Cathal came to the gate to meet her and bring her through security. There were definite unexpected sparks on the drive in, before Tracy handed over the coffee. When the next event was taking place, Tracy received a Facebook notification from Cathal asking if she was bringing the venue manager coffee that day? She replied that she didn’t think that Stephen was working that day and Cathal said, “Well I’m the venue manager today”. And that was that, once coffee was delivered they were happily inseparable.
“We wanted to have a humanist wedding, so Cathal decided that to keep the ‘theme’ going he was going to propose at Newgrange Monument in Co. Meath. Unfortunately, many many groups of tourists were arriving with us, in particular, lots of American tourists on that day. So Cathal had wanted to propose with some privacy however that seemed less and less like an option. Trying to ‘lose’ the crowd, he stopped to take a picture of a stone. Lots of the American visitors knew that we were Irish so thought that this was a stone of important historical significance and they too stopped to take a photo. Thanks to us, it’s a little famous in the USA. Eventually the crowd dispersed and he got down on one knee.”
Tracy and Cathal tried to stay away from wedding themes. In fact, they would say that the theme of their wedding was that they didn’t have one. They chose things they liked and left out the things they didn’t like. For example, they talked about not having a wedding cake so they decided against it. Funnily enough, that ended up being almost the most contentious part of the wedding. For their wedding table numbers, they chose to do something unique. They travel quite a bit and each place they went to they took a picture of themselves holding a table number. This included places as far-flung as Table Mountain in South Africa and Ha’penny Bridge in Dublin. It was something quirky and unique to them!
After trying on many many dresses, Tracy eventually fell in love with a dress. It was from a shop that is just a few minutes from their house in Hillsborough, Co. Down. It was an off the shoulder Mark Lesley dress with stunning embellishments on a lace back. Cathal hired his suits from Guy Clothing in Athlone. This was another supplier who went above and beyond for them. Even going so far as to come and collect the suits at the hotel the day after.
“When we went to visit Shamrock Lodge, their brochure and website said “Let our family take care of yours”. We were looking for a venue that had enough rooms to for everybody travelling. From the very first viewing, through to planning the wedding from Northern Ireland, the evening before the wedding, organising suppliers and the big day itself, nothing was left to chance. Every detail was thought about and while we are at the centre of everything, the staff and owners at Shamrock Lodge had it all under control. We met with the lovely Mary and felt that we were genuinely welcomed. When we left that day, we had no doubt in our minds that we would be getting married at Shamrock Lodge and we would entrust the most important day of our lives to their capable hands.”
“The wow factor was the relaxed family feel. Nobody felt uptight or out of place. You almost felt like you were on a family holiday. Instead of favours, we asked Linda Byrne Illustration to come to create beautiful bespoke illustrations of all of our guests. People are still talking about that and it’s a lovely memento of our day. Instead of a traditional guestbook, Linda created a framed drawing of us which people signed. It’s now hanging proudly in our hallway.”
Tracy and Cathal’s photographer was Clare Frances. They say she felt like a friend straight away. “She didn’t stop clicking the entire day and some of our favourite pictures are candid shots. I also love that she took pictures of all of the families with children together. They made great gifts after the wedding. Also she worked really well together with our videographer, Evan from Irish Eye Wedding Videos.”
Cathal is a big Christy Moore fan and Tracy said that there was no way she was having a Christy Moore song at her wedding. What Cathal didn’t know was that Tracy had asked one of their very good friends, Tommy, to sing The Voyage by Christy Moore as she walked up the aisle. The idea was that at the most important minute of Tracy’s life so far it was all about him. And at the end of it all, Cathal didn’t even notice. He was a little distracted by his future wife walking up the aisle.
As the wedding ceremony itself took place in the hotel, Tracy wanted the room to look different to how it normally would. She wanted to give it a little extra something, not that it really needed it. They booked a company called Aisle Love You weddings to put cherry blossom trees up the aisle and it just made the pictures pop. It certainly wasn’t expected by their guests who thought it was very unusual and beautiful.
Venue: Shamrock Lodge Hotel | Photographer: Clare Frances Photography | Videographer: Evan @ Irelands Eye wedding videos | Florist: Orlaith Dooley’s Flowers Athlone | Dress: Peony Bridal – Hillsborough, Co. Down| Suit: Guy Clothing | Band: Pink Champagne | Wedding Singer: Colin Fahy | Makeup Artist: Aileen Duffy Makeup Athlone | Hair Stylist: Roisin at Medusa Hair, Athlone | Room Décor: Aisle Love You | Illustrator: Linda Byrne Illustration | Honeymoon: Trailfinders in Belfast
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Kelly is a former wedding planner and a lover of anything pink. She believes that any bride can plan her own wedding, with a few tips and helpful tools.