Sparkle & Smoke Bombs: A New Year’s Eve Wedding in Northern Ireland

Laura and Al grew up in the same town, went to the same school and the same art college! They were always ‘aware’ of each other growing up but only met properly at a party when they were 17. After that they were inseparable and the rest is history!

They were married on New Year’s Eve, but wanted to avoid the cliches. The wedding was held at The Arcadia in Portrush. The chintzy lampshades, napkins, and mismatched chairs made the venue feel more ‘homely’ to us,” explained Laura, “everyone we know and love contributed to our day in some way so the whole thing felt like a community effort. We loved that.”

Laura and Al decided to get married on New Year’s Eve as a tribute to Al’s grandparents. Al sadly lost his grandfather a few days after they engaged so they decided on their anniversary date quite quickly as a tribute to them. “It actually turned out to be a great date to pick as everyone was in the mood for a party and a laugh which is how we tried to plan the day. We also decided to have all our photographs done first so we could go straight from the ceremony at 4pm, to dinner, to the party so there was no waiting around for guests.”

When planning their wedding they knew they wanted to avoid a hotel package wedding at all costs. “We felt it wouldn’t reflect our creativity or us as a couple and would cost a lot of money with no individuality. While it was quite stressful to fill an empty space it was incredibly rewarding on the day. We were able to decorate the space on our own and do whatever we wanted with it; that freedom was amazing. We did take lots of inspiration from things we had seen online so, while it may not have been very original by Pinterest standards, it was a day that reflected us.”

Their ceremony was officiated by a close friend of Laura’s. “Our officiant was a friend of mine and a man I greatly respect. I was so nervous during the ceremony the candle went out because I was shaking (!) but having him there making a joke made everything a bit less scary. Al’s relatives played a gorgeous cover of Nick Cave’s Breathless as I walked in and provided music throughout. It really made the ceremony. My aunt and cousin also spent the few months before making paper flowers for decoration for the church. They were so beautiful and something we and our families could keep from the day.”

I had this image in my head of standing on the rocks on the beach beside our venue with some coloured smoke flares which I thought it would make for amazing photographs”, she continued. “What I didn’t plan for was the rain (how could I not plan for rain in Ireland?!) However, I looked at the rain and thought ‘fuck it’ even though it would ruin my hair and make up and I would probably fall and break my neck. The photos were incredible, I didn’t fall (which is always a bonus!) and my wonderful amazing hairdresser Jill even came back down to fix my hair after I sent an SOS text.”

DIY projects done by the couple included decorating their reception room, customising Laura’s jacket, making place settings and real green garlands. “There were a few things we did ourselves. The biggest one was probably setting up the room; Al spent the two days before the wedding setting it up, stringing bunting, lights and lampshades… mostly by himself! We’d collected the old lampshades, lights, and vintage champagne glasses over the two years we were engaged from different charity shops and auctions. Al has an auction house in our home town which turned out to be a great source for props, chairs, lights, and lots of other things!”

“I painted my fake-leather jacket with the very last sentence of the Harry Potter novels ‘all was well’. It was quite easy to do myself and I felt I needed a little tribute to the books I loved so much growing up. We also gathered shells from local beaches while we were walking our dog. Originally we hadn’t planned to do place settings but they were such pretty shells the idea just came together. People also took them away which was nice.”

Their wedding cake was also DIY, made my Al’s mum. “I had the idea that our cake should be something all the amazing, talented, fantastic women in our lives help to create. A community cake! My mother in law is a very talented baker. She very kindly held a sugar craft class for my hen do. All the women in my life attended and Alice taught them how to make sugar roses. She then very kindly made the cake and decorated it. I smiled every time I saw those prosecco-fueled roses during the reception and I think everyone else enjoyed working out which one was theirs.”

Their biggest wedding expense was their photographers, followed closely by Laura’s wedding dress. “Our photographers were so worth the money as we knew that it would be the thing we took away from the day. They were so easy to work with, which had been a worry for us as historically Al and I have never taken a good photo! Not just their talent but their wedding knowledge was invaluable. Ricky was able to help pin buttonholes for the boys and Shelley provided a much needed umbrella. They were great! My dress was a close second though in cost! It was actually the first dress I saw online after we got engaged on an American wedding forum. I couldn’t get it out of my mind and it felt like fate when I learned the designer was also Northern Irish! While it was nice to go and see standard white dresses with my mum and bridesmaids, none of them really felt right or felt like me. They all felt like I was pretending to be a bride. My Gibson Bespoke dress was the perfect dress for me and for a New Year’s Eve wedding.”

“My advice is for future brides and grooms who struggle with body image and plan to lose lots of weight before the wedding is try not to be so hard on yourself”, she concluded. “It’s difficult when there is an assumption that everyone wants to lose weight for their wedding, but I found what worked for me was to focus on achievable non-weight related goals. Maybe that’s lifting something heavy, or going to yoga once a week… but just stay away from the scales! My aim was to run a 5k before I got married and I was so proud of myself! It was only a small thing but I was able to look at myself and my body positively and think about all the things it can achieve! Also: DO NOT WRITE YOUR GUEST LIST UNTIL 6 MONTHS BEFORE THE WEDDING! Especially if you are like us who had a long engagement! Friendship groups change and grow and you just don’t know who is going to be a regular important person in your life.”

“When Al and I got engaged one of his friends sent us the first issue of Rock n Roll Bride magazine saying she thought we would both like the magazine as it was just our style and it was! We bought every single magazine after and joined the online Facebook community. It was such a source of support and fun for both of us. We even met another Rock n Roll Bride, Shirley, when we were viewing our venue. She also got married there and was able to give us lots of great advice and guidance. So, thank you Kat for creating such a positive wedding community!”

Supporting Cast

4 comments

  1. Anna kitschnkarma

    Oh my goodness what a fabulous wedding. You both look so goddamn gorgeous and the smoke pics are awesome. See – I told you rock n roll bride was a great inspiration. I am so happy for you both. You in that dress is truly stunning – you were right to go for that. I’ve shed a little tear seeing these. X

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