Danika & Michael at Kilronan Castle Hotel

Michael and I first met when we were both 16 and still at school. I was having PE lessons at the town’s local swimming pool and Michael was there doing lifeguard training. It wasn’t until we were 19 and both about to go to university that we got together through mutual friends. After graduating we moved to Newcastle, UK for a year before moving further afield, to Hong Kong, where we’ve now been living for four and half years.

Because we both live and work as teachers in Hong Kong, Michael wanted the proposal to be close to home, so we could both celebrate the news with family and friends. So Michael proposed to me on Christmas Eve, 2013, while we were on a short trip home for Christmas. It was all a bit of a whirlwind, it had started snowing on Christmas Eve so Michael suggested going for a drive in the mountains in Co. Tyrone. The next thing I knew I had a beautiful sparkler and had said ‘YES’ to spending the rest of my life with the man I love.

Christmas time was special to us now and we both wanted a wedding around that time, so we set the date for 30th December 2015. We also wanted our wedding around the festive period so that our family and friends from overseas could make the trip to celebrate too. We are both from large families so we knew the wedding wouldn’t be a small affair and decided a Christmas wedding at Kilronan Castle would be perfect, with both the wedding ceremony and reception held there. Kilronan Castle is a stunning location; every one of our guests commented on and were amazed by the beauty of the castle and its grounds.

I knew I couldn’t say ‘I Do’ without my sister and best friend, Krista, and also my childhood best friend, Claire. Since I live in Hong Kong, Krista and Claire were both amazing at helping me organise the wedding. They definitely went above and beyond for me; even going as far as answering my 4:00 am Skype calls because of the different time zones. The bridesmaids wore beautiful dresses from designer True Bride and were accessorised with fur stoles and a gold brooch. For Michael, choosing his groomsmen was a no-brainer. He had two groomsmen, Eamonn, his brother, and TJ, his best friend from school. Both lads were instrumental in the lead-up to our wedding; we had them running around here, there and everywhere for us because we were still in Hong Kong and not able to run the errands we needed to ourselves. The men were suited and booted in three-piece navy suits by Red Groomswear in Co. Tyrone and accessorised with tartan scarves to match the green colour of the bridesmaids’ dresses. Michael’s niece and nephew, Eamonn’s children, Niamh and Oisin, were the flower girl and page boy and both their outfits were bought in Ireland.

Not long after the date and venue had been set, I started to go dress-shopping in Hong Kong. I didn’t want to say yes to the dress without my mum being there too, so I waited until my mum came to visit me in August 2014. Between champagne brunches and cocktail lunches, I, along with my mum, Karen and two of her best friends in Hong Kong, chose a Pronovias Atelier gown. The dress was made from Chantilly lace with silver and mother-of-pearl gemstone embroidery, and a sheer back to the waist. When I tried on the dress, I just knew it was the one. It stood out in all the right ways as it had gorgeous sequin patterns that made it look so elegant and romantic – just what I wanted! Michael was blown away by the dress and our photographers absolutely loved it too as the sequins glittered and sparkled beautifully in the light.

The wedding day started with myself, mum and my bridesmaids getting ready in the bridal suite. Over a champagne breakfast, the ladies from The Makeover Studio in Carrick-on-Shannon did our hair and makeup. Michael and his groomsmen spent the morning getting ready with a few hot whiskeys in one of the cottages at Kilronan Castle. I walked down the aisle to the music of ‘Edelweiss’, played by my brother, Philip, on piano and sung by Marie-Claire, a close friend of ours. That moment, for me, was probably one of the most memorable. Walking down the aisle, my father alongside me, towards Michael and with the music playing really made me feel as if I was the luckiest girl in the world, and I got quite emotional at that stage. We had written our own vows and exchanged them in a beautiful, unique and emotive ceremony in front of our nearest and dearest. We then walked out of the ceremony to ‘You’ve got the love’ sung by Marie-Claire and played on guitar by Michael’s brother, Ronan. That was a brilliant moment! The lively music along with everyone smiling, clapping and cheering us as the new ‘Mr and Mrs Duffy’ was a great feeling.

The drinks reception was held in The Dungeon Bar and some of Michael’s family and friends entertained the guests by having a traditional Irish session, complete with guitars, accordions, banjos and a bodhrán. Meanwhile we had our photographs taken outside and inside the castle by Nicky Canning Photography from Co. Tyrone. Ryme Films from Co. Fermanagh was also there to document every special moment of the day on film.
The guests were then ushered to the ballroom to enjoy a five-course-dinner before the evening’s entertainment. The band, Late Nite Radio, ensured all the guests were on the dance floor all night and performed our first dance as husband and wife, ‘Dream Catch me’ by Newton Faulker. As a surprise for the guests, we arranged for a traditional Chinese lion dance to be performed after the speeches, to bestow good luck and fortune to all.

As it was a winter wedding, I had a rustic-woodland theme and the stunning floral bouquets and centrepieces were done by La Belle Fleur from Co. Leitrim. I would like to thank Opulent Occasions who dressed the ceremony room and provided the 4ft LOVE light letters. The cake, which complemented the theme perfectly, was made by my mum, Karen, it was just such a perfect day from start to finish. We can’t believe it’s all over now, everyone who joined us in celebrating made it feel so special. We felt so lucky to have all our family and friends together in one place – what a perfect way to begin married life! What a perfect location, Kilronan Castle.