Real Wedding in Castle Leslie
Mr Sam McCool & Mr Graham Morrison Were Happily Married on the 30th December 2016 in Castle Leslie Estate
Graham and I have been together for about thirteen years now. We met through his uncle at a homecoming party and have been going strong ever since. Graham is a Consultant at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast and I work in accounts. I know they say that opposites attract but we are very similar and work just fine! We both are not scared of taking a holiday or wasting a day in front of the TV, usually watching documentaries about people doing some good work or explaining a new fitness phase. If we watch them, we assume some of this will magically rub off. Well, it may happen! We live in County Antrim and are blessed to be close to our friends and family.
Before Graham had even finished asking me to marry him I had already decided it would be at Castle Leslie Estate, Black Tie and it would be big! I know gay people have been able to have a civil partnership for some time now, but getting married is true equality. The Irish are true forward thinkers and warmly embracing, open people. It’s the friendliest country in the world. Being from Northern Ireland, where it is not currently legal, this is even more important.
Graham decided to ask me to marry him on a trip to New York. It was sort of blurted out at me in a crowded champagne bar in the Plaza Hotel off Central Park. It made quite a few people stare so that was an experience. Anyway, as I said earlier, I had it planned within seconds. The flight home was almost unbearable because I wanted to tell everyone face to face. My patience was put to the test. It did not disappoint. Everyone was so excited about it and started talking about stag do’s and outfits within minutes.
I visited Caste Leslie Estate within a week. I did not bother to view anywhere else because it was pointless. I have such good memories of Castle Leslie Estate. Some really great times have been spent there with our friends. We have been going frequently since 2006 and were lucky enough a few years ago to get a tour by Sir John Leslie (R.I.P) himself. He took no nonsense and marched us around all the rooms telling us the history and some of his memories. Planning the wedding was all really exciting. Very easy to get carried away, so I did. I never actually thought it would happen to us as we had been to so many weddings as guests. I was always a little jealous, so when it was our day I had to pull out all the stops. The co-ordinator, Helen McManus, from the castle thought of everything. You have so much to think about so it’s good to be in experienced hands. The details to think of and the timescales need to be carefully watched. The worst part was names and addresses for the invites! We had so many trips leading up to the wedding for the girls’ dress fittings and for the room design. I loved the fact that, at Castle Leslie Estate, large weddings are held in the pavilion. This is like a blank canvas and you can have so much fun decorating it any way you want. The Castle itself is so stunning it just makes it all so special… It’s like being in Downton Abbey!
I visited Caste Leslie Estate within a week. I did not bother to view anywhere else because it was pointless. I have such good memories of Castle Leslie Estate.
We had a pre-wedding dinner the night before the wedding. This was perfect to catch up with close friends as on the day you are so busy getting your pictures taken to cutting the cake! Our friends all stayed at The Lodge and The Village Cottages and we heard nothing but good things. To really enhance the Irish Castle experience we had a traditional band play. Quite a few Irish dancers suddenly appeared the more drinks were served! To keep the night more relaxed and get everyone ready for the next day we decided on a buffet meal which worked perfectly. The only issue of the night was getting everyone back to their rooms at a reasonable time so as to not upset the next day’s events. This plan did not really work. There was too much fun to be had! Waking up on the actual day was as scary as I thought. I am a natural worrier but I surpassed my usual abilities in that department. I found lots of other things to worry about. My pre-wedding diet hadn’t gone to plan and my suit trousers were tighter than anticipated. I had no need to worry about anything though. The Castle had the most amazing team who looked after every aspect of the day. John, our Events Manager, knew everything that had to be done and kept us all on track. Not easy when you have five excited grooms-maids! The actual day flies in and you really don’t get time to speak to everyone! It’s all go!! On the day of the wedding we were picked up and driven straight to The Castle for photographs and then our wedding party was hidden away in the Red Room until the ceremony was ready to start. Paul Moane, our photographer, was with us snapping away. This was the best fun. The bubbly was flowing and we had so much craic practicing our dance to enter the wedding reception. We could also see everyone arriving. They all went out to walk around the lake with their champagne in hand getting ready for the festivities. We were watching out of the window and the nerves were kicking in. It’s not every day that you stand in front of a crowd and talk about love! As we walked down to the ceremony it was just so beautiful with all the Christmas trees glittering away and the fairy lights giving their party glow.
The ceremony took place in the Pavilion and it was so luxurious and glitzy. I had designed the room with the Great Gatsby in mind. I was a bit terrified that I had arranged a ‘big fat gypsy wedding,’ but Julie-Ann from EventPlannerNI kept me right. Her ideas were outstanding. PS, I loved my white dance floor and the roof full of fairy lights! It was so glamorous and magical. We both felt so important and terrified!!! A real mix of emotions on the day!! Fear, excitement and total overwhelming gratitude for a wonderful life!
Our grooms-maids all wore pewter gowns made by Two Birds. We wore midnight blue velvet tuxes. We all looked great, if I do say so myself. Hair sprayed within an inch of its life and any flaws hidden! The ceremony was beautiful and it was so wonderful to have everyone we loved in one place. How often does that happen??? Our commitment was made and it is unbelievable how lucky we felt. Admittedly, I had moved on to worrying about the speeches. I would have worried more if I had known what stories some of them were about to reveal! As if by magic, the room was transformed to hold our reception party during our drinks reception. This was served from the conservatory and gave people the opportunity to look around the Castle. We had booked the entire venue so we knew everyone. Champagne, mulled wine and canapés followed with the Bentley Boys playing in the background. We had a magician and this really helped people who did not know each other connect and get to know one another. When it was time for the reception to begin, we were again ushered off to the library to have a glass of champagne on our own until everyone was seated. I could get used to this level of service and feeling of grandeur!
If anyone takes my advice, get your band booked first. They make or break your day.
The reception meal was outstanding. We had the most succulently cooked beef or hake on offer. The meal was cooked to perfection and so many of our guests commented on the high-quality food. The champagne sorbet and chocolate orange mousse tasted like heaven. I have to say at this point, that the tasting evening a few weeks before was my favourite part of organising the wedding! After the meal, we had dancing with the full twelve-piece band playing, making this one of the best nights of my life. The band are out of this world. A live band is the best for dancing and a true treat! If anyone takes my advice, get your band booked first. They make or break your day. Music is so important and it helps with the flow of the day. Also, after the meal everyone is looking to dance!
The day after our wedding, Castle Leslie Estate had a chauffeur car which whisked us off to Dublin Airport and we headed off on our honeymoon to the Caribbean. It all just flew in. You spend so much time planning and worrying about it all. Will it work out? Will the flowers be beautiful? Will everyone turn up? You just have to relax and enjoy it as it really is amazing! Oh, and may I add that the flowers were perfect!
This truly was one of the most wonderful experiences of our lives and it was made possible by the people of Ireland and the wonderful team at Castle Leslie Estate. Sam & Graham