Real Gals: The Brides Who Decided To Do Their Weddings A Little Bit Differently

Something old, something a bit new...

These days, more and more couples are throwing the wedding rulebook out the window, and doing things their way.

From DIY ceremonies to medieval inspired dresses, Jade Hayden chats to five brides who decided to do things a little bit differently for their own nuptials. 

The Fun Photo

Ellen MacMahon tied the knot with partner Sarah in Naas’ Killashee Hotel in 2022. Not overly interested in posing for more ‘traditional’ wedding photos, they decided to do things their way and take their first wedding shots over a pint of Guinness. 

“From the day we got engaged we knew we wanted our wedding to be as relaxed as possible… and just good craic. We were dreading standing around for hours and posing for ‘formal’ photos that didn’t feel very ‘us’. We love chilling with a pint of Guinness together at weekends so that particular photo was all part of our master plan. We wanted a bit of a break together, just the two of us, to take everything in. I had custom glasses made for our first pint as ‘Mrs and Mrs’, and we poured our own pint in the old style snug bar in Killashee. Even though our schedule was running slightly behind, we wanted to have that moment. 

“It was really important for Sarah and I to put our stamp on the day. We had a playlist on over dinner and the songs were a mix of our favourites, everything from Britney to Florence and the Machine to the Chemical Brothers. Our bouquets were reflective of our similarities but also our individuality. The same could also be said for our dresses, which we ended up buying from the same designer in the same shop – purely by chance! Our wedding ring box had some words about travel engraved on it – a nod to our time travelling in New Zealand. The tables were also named after each of the seven places we’ve been to together since we’ve known each other. Having a humanist celebration meant that the whole ceremony was reflective of us and our journey as a couple. Guests heard about our love story and we shared our own personal vows to each other. 

“Relaxing together as Mrs and Mrs with our first pint was definitely a highlight of the day – and even better than the photographer was there to capture that moment. Catching up with friends and family all in one place together and with so much love in the room was probably our favourite memory. The late night trad session in the snug bar was also up there!”

Castadiva Wedding Photography and Film

Castadiva Wedding Photography and Film

The Micro-Wedding

Siobhán Daly and her fiancé Jack didn’t know what March 2020 was going to bring, so they decided to bring their wedding forward and have a socially distant micro ceremony in Kilkenny – right before lockdown. 

“We were due to get married on March 27, 2020, but Covid was only getting worse and worse, and we were worried the wedding might not happen. So, we decided to move the ceremony forward to March 16 and just have our immediate family there. At the time we didn’t know the scale of Covid or what was going to happen, and we thought it might still be possible to have a party on the 27th – but obviously that didn’t happen! 

“Total lockdown happened in Ireland on March 29, just two days after we were due to have our big day. We married in a socially distant ceremony in a local church with just a handful of friends and family, and later went to Kilkenny Castle for some pictures. On the morning of the wedding, we went for a walk together in the park. It was really special and it was certainly different. It was very intimate to have so few people there, but what was lovely was that our families sang, did the flowers, and my mam cooked dinner afterwards for my side.

“Sometimes we can get wrapped up in the hype of a wedding, so it was really lovely that ours was all about the marriage. The guests were delighted to see us getting married, but it was an emotional day too knowing it wasn’t what we had originally planned. It would have been nice to have a proper meal with our families on the day, and I would never advise any bride to do DIY hair and makeup! But all of these memories are ones that I’ll treasure forever.”

Photo by Evelyn McNamara

Photo by Evelyn McNamara

The Themed Wedding

Love Coach Michaela Lambert married in 2019. She and her partner threw a medieval inspired DIY wedding in Avebury, marrying inside an ancient stone circle. 

“We knew we didn’t want a by-the-numbers affair – we wanted something completely bespoke and meaningful to us, that really represented our love story. My husband is Pagan and I’m Catholic, so when we first started wedding planning, we felt uninspired and constricted by the packages that were on offer. 

“I started to research alternative venues to hold the reception and got clear on my vision – I was hooked on Pinterest at the time! We live about 45 minutes away from Avebury and one early autumn afternoon, I was driving and I noticed a sign saying ‘Cleeve House’. Intuition told me we had found our dream venue.

“Part of the inspiration came from The Lord of the Rings. J.R.R. Tolkien is said to have been inspired by the beech trees at Avebury, which is where my husband proposed. Inspiration for the dress came from the setting of the ceremony – a 1,000 year old church in the middle of an ancient stone circle. I wanted a Pagan, medieval, and ancient Celtic vibe. My mum, a retired dress-maker, designed my gown from my Pinterest vision board and suggested the material: French silk and chiffon. I knew I wanted a corset and a train, which mainly got tied up in a knot as the day progressed, and instead of a traditional veil, I opted for a circlet headpiece. 

“The vicar who married us is an amazing Irish woman who also played the fiddle at the reception. My husband made a stunning two-tiered semi-naked carraway and cider wedding cake, and I took care of all the decorations, bouquets and church flowers. I’m crazy about eucalyptus and white roses! My step daughters, a hairdresser and makeup artist, did all the hair and makeup, and my wedding ring was even made bespoke to slot into my engagement ring. 

“By shopping around and having friends and family pitch in, not only did we get what we specifically wanted, but those who were close to us helped to make our day really special. The best thing about this DIY wedding is that it looked high-end and Pinterest-worthy, and yet cost us under four grand.”

The DIY Wedding

Pam Randles and her husband Dave married in 2018 in Belfast. Eager to avoid another “formulaic” wedding they had become so accustomed to, they decided to march to the beat of their own drum – and have an informal wedding day that their guests loved.

“We didn’t want a big wedding. Originally we planned to marry in North Wales where we were living at the time, but my brother’s wife was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer the year before. We didn’t know what her treatment would be at that stage and if she’d be able to travel, so we changed our plans to get married in my native Belfast.

“We had a beautiful civil wedding in Belfast City Hall, followed by the reception in Belvoir Bowling Club. Transport was a 1950s Bedford bus which picked both my husband and myself up, as well as the guests. My dress was a £26 Lindy Bop and my sister’s (my bridesmaid) was £17 in the sale. We bought the flowers from Sainsbury’s and M&S, and I arranged them myself. My hair piece was made by my beloved sister-in-law.

“When we arrived at City Hall we were interviewed by the registrar, and she commented that she had never seen such a relaxed bride and groom. The only nerves we had were making sure we got there in time, as we wouldn’t have been able to get married if we missed our time slot! Food at the reception was a cold buffet; sandwiches, sausage rolls, salads, etc, and local guests brought a contribution to the food rather than a present, as we asked. We also ordered Domino’s pizza later that evening. 

“I loved just being with all our favourite people and having a good time. Both Dave and I have always marched to the beat of our own drums (one of the many things that attracted me to him in the first place!), and we wanted a wedding that was very ‘us’ rather than the impersonal formulaic weddings we’d attended over the years. We wanted our wedding to be free and easy, for our guests to feel relaxed and just enjoy themselves. Everyone appreciated the informality of grazing, mingling, drinking and chatting rather than being stuck at a table for hours. I think everyone was expecting a pretty ‘normal’ wedding – if there is such a thing – so it was a nice surprise that that’s not what we had.”

The Colourful Dress

Jade Pepper didn’t want to forgo her intuitions for the sake of “fitting in” on her wedding day. So, instead of a traditional white dress, she opted for a beautiful, bespoke green gown.

“I’m not a huge fan of white as a colour. As a lady with a naturally pasty complexion, white really does nothing for me and I don’t tend to wear a lot of it in my everyday life. My wedding was going to be the ultimate celebration of the love that myself and my husband have for each other. Why wouldn’t I choose to wear something that I felt comfortable in or that I felt best represented me as a person? 

“My two favourite colours are red and green – the complementary colours! Since I already have my red hair, green was the obvious choice. I have always been fascinated with classic Hollywood silhouettes with regards to clothing, especially dresses. Scarlett O ‘Hara’s iconic velvet, green ball gown from Gone With The Wind was definitely was a major influence in the creation and design of my dress, as were Disney Princess gowns – that type of dramatic, jaw-dropping princess chic that I’m still very obsessed over and seemingly, never grew out of. The dress itself was designed and made by the incomparable Eamonn McGill, I can’t even explain the amazement I felt when I walked into his studio and he had the whole piece assembled together. It was just such a dream come true! 

“Our ceremony took place outdoors in the spring on Inis Mór, in the ruins of an old church called Teampall Chiaráin. Our celebrant was a celtic monk who was an Inis Mór local and the entire ceremony was through the Irish language, as my husband and I speak it at home. The wedding was also a very intimate affair, with only 12 of our closest, immediate family present, which is the way we always wanted it. As a symbol of our union, the two of us tied little ribbons on a nearly hawthorn tree, to join the hundreds of other little ribbons that had been there from previous weddings, and that was pretty emotional. I was struggling to get up the hills in my heels, so in the end, for the entire ceremony I was barefoot underneath my dress! It was really special because I felt more connected to the earth and it felt so much more primal and intimate.

“This is the day to celebrate you and your partner. So if your intuition is leading you to break with tradition, absolutely go for it! It is important to ask yourself what makes you happy, what excites you and what best makes you feel comfortable and like your most authentic self.”

Photo via Tess O’Maoildhia

Photo via Tess O’Maoildhia


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