Real Weddings

Winter wonderland wedding gives Aoife and Sean the ‘best day of their lives’

Irish is Aoife McGuiggan’s first language, so she was absolutely delighted when Sean O’Neill got down on one knee and asked, in perfect Gaelic, ‘An bpósfaidh tú mé?’

The pair were wed at St Mary’s Ardmore, Derry in a glamorous winter wonderland-themed ceremony, performed by Fr Patrick McEntee on December 30, 2017.

The newlywed’s wedding reception took place at The Beech Hill Country House Hotel in Derry – a venue they loved as it had a marquee which they decorated to suit their tastes.

Aoife, who is a make-up artist from Derry, first met Sean, a company owner from Dromore, while they were attending St Mary’s Teaching College in Belfast. As there was a spark from the beginning, they began dating around November 2009. “I liked everything about Sean,” Aoife described. “He made me feel very special from the first moment I met him, and still does to this day.”

The new Mr and Mrs O’Neill alongside their loved ones on their winter wedding day.

Together for seven years, it was on August 10, 2016 that the Tyrone man got down on one knee while the pair were enjoying a special trip away to the Galgorm Resort. “Sean asked me to marry him in Gaeilge (Irish) which was very special as it is my first language,” Aoife said. “I was overwhelmed and excited when he asked me, and I couldn’t wait to start wedding day planning.”

Sean kindly got Aoife’s glittering platinum engagement ring specially made in McCullagh’s Jewellers in Letterkenny. The ring boasts a large, circular design, which sits neatly on a fine, diamante band. The inner part of Aoife’s ring is shaped like a flower, and is surrounded by a stunning ring of diamonds.

Planning for their December wedding day straight away, Aoife always dreamed of having a winter wonderland wedding, with silver and white being her colours of choice. “I wanted my day to be wintry and glamorous,” Aoife described. “I chose the Beech Hill for my wedding venue as it had a marquee, and myself and Sean were able to put our own mark on it with our décor and design. “Also a marquee in December was something a little different, which I liked.”

Happily for Aoife, wedding dress shopping turned out to be completely stress-free. She went to one shop, Verona Bridal in Magherafelt, and the dress she chose for her big day was the very first one that she tried on. “Wedding dress shopping was great,” Aoife said. “The dress I picked out had a high neck, with a scoop back and a diamond detail on the hip. This style suited my figure and what I had in mind. It was tight fitting and white.”

Groom Sean O’Neill alongside his beloved mother, Valerie.

However, a few months before her winter wedding, Aoife decided to alter her gown so that she’d sport a slightly different look on her big day. “I wanted it to have a plunge neckline both at front and back,” Aoife explained. “Elaine McCloskey did my alterations – I couldn’t recommend her highly enough. “She transformed my dress into the ultimate dream dress.”

When Aoife’s wedding day finally arrived, she described feeling ‘extremely calm’ – which took her a little by surprise – and thankfully the weather was on her side too. “We had a really lovely and dry day,” she reflected.

Aoife O’Neill (née McGuiggan) looks beautiful on her December wedding day.

When the new Mr and Mrs O’Neill reached the church – Aoife travelled there in a luxurious Mercedes – they enjoyed a traditional wedding service, laced with personal touches. “Our service was just lovely,” Aoife described. “We had an Irish language singer, and my father, Fearghal also played a solo on his tin whistle which made it very personal.”

After enjoying their meal and three-tiered white wedding cake, the newlyweds danced the night away to their wedding band and DJ, MC Sounds – and they even enjoyed an impromptu traditional Irish music session. “We stayed up until the early hours – it must have been about 4am before we left the dance floor,” the 29-year-old recalled. “Our wedding was absolutely amazing. It was the best day of our lives.”

Newlyweds Aoife and Sean O’Neill, alongside their maid of honour, Coimhe McGuiggan, and best man, Shane McMahon. Also pictured are bridesmaids Eimhear Nig Uiginn and Caoimhe McLaughlin and groomsmen, Martin Murray and Fabian O’Neill

• THE FINER DETAILS •

Wedding dress: Verona Bridal, Magherafelt
Hair stylist/salon: Michael Deery Hair
Make-up: Aoife McGuiggan, AMG Make-Up
Bridal party makeup: Andrea Hasson
Bridal shoes: Topshop
Head piece/Veil: Verona Bridal, Magherafelt
Bridesmaid dresses: Ghost
Groom’s/groomsmen’s suits: Ultimate Menswear, Dungiven
Cake supplier: CakeCraft CakeDesign, Derry
Florist: Blooming Gorgeous Flowers
Church: St Mary’s Ardmore, Derry
Transport: Mercedes
Reception: The Beech Hill Country House Hotel, Derry
Number of guests at reception: 250
DJ/band: MC Sounds
First dance song: ‘Take My Hand’ by Picture This
Photographer: We Can Be Heroes Photography
Videographer: River Flow Films
Honeymoon: New York and Dominican Republic