A day of dreams, colours and music as Jessica and Emmet wed in Strabane

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Bright and colourful decorations, a moving ceremony and good music gave Jessica Frances McLaughlin a day that dreams were made of.

While the Strabane woman’s service featured a lovely blend of traditional and modern elements – such as her bridesmaids walking down the aisle to an upbeat song from the ‘The Lizzie Maguire Movie’ – perhaps the most notably unusual aspect was that she married a man that shared exactly the same surname as her.

Indeed Jessica Frances McLaughlin and Emmet McLaughlin were wed at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Strabane in a personal ceremony performed by Fr Declan Boland on August 3, 2018.

The newlyweds enjoying beautiful scenery on their summer’s day wedding.

Their wedding reception took place in the quaint Villa Rose Hotel, Donegal – a venue which Jessica Frances said was ‘so welcoming’ from the moment she walked in, particularly as staff were both helpful and friendly. The primary school teacher was also blown away by its stunning staircase, and actually imagined herself walking down it in her wedding gown.

Jessica Frances was first introduced to Emmet on April 15, 2013 while out at Queen’s Student Union, Belfast and they began dating just under a month later. “Emmet makes me laugh every day,” Jessica Frances described. “I love how kind, thoughtful and loving he is.”

Together for two-and-a-half years, it was on December 11, 2015 that Emmet, a health and safety advisor from Derry, surprised her with a truly unique proposal one chilly winter’s day. “We were living in Liverpool at the time, getting ready to come home for Christmas,” Jessica Frances described. “I came into the hall and found luggage tags with special dates, such as our first date and when we moved in together. “On the final tag, he had written the date and our future and I noticed him standing there as I read it.

Emmet McLaughlin was all smiles on his wedding day.

He then got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. “I was totally shocked,” she added. “I was completely over the moon and started crying.” The engagement ring, which featured a dainty gold band and sparkling diamond, was particularly special for Jessica Frances as she has never worn any type of ring before. “I loved it so much,” she described. “It was perfect and a very good choice as Emmet really had nothing to go on.”

Eager to find some inspiration to help her plan her perfect wedding, Jessica Frances said she set up her wedding Pinterest straight away. “I knew exactly what I wanted for my flowers,” she remembered. “I wanted them to be bright and colourful, with peonies included. “I also had a few colours in mind for the colour scheme, and I liked the idea of dusky pink wedding shoes.”

Three months after the proposal, the happy couple began viewing wedding venues and they booked their August 2018 wedding date in April 2016. “It felt like it would be a long time when we booked, but it flew in – especially from the start of 2018, ,” Jessica Frances recalled. “The final few weeks felt like seconds”.

The pair had their hearts set on a traditional wedding delicately mixed with modern, personal elements. “For example, my bridesmaids walked up the aisle to ‘What Dreams Are Made Of’ from ‘The Lizzie McGuire Movie’,” Jessica Frances said. “It was one of my favourite films as a child.”

Happily, Jessica Frances had a lovely time wedding dress shopping. Not only did she enjoy a stress-free experience, she felt like a princess throughout. With her mum, Maura on-hand to help her search for the perfect gown and her auntie Maeve and father, Adrian driving them from shop-to shop, the quartet made light work of the quest.

Jessica Frances looks beautiful on her wedding day as she dons her white gown of flowing silk.

“When I visited McElhinneys in Ballybofey, I picked out four dresses and then narrowed it down to two but I was still unsure,” Jessica Frances recalled. “The girls there were so helpful, and we made another appointment to go back and just view those two dresses. But when we got to the shop the second time, I only had one dress in mind.”

The stunning white gown in question featured an A-line shape, a feminine belt and flowing satin material. Its back was sheer and draped in crystals and buttons which cascaded right down to the train. “When I put it on, I didn’t want to take it off,” Jessica Frances said. “I knew it was the dress for me.”

During the week leading up to the wedding, the blushing bride-to-be described feeling ‘very calm’. However when she was getting her make-up done on the big day, reality struck – and so did a mixture of nerves and excitement. “But thankfully, the sun was out and the day stayed dry throughout – we were incredibly lucky on our wedding day,” Jessica Frances said.

After being whisked away to the chapel in a charming white Mercedes on her special August day, the pair enjoyed a ‘very personal and moving service’. “When I was walking down the aisle with my daddy, I started to get emotional – particularly when I saw Emmet at the end of the aisle,” Jessica Frances described. “However Fr Boland made everyone feel so welcome, made us laugh and kept us calm.

“I was also so lucky to have my very close friend, Lauren Bird play at the service. She played the wedding march amazingly. “The wedding was definitely the best day of my life,” the 26-year-old concluded. “Everything went so perfectly and exactly how we planned.

Everyone said they really enjoyed it which made it even better. “Our amazing wedding band played for an extra 40 minutes at our reception too, and the crowd surfing was definitely a highlight of mine. “Emmet and I stayed up all night – we simply didn’t want the day to end.”

Maid of honour, Nicola McLaughlin, and bridesmaids, Sarah Burns, Orlaith O’Hagan and Emma Early hold aloft Jessica Frances’ stunning veil.


Wedding dress: McElhinneys, Ballybofey.
Wedding ring: D Cooleys Jewellers.
Hair stylist/salon: Toni Kelly from Enchanted Hair and Beauty.
Make-up: Toni Kelly from Enchanted Hair and Beauty.
Bridal Shoes: Ted Baker.
Head piece/ Veil: McElhinneys, Ballybofey.
Bridesmaid dresses: ASOS.
Groom’s/groomsmen’s suits: RK Men’s Wear.
Cake supplier: Funky Cakes.
Cake decoration: Top tier coloured baby pink; middle tier coloured in white with newlyweds’ initials in gold; bottom tier featured a grey marble effect.
Florist: Martin Stewart.
Church: Church of the Immaculate Conception, Strabane.
Reverend/ Priest: Fr Declan Boland.
Transport: Mercedes Wedding Car Hire.
Reception: Villa Rose Hotel and Spa.
Number of guests at reception: 170 guests.
DJ/band: Red Alert.
First dance song: ‘Baby I’m Yours’ by Arctic Monkeys.
Photographer: Davy Ralston.
Videographer: Milltown Digital Productions.
Other entertainment: Photobook by Rentabooth NI.
Honeymoon: Cyprus for 10 days.