It was love at first sight for Melissa Dunne and James O’Leary when their eyes met in a Dublin bar.
Melissa, from Dublin, and James, from Kilmichael, Co Cork, were married five and a half years later, in the outdoor ceremony of their dreams, in west Cork. “We first met in early 2016, in Sinnotts Bar, and it was love at first sight,” said James. “We went for a few drinks that evening and met up every night for the next week.”
James chose a winter wonderland backdrop for the proposal, three years later. “We got engaged in the beautiful New York City in January 2019 at the Rockefeller Center, underneath the Christmas tree. It was perfect,” he said. “The proposal was a total surprise for Melissa.”
They exchanged vows in a humanist ceremony — complete with hand-fasting — in the grounds of Fernhill House & Gardens in Clonakilty on August 22 this year.
“Our original vision was that our wedding would be a little bit different to others. We wanted to put our own stamp on things,” said James.
“The ceremony was outdoors, and we held the drinks reception in the marquee and the reception took place indoors.
“We wanted to be in a relaxed environment and that it certainly was. It was a fabulous location and our celebrant Linda Foley was amazing and made our outdoor ceremony special. We wanted it to be a little rustic. Melissa is very unique and had a picture of what she wanted in her head.”
John Sexton, their wedding photographer, captured the big day on camera, including morning photoshoots at James’ family home in Kilmichael, as well in Dunmore House Hotel in Clonakilty, where the bride was getting ready. “John was a joy to work with,” said James.
Toasting to their future happiness were the bride’s parents, Carol and Christy Dunne, and the groom’s mother and father, Kathleen and John O’Leary.
By Melissa’s side were her cousins, Megan Murphy, Nadine Quinn and Koife Quinn, as bridesmaids, while James had the support of his friend, Finbarr Dromey, as best man, and his brother, Daniel O’Leary, and friend, Donal O’Riordan, as groomsmen.
“It was incredible. Everything went the way we wanted it to. We had great weather as well,” said James.
“The ceremony music by Ruth O'Brien added to the occasion. Her voice was absolutely stunning. The songs we had were not your typical church wedding songs. Walking down the aisle to Love by Frank Sinatra was special.”
Melissa sourced her wedding dress in Made With Love Bridal, Cork, and teamed it with a hat from Lackofcoloraus and Bottega Veneta shoes.
James and his party were dapper in suits by Louis Copeland & Sons.
The White Willow in Dublin arranged the bouquets; while The Flower Basket, Clonakilty, supplied the flowers for the ceremony.
Their loved ones made the day memorable for the bride and groom.
Melissa’s grandmother, Ellen, presented Melissa with her wedding band, which Ellen had worn for more than 60 years, and James’ dad John gave his wedding band to James.
“We were thrilled to have Ellen there on the day,” said James.
“Being a Covid wedding, it was very difficult not knowing numbers. We joked about maybe having to ring people up and uninvite them. Thankfully, we didn't need to! The guests made our day special — having all our loved ones together to celebrate with us.”
The Dublin-based newlyweds will honeymoon in Las Vegas and New York in January 2022.
Melissa is a senior hairstylist at The Craft in Dundrum and James is a buyer at The Beacon Hospital in Dublin.
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