HOW does a father feel, accompanying his daughter up the aisle to embark on another stage of her life?
Dad-of-five John (Johnny) Aylward, who recently did the honours for his eldest child and only daughter, Kelley, sums it up: “As a moment, it’s huge. It’s just so emotional. It’s amazing and brilliant.
“It is 100% positive. For me, it was like watching her open a new chapter,” he says.
“You find yourself having flashbacks — you go back almost to her first day of school. All these memories come flooding back.”
Johnny, from New Ross, Co Wexford, supported Kelley as she exchanged vows with groom David Foley on April 15 in Barnabrow House, Co Cork, in a humanist ceremony followed by a reception in the same venue.
Kelley and David, who are both from Clonmel, Co Tipperary, had been together for 13 years.
They spent two of those in Vancouver, Canada, before returning to Ireland two-and-a-half years ago to settle in Cork.
Kelley, who has four brothers, has always been close to her dad.
“The wedding was even more special because I’ve been diagnosed with motor neurone disease [MND],” says John. “Kelley was nearly minding me more than I was minding her.”
The bride disagrees: “We had a moment where he literally squeezed the hand off me going up the aisle. We shed a tear at the start. Dad sat behind me for the whole ceremony, just to my left, so it was lovely to have him so close.”
Kelley and David’s son Fionn, who will be two in August, was the pageboy.
Johnny, whose story touched the nation’s hearts when he and his family featured on RTÉ’s DIY SOS: The Big Build Ireland, received his MND diagnosis just after Fionn was born.
“Fionn’s arrival was a good distraction,” he says.
Kelley adds: “Fionn loves Dad’s wheelchair. He’s always pressing the buttons just to get the lights to come on. Dad loves watching him and his boldness.”
Did wedding planning strengthen the father-daughter bond?
“We were always close,” says Johnny.
Kelley adds: “Dad was excited but probably nervous because he knew he would be accompanying me up the aisle in his wheelchair.
“It was extra emotional and special for us just to have him there and just to have that opportunity while Dad was still well and able. We have photos we will cherish forever.”
There were tears and laughter from start to finish. “I had to tell Dad to slow down as we went up the aisle because he uses a motorised wheelchair and he can push the button so it speeds up. My dress nearly got caught in the wheel — I practically ran up the aisle,” says Kelley.
Catriona Moloney not only shared that special stroll up to the altar with her dad Sean but also invited him along to her hen weekend.
Catriona, from near Beaufort, Killarney, Co Kerry, married Jamie Johnson, from the Gap of Dunloe, in St Mary’s Church, Beaufort, on April 22.
“Because I only have one brother and I am so close to my dad, I decided I wouldn’t have a hen — I would have a ‘sten’, so the boys and girls could all come along, including Dad, my mom Kathleen, my brother, and Jamie,” says Catriona.
Also celebrating at the ceremony and later at the reception in the Kenmare Bay Hotel were Catriona and Jamie’s three daughters, Katelyn, Grace, and Maisie.
Sean was involved in planning the big day. “I was flat to the mat altogether,” he says.
Catriona elaborates: “My dad has a van and I had him worn out dropping stuff to Kenmare Bay Hotel.”
Women surrounded him on the wedding morning.
“He came over to my house and was outnumbered, stuck there with the three flower girls, my mom, myself, the four bridesmaids, and my nana Joan, my mom’s mother. But he had plenty of craic, which he loves.
“Growing up at home I had plenty of friends around at my parents’ house and my dad is one of those gentle giants.
“I am Daddy’s girl and I always will be but since my children came along, they have taken over.
“I work two days a week and he collects them from school. The three girls are his best friends. He’s everything you want a grandad to be.”
Of the father-daughter bond, Sean says: “It is unreal altogether. When we walked into the church, I said to Catriona: You’ll always be my baby.”
The bride adds: “He put me crying then and I was crying going up the altar.”
However, just before the tears started to roll, wedding photographer Breda Daly captured their smiles on camera en route to the ceremony. “I have the photograph and cannot wait to give it to Dad for Father’s Day,” says Catriona.
Kacie Dillane and Darren Clarke, both from Cobh, Co Cork, were married in a spiritualist ceremony in the Heights Hotel, Killarney, Co Kerry, on May 13.
Father-of-the-bride Billy Dillane says he felt himself travel back in time as he took Kacie’s arm to accompany her up the aisle.
“Words can’t describe the pride I felt on that walk,” says Billy.
“It is close to the pride I felt the moment the nurse took Kacie from her mother Deb and placed her in my arms for the first time.
“The nurse then said, ‘Relax, she won’t break.’ I held her tight to my heart then and still do.”
What was it like for Billy to see his daughter getting married?
“Coming up to the day when I thought of it I was a little sad thinking I would be losing Kacie a little. “Then, the more I thought of it, I got great comfort from knowing t Darren would take great care of Kacie and make a great husband,” he says.
When the wedding day finally arrived, it was unforgettable.
“It made life worth living, that’s what life is for — days like that,” he says.
For Kacie, arriving at her wedding venue with Billy was one of the moments she had long thought about.
“I lived with my dad when my parents separated and we became very close. As clichéd as it sounds, I had dreamt about that walk with him since I was little.
“The few minutes before we walked down the aisle will stay with me forever. It was just my dad and me, and we could both see how proud we were of each other.
“I was very proud of both of my parents and loved getting them to have their moments in the spotlight on the day too. They raised us, welcomed Darren in with open arms, and we know we can still turn to them for help.”
Billy adds: “We are always close, she’s my best buddy and she will always need me for DIY around the house.”
Kacie selected Kerry as her wedding destination, further proof that she was a daddy’s girl.
“I was born and raised in Cobh, but my dad is from Tralee, Kerry. He moved here to Cobh when he joined the gardaí and has been here ever since.
“When we chose Killarney over Cork he was not-so-secretly delighted that the Kingdom had beaten Cork for our choice. He actually got out at the ‘Welcome to Kerry’ sign on the way to the wedding and got a photo taken with it to send to everyone.
“Luckily, we didn’t get the typical Kerry weather.”
It’s traditional for the father to accompany his daughter up the aisle, but as an only child Helena Brosnan wanted her mum Madeline and dad Denis to be on either side.
Denis says: “Some people would say we were ‘giving’ her away — we were not giving her away but supporting her moving on to the next chapter of her life. It really wasn’t about losing a daughter but gaining a son-in-law.”
Helena, from Banna, Co Kerry, exchanged vows with Niall Donnellan, from Kilmane, Co Mayo, in the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Currow, Co Kerry, on May 21.
The Galway-based newlyweds held their reception in the Great Southern Killarney.
“I am a daddy’s girl, so it was a very emotional day but just such a lovely journey,” says Helena.
“My mom and dad shared everything about it, from the build-up to the wedding itself — they were involved in planning and even some DIY, and both came with me when I was shopping for my wedding dress.
“When they walked me up the aisle, it was a lovely feeling of safety and comfort.
“My parents are my best friends and on my wedding day it was such a comfort to have that little squeeze of the hand or a nod of the head from them.”
Helena and Denis say they share similar personalities — and both refer to how much they enjoy watching quiz shows together.
“We are both avid quiz show and riddle lovers, both calm in temperament, and we think things through very deeply,” says Helena.
Denis adds: “We’ve always been close.”
Being part of his daughter’s wedding was a joy, he says.
“It was wonderful to be able to give my speech and say how much her mom and I love her,” the proud father concludes.