Our Wedding Journey...

What’s more romantic than getting married on a sun soaked day by the seaside? Thats what Melissa O’Neill, a senior finance associate from Larne, did with Aidan Swann, a support worker from Randalstown. At an intimate service at St Mac Nissi’s in Larne, the couple, along with their amazing wee son Leo, joined their guests at the idyllic Ballygally Castle on the seaside. Not content with having their wedding day spent in the sun and on the sand, the couple spent their honeymoon in the almost as beautiful Cancun, Mexico. We caught up with them shortly after to hear the craic about their big day…

How did you first meet and get together?

We met 5 years ago at a work BBQ at our old employer, after a few drinks Aidan done the manly thing and added me (Melissa) on Facebook. A week later we had our first date having a few drinks around the cathedral quarter, we hit it off straight away and the laughs were endless. The rest is history!

Bridal flowers sitting outside bride's family home

Tell us about the proposal – where, when, how?

The proposal happened on Christmas Eve, as we have a little boy, Leo, we have a tradition of doing our presents on Christmas Eve when Leo goes to bed so Christmas Day is all about him! I remember finding it strange Aidan was sitting on the floor with a body warmer on over his pyjamas whilst I sat on the sofa. Aidan handed me a big card and anyone who knows Aidan knows he doesn’t usually do cards. I opened it and it said “to my fiancée on Christmas” (a bit presumptuous of Aidan), I looked up and there he was on one knee with the most stunning ring he impressively picked out totally by himself. It was an easy “Yes” of course!

Bridal party enjoying a drink and the craic during the wedding prep at the Bride's family home

"Ciaran is a master at his craft, a few clicks and ready for the next picture!"

— Melissa & Aidan

The Wedding Planning...

Where and how did you choose your dress?

Where and how did you choose your dress?: I had found Jill Jones Bridal on Instagram and straight away loved the aesthetic and knew it was within budget. I took my mum and bridesmaid up with me, I did go in with an open mind as I had heard time and time again that many brides always end up with the opposite of what they expect. However, in my case they were all wrong! I had fallen in love with Brae by Madi Lane months before my appointment, I had said this to Jill (dress shop owner) unfortunately for me she kept it until last for me to try on. Just like the proposal it was another easy yes! Jill said herself she knew it was for me but wanted me to be sure hence keeping it until the end.

The brides son, Leo, putting on her engagement ring on the morning of the wedding
Bride putting on her shoe
Bride standing in front of the mirror ready to leave house for wedding ceremony

How did you find the experience?

We absolutely loved our wedding and the build up to it, we are very lucky that thankfully neither of us get too bogged down with little things and any small issues we had we just took in our stride. A bit of advice I live by is “it’s only a problem if you make it a problem” and that became my mantra for wedding planning which in turn made it pretty smooth sailing and as stress free as can be!

Groom and his groomsmen having a laugh just prior to the wedding ceremony
Groom standing outside church - patiently waiting on his bride arriving

What was the best part of planning your big day?

For me, (Melissa), my favourite part was meeting with venue and suppliers and chatting through all the ideas to make the wedding our own. I found this bit very exciting and helped make it all seem real. However when I asked Aidan his response was “leaving it up to you” so make of that what you will!

And the most stressful part?

By nature, we are a chilled couple and not too much fizzes us. I would say though what caused us a bit of stress was trying to manage people dropping out quite close to the wedding. Unfortunately, not everything is in your control and with things like that we just had to roll with the punches and keep a close relationship with our venue.

The bride, her son and her father sit in the car posing for a photo

"Ciaran was a 5th bridesmaid (arguably doing a better job fixing the dress!). He also added in some jokes free of charge!"

— B&G names

The Wedding Day...

Bride & father walking down the aisle
Bride & groom kissing each other at the end of the ceremony

How did the day go?

The day itself went perfectly, the sun was splitting the skies while we were getting ready and everything ran like clockwork. People had always said the day goes by so quick and they were so right. We really enjoyed every second and all our suppliers and venue were just brilliant and completely nailed it.

Melissa & Aidan standing in the aisle with beautiful stain glassed windows in background
Couple enjoying a stroll in the sun along the Ballygally beach

Were there any particular photos you loved (or hated!) getting taken?

We loved the photos in chapel with the light backdrop, anytime we have showed them off to family and friends they comment they are “like something out of vogue” (high praise indeed). The shots we remember having fun with were on the beach, it may sound silly but Ciaran cracked a joke and Aidan (the groom) had such a delayed reaction beginning to really hearty laugh which has created a core memory for us both.

Our Favourites...

Brides favourite image from the day - standing with her back facing towards the camera - light with flash from the front

My favourite photo is in the chapel where the light is illuminating all the details in my dress. I always loved the back of the dress with the lace and cathedral veil and it is brilliant having this photo that showcases it perfectly. (Sorry I know I should have said one with my husband – I’ve definitely lost wife points here!)

Grooms favourite photo from the wedding day - him, his new wife, his son and his dog

My favourite photo is with me, my wife, our son and our little dachshund Chester who made an appearance at the drinks reception!

Why did you book us as your photographers?

Before we were engaged, I, Melissa, followed Ciaran O’Neill Photography on Instagram because I always liked seeing the moody pictures on my feed. When it came to planning the wedding and looking I straight away showed Aidan and he was in agreement. We found the photography had the happy medium of beautifully lit up photos as of straight from a magazine and those natural photos capturing the moments in real time.

The couple sharing a funny moment on the beach, with the horizon on the background
The family share a lovely moment as the pet dog arrived as a surprise for them

Do you think we, as your photographers, helped you enjoy your day?

Ciaran was brilliant, a thing that was important for us is we wanted the perfect shots but didn’t want to be standing posing for hours on end. Ciaran is a master at his craft a few clicks and ready for the next picture and when it came to fixing my dress or veil Ciaran was a 5th bridesmaid (arguably done a better job fixing it!). He also added in some jokes free of charge!

Bride & groom standing under gazebo at Ballygally Castle

Were there any near disasters/funny incidents?

We did have our maid of honour get locked in the bathroom upstairs whilst getting the bridal party were getting ready at my mums house! Unfortunately for Emma, none of us even realised she was gone for half an hour and the music being played drowned out her banging the door for freedom. Thankfully, she eventually managed to unstick the stiff lock and didn’t have to take the emergency route out the window, whoops!

Melissa standing at a tree with the Groom looking on in the background

What advice would you give to other couples planning their wedding?

Our advice would be to drown out outside opinion, trust your suppliers recommendations (they are the professionals) and go with what you actually want not what you think people would like. It is a day about the couple and keep that at the front of your mind when making decisions. A small bit of advice on the vanity level would be if you are getting married in a heat wave definitely have a light second dress! 🤣

"A small bit of advice on the vanity level would be if you are getting married in a heat wave definitely have a light second dress!"

- B&G name