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Love is in the air ... how Finbar fell for Fiona

Skydiving into your wedding in certainly a novel way to tie the knot. Kerry McKittrick reports on how some couples made their big day extra special

Last year almost 8,000 weddings took place in Northern Ireland, not including almost 100 civil partnerships. But the days of the traditional church wedding, while not necessarily on the way out, are certainly on the wane.

Not only can couples now get married almost anywhere they want, they can also have any kind of wedding they want. People here can now get married anywhere from the Crawfordsburn Inn to Mussenden Temple or the Holiday Inn. Failing that, you can jet off to Vegas and have your nuptials in the Little White Wedding Chapel. Just you, your betrothed and Elvis.

It's not unusual to have a couple of extra guests at your wedding either. Magicians, fire-dancers, stand-up comedians, opera singers, drag queens and belly-dancers. Party favours are now miniature bottles of whiskey instead of sugared almonds and brides can get married in any colour they please.

When Katie Price and Peter Andre tied the knot in 2005 the bride arrived in style in a fairytale pink carriage.

She wore pink and he wore white and the couple spent their reception on thrones while their 350 guests dined on foie gras and lobster.

Their cake was decorated with Swarovski crystals and the couple danced their first dance to A Whole New World from Disney's Aladdin, a song they recorded themselves.

At the Beckhams’ wedding in 1999 in a castle outside Dublin, the bride wore a crown worth £10,000.

Although the ceremony was witnessed by only 29 close friends and family, the pair celebrated with a black and white ball for their 500 nearest and dearest. Elton John flew in especially to provide entertainment.

Spending £2.5m would be more than a stretch for most couples but with the average wedding in the UK costing £11,000, people are known to push the boat out a bit. On the other hand they could have the intimate low-key wedding of their dreams.

We talked to three couples about how they made their big day really special.

Sky diving groom

Finbar McClements (31) is an electrician who lives in Portglenone with his wife Fiona. He says:

I skydive as a hobby. I’ve been doing it for a few years now, usually out of the Wild Geese Skydiving Centre in Garvagh.

Someone suggested I skydive to the church on my wedding day. It was originally said as a joke but the more I though about it the better an idea it seemed.

We got married on May 30, 2008. On the morning of the wedding I drove down to Garvagh and jumped on a plane. We were getting married at St Mary’s Church in Portglenone and it has a couple of fields right beside it, so it was safe for me to land. It was my 154th jump, I’ve done over 200 now.

I had my trousers, shirt and tie under my jumpsuit and Fiona was able to see me as I floated down. Her family home is in Portglenone and she was having her photo taken in the garden with the horse and carriage. I think Fiona was most impressed that I didn’t make it to the altar with a limp.

The rest of the wedding was quite traditional. We had a horse drawn carriage and the reception was at the Leighinmohr hotel in Ballymena. We had a sit down meal and a band and DJ in the evening. We were both very pleased with the whole day because we had great fun. I think the whole thing — including the skydive — cost us around £11,000.

A Mexican beach

Michelle Jamison (26) is a travel consultant and lives in Newtownabbey with her husband Victor McBeth. She says:

Me and a friend went to Mexico in 2008 as part of a holiday — that's when I met Victor. I went out again five months later for two weeks and just didn't come home.

I took a career break from my job with American Holidays and worked for a travel company for a year. It was a fantastic experience because the lifestyle is totally different, much more relaxed.

Victor and I got married in March this year on the beach in Mexico. We wanted to get married because I'm pregnant and we were moving back here for the baby to be born.

We'll probably have another wedding over here after the baby is born but I loved what we did in Mexico.

We got married on a beach that was a special place for us, and then had a simple dinner in a hotel with friends and my mum. It was the first wedding the hotel had catered but it wasn't a big do — we were both barefoot!

The whole thing took about two weeks to organise and only cost around £2,000. I always thought I wanted a big bash but the surroundings in Mexico were amazing. It was like getting married in paradise.

The 50k big bash

Ciara Campbell (35) is an orthodontist, originally from Portadown. She is married to Peter Ward and lives in Cork. She says:

Peter and I met in London not long after I qualified. He took me to dinner and dancing at the Ritz and proposed with the ring under a silver platter in July 2007.

I wanted to get married in Northern Ireland because that’s where I’m from. Peter is English and because there were so many people travelling in for the wedding we really wanted to show this part of the world off.

While we were planning the wedding I was doing my PhD in Cork and Peter was still living in London so we used a wedding planner — David McConkey. David was so good that I’ve promised his services to my two sisters when they get married.

David was fantastic in every way. Not only did he have lots of ideas and suggestions but he also had the contacts. He knew which suppliers gave the best value for money and the best service. On the day itself we were so relaxed because we knew we didn’t have to worry about anything — David had it all under control.

We got married on New Year’s Eve 2009 in Loughgall Parish Church.

After the wedding we all went to Ballydougan Pottery. It’s an old mill and very picturesque, so we had our photos taken there and ate canapés and oysters. After that everyone piled on to buses and we went to the Culloden Hotel at Cultra — we felt that was a good journey because all of the guests got to see a good bit of Northern Ireland.

Once we arrived at the Culloden we had the proper sit down meal — there were 145 guests. Peter and I are real foodies so we had about five or six courses but I was almost too nervous to eat anything. There was a magician going round doing tricks for people and Michael John sang for us after dinner.

We put a lot of emphasis on detail. We had the room specially dressed and brought in new furniture and linens. The whole thing cost between £45-50,000. In the end, though, we wanted a really special day and that’s what we got. I’m quite shy so I worried about it but David was such a big help.

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