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Couple's dream day goes without a hitch after sudden closure of wedding venue

By Claire McNeilly

Published 24/10/2015

Neil and Leonie McCluskey enjoy their wedding reception
Neil and Leonie McCluskey enjoy their wedding reception
The newlyweds with Jonathan Topping, general manager of the Stormont Hotel

A beaming bride has spoken of her delight after her dream wedding - which almost didn't take place - went off without a hitch.

Leonie Kelly's plans were thrown in jeopardy following the sudden closure of the Portaferry Hotel on Monday.

The distraught 27-year-old had booked a reception for 120 people at the Co Down establishment but she was told that it could no longer go ahead.

Fortunately, with just 48 hours to spare, the Stormont Hotel stepped in to offer Leonie and her bricklayer fiance Neil McCluskey (33) an alternative venue.

"I am delighted with everything and we're both so happy about how it all worked out for us," she said.

"At the start of the week Neil and I were resigned to not having a reception at all so we really can't thank the Stormont Hotel enough for what they have done for us."

The couple, who have two sons, Kenzie (four) and Kaelem (two), tied the knot at noon at St Patrick's Church, Ballyphilip.

Their reception and subsequent celebrations took place at the plush east Belfast hotel yesterday evening. Leonie's mother Anne Marie told the Belfast Telegraph that everyone was having a fabulous time.

"It has been an absolutely great day so far," she said.

"I'm so proud of Leonie and we all really appreciate how the bosses at the Stormont Hotel helped us when we most needed it.

"Kenzie and Kaelem are having a brilliant day and that's great for a grandmother to see."

The bride looked radiant in a white off-the-shoulder full length dress, while the groom cut a dash in a grey three-piece suit.

Jonathan Topping, general manager of the Stormont Hotel, said he was glad they were able to help the Portaferry newlyweds celebrate their big day in style.

"Organising a wedding can be stressful at the best of times, so I can only imagine how upsetting it was for Leonie and Neil to find out their venue had closed only days before their wedding was due to take place," he said.

"We contacted Leonie to let her know that we would be only too happy to help her rearrange her wedding and I assured her that my team at the Stormont Hotel has years of experience organising weddings so we would be able to ensure her big day still went ahead as planned despite the challenge of an extremely short timeframe.

"I am delighted we were able to get everything arranged in 48-hours and gave Leonie and Neil a wedding they will remember forever."

The Portaferry Hotel shut its doors to customers on Monday after tenant William McAleese said he had to close because it was losing money.

Beannchor Group, its landlord, has, however, said it will reopen as soon as possible once a number of legal and accounting matters are addressed.

Portaferry Regeneration chairman, John Dumigan, said the hotel was a critical contributor to the local economy, attracting and catering for visitors and tourists in the area.

Alison Millar, deputy general secretary of the trade union Nipsa, said it was "regrettable" that almost 30 staff had lost their jobs with no notice as a result of the closure.

Belfast Telegraph

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