A gay Irish couple admitted their dream to marry turned into a nightmare after bureaucratic confusion resulted in their marriage having to be postponed at the steps of the registry office.
Dolores Murphy and Mabel Stoop-Murphy were set to become one of the first same-sex couples to wed under the Marriage Act 2015 in Cork.
However, the couple were informed by Cork Registry Office staff that, because the necessary 24 hours had not elapsed since they signed formal notification forms, the wedding could not proceed.
The shocked couple were informed of the problem in the registry office surrounded by their witnesses and friends.
A celebratory wedding lunch with friends had to be cancelled.
The couple insisted they were informed several weeks ago that they could sign the forms and marry on the same day.
"We just don't know - we don't know," Dolores said."I am heartbroken. We are absolutely devastated by this," she added, fighting back tears.
"This was supposed to be the best day of our lives.
"But once again the Government has let us down. I'm sorry - I can't say anything more."
The couple were visibly devastated as they left the registry office and travelled home in a taxi.
Friends said registry office staff could not have been more helpful or sympathetic but said they were bound by the 24 hour rule which had been stipulated by national registry officials.
Under regulations introduced in 2004, registers have a five day period from when wedding notifications are signed until the ceremony.
However, registers have the discretion to shorten that period to 24 hours.
It cannot be reduced further.
The couple are free to marry from tomorrow (Wednesday) but it is now unclear whether they will proceed given the distress over today's confusion.
Dolores and Mable were accompanied by their friends and witnesses, Paula Healy and Patricia Mullane, as well as their son, James (2), to the Cork Registry Office.
Dolores is from Pouladuff Road in Cork while Mabel hails from South Africa.
The couple live in Cork with their numerous pet dogs and cats."All we ever wanted was to be treated like every other Irish couple that loves each other," Dolores said.
Critically, the marriage ceremony will offer Dolores legal rights to the little boy, James (2), that she is raising with Mabel.
Earlier, she had spoken of her excitement at her wedding day."It still feels like a bit of a dream. I feel like pinching myself almost to check that it is real," she said.
Dolores was also excited that she was going to wear the wedding band wore by her late mother on her own wedding day.
It was an equally special day for Mabel.
"To be honest, I doubted that this day would ever arrive."
Dolores and Mabel entered a civil partnership and that was celebrated akin to a wedding with Dolores’ father, Con ‘Sylvie’ Murphy, proudly walking both women down the aisle.
Sadly, Sylvie died in 2013.
“My dad knew Mabel for more than 10 years and he adored her. We’re both so sad that he won’t be here to share this special day with us.”
Typical of so many same-sex couples in Ireland, Dolores and Mabel did everything possible to have their relationship formally recognised.
They first exchanged solemn vows in a special ceremony and then entered a civil partnership when that became possible in Ireland from April 2011.
The couple want to transfer their partnership into a full marriage.
“We both met when we were working in Merchant’s Quay Shopping Centre in Cork in 2002.
"Mabel was working upstairs, we met one day and the rest is history,” Dolores said.
Ralph Riegel, Independent