| 2.4°C Belfast

Meet the gay Northern Ireland couples ready for wedded bliss

Tuesday sees the first same-sex marriage take place in Northern Ireland when Belfast native Robyn Peoples ties the knot with Sharni Edwards, from Brighton, in Carrickfergus. Four couples tell Leona O'Neill how they're also looking forward to their weddings

Close

Elaine McCrory and Nikki Leonard who has just got engaged looking at wedding brochures. Photo by Peter Morrison

Elaine McCrory and Nikki Leonard who has just got engaged looking at wedding brochures. Photo by Peter Morrison

Andrew (left) and Stephen

Andrew (left) and Stephen

Loved up: Susie Blue and her fiancée Audrey

Loved up: Susie Blue and her fiancée Audrey

Samuel Shannon-Anderson civil ceremony pics - he is the one with no beard. And also one of he and Adrian when he is Alexis Cox

Samuel Shannon-Anderson civil ceremony pics - he is the one with no beard. And also one of he and Adrian when he is Alexis Cox

Adrian when he is Alexis Cox

Adrian when he is Alexis Cox

Samuel Shannon-Anderson civil ceremony pics - he is the one with no beard. And also one of he and Adrian when he is Alexis Cox

Samuel Shannon-Anderson civil ceremony pics - he is the one with no beard. And also one of he and Adrian when he is Alexis Cox

Elaine McCrory's engagement to Nikki

Elaine McCrory's engagement to Nikki

Elaine McCrory's (left) Las Vegas engagement to Nikki here. Elaine is the one with the brown curly hair.

Elaine McCrory's (left) Las Vegas engagement to Nikki here. Elaine is the one with the brown curly hair.

Elaine's Las Vegas engagement to Nikki

Elaine's Las Vegas engagement to Nikki

Samuel Shannon-Anderson civil ceremony pics - he is the one with no beard. And also one of he and Adrian when he is Alexis Cox

Samuel Shannon-Anderson civil ceremony pics - he is the one with no beard. And also one of he and Adrian when he is Alexis Cox

Elaine McCrory and Nikki Leonard who has just got engaged looking at wedding brochures. Photo by Peter Morrison

Belfast couple Andrew Hackett (26), from the Falls Road and Stephen Galway (31), who was born on the Shankill Road, are set to get married this October. Andrew, a financial crime analyst, says he feels emotional about the prospect of at last being able to refer to his partner, also a financial analyst, as his husband.

Close

Andrew (left) and Stephen

Andrew (left) and Stephen

Andrew (left) and Stephen

We actually met on Tinder," he says. "Our first date was lovely. We just made each other feel at ease. It wasn't an effort with each other. We got on so well, we had similar interests and it was just so easy to talk to each other. We will be together five years this May.

"I proposed when we were in Paris. It was just the two of us in our hotel room. Stephen is not a fan of big showy gestures, so it was just intimate. I got down on one knee and asked him to spend the rest of his life with me. Luckily he said yes or it would have been very awkward."

Andrew says that the couple had long hoped that same-sex marriage laws would be passed.

"It's about time these new laws came into effect," he says. "The way I look at it is that everyone has the right to love whoever they want. Why does it matter if it's a man and woman, two women or two men? How does my life impact other people's lives? I'm just happy enough loving my partner, going around doing my day to day things.

"We were always hoping and praying that same-sex marriage would be made legal and come through. I'm happy now that Northern Ireland is eventually catching up with the rest of the world about same-sex marriage.

"Because we were thinking of getting married up here in Northern Ireland, we had initially planned to hold a ceremony up in the north and go down south and get married in Dublin. But obviously now with the legislation change we don't have to do all that. We can have everyone that we want at the wedding."

Andrew and Stephen are now busy with final preparations for the big day, which will take place later this year.

"We are getting married in the middle of October in the Hedges Hotel in Ballymoney," he says. "There are around 150 people going. If Stephen could have his way he would have a Harry Potter-themed wedding. And, yes, there are Harry Potter aspects to it.

"Our cake is Harry Potter-themed and we will have bits and pieces dotted throughout the wedding. I'm into comic books so our flowers on our lapels are going to be made from comic book strips. We are combining both our interests.

"It feels amazing that I can marry the man I love after all this time and that I can say 'this is my husband' without getting looks or having to say 'this is my friend'. I can call him my husband, show people that I love him and that I am proud of this. I am just glad that Northern Ireland has caught up with the rest of the world.

"Our wedding will be very emotional because of all that."

Musician Susan Donaghy - better known as Susie Blue - lives in Belfast with her fiancee Audrey Gillespie (21), an artist and photographer. The 26-year-old, who has written many songs about the issue and long campaigned for marriage equality, says she can't wait to marry the love of her life.

Close

Loved up: Susie Blue and her fiancée Audrey

Loved up: Susie Blue and her fiancée Audrey

Loved up: Susie Blue and her fiancée Audrey

The first time we met was in a bar," she says. "We didn't talk until two or three years later. And then she starred in a video for one of my songs, Guess The End. The first time we kissed was on camera. We have that moment in time captured on film. We have been together now for four-and-a-half years.

"I asked her to marry me shortly after we met. But we didn't actually get properly engaged, because it wasn't legal, until midnight on the day the law was passed.

"I gathered together all our friends in our west Belfast home for a Countdown to Equal Marriage Party and when it hit midnight I proposed. I got down on one knee. She jokingly took the ring, said no and laughed.

"We are getting married in spring 2022 in the Merchant Hotel in Belfast on the rooftop. It will be quite a small ceremony. We are going to have an open stage for all our musician friends who want to perform a song for a couple of hours we well as a DJ.

"Audrey has her dress picked out that she wants made and I'm going to get a suit made. We can't wait."

Susie says that she has been long campaigning for equal rights and that she had expressed her frustration over lack of movement through her music.

"I have been campaigning along with a lot of other people on the issue of marriage equality," she says. "I have written songs about it and I performed at one of the last marriage equality marches in Belfast. So when the law was passed it was like the five or six years of fighting for it was worth it and it actually worked.

"I wrote a song called People Like Us about people not liking people like us. The chorus is 'They don't like us, they don't like people like us. They think it's a choice and it's all our fault'. It's just about people not really understanding that people are gay, part of the LGBT community and that is the way that they were born.

"It does feel like a victory in some ways. It feels like I can finally get married without losing any of my rights. There is still a lot of work to be done, but this is a small victory."

Susie says that her wedding day will be a poignant occasion because her mother, who died last year, wont be there to celebrate her special day.

"Although I will at last be able to marry the woman I love, it does feel bittersweet," she says. "My mummy passed away in March of last year, so she didn't make it to see the law get passed. She had liver failure, she was just 60 years old. She wasn't able to see me get married. So though I'm really happy that the law is through, but I just wish it had been sooner.

"But we will make sure that mum is part of the day. There will be an empty chair at the table for her. Our daddies will walk us up the aisle. It will be a beautiful day."

Samuel Shannon-Anderson (34), who performs across Northern Ireland as drag queen Alexis Cox, had a civil partnership with his chef husband Adrian Shannon-Anderson (33) in June 2018. They live in Cookstown and, after the new laws were introduced are planning an ‘upgrade’ as soon as further laws are passed.

Close

Samuel Shannon-Anderson civil ceremony pics - he is the one with no beard. And also one of he and Adrian when he is Alexis Cox

Samuel Shannon-Anderson civil ceremony pics - he is the one with no beard. And also one of he and Adrian when he is Alexis Cox

Samuel Shannon-Anderson civil ceremony pics - he is the one with no beard. And also one of he and Adrian when he is Alexis Cox

Adrian and I met around 10 years ago in the Royal Hotel in Cookstown,” he says. “That was in my straight days. Adrian was always flirting with me. Where I come from being gay was not really accepted. I think I was in denial all my life.

“But then we met again three years later and it all sparked off from there. We are together now eight years.

“We had sat down and talked about tying the knot and settling down.

“We both had agreed on it and picked our rings.

“We went down to the Titanic Centre along with my 11-year-old son and we got down on one knee. Adrian asked me, I asked him and then that was it.

Close

Adrian when he is Alexis Cox

Adrian when he is Alexis Cox

Adrian when he is Alexis Cox

“We had our civil partnership celebration on June 18, 2018 in the City Hall, had our pictures taken in Lady Dixon Park and came back to the Royal Hotel to have our reception there.”

Samuel says that he and Adrian, who plan to ‘upgrade’ from their civil partnership to marriage, are frustrated that more laws are preventing them from having their union properly recognised in Northern Ireland.

“It’s quite frustrating,” he says. “I was so excited when I heard the law was going ahead, because I thought we could get an upgrade from a civil partnership to marriage. But now we have to wait.

“We are now a civil partnership until we upgrade. We thought that once the law was passed that it was legal for anyone to get married, anyone in a civil partnership could ahead and upgrade. But the government still have to pass another law and it seems that they are prolonging that. So we’re just waiting for a date.

Close

Samuel Shannon-Anderson civil ceremony pics - he is the one with no beard. And also one of he and Adrian when he is Alexis Cox

Samuel Shannon-Anderson civil ceremony pics - he is the one with no beard. And also one of he and Adrian when he is Alexis Cox

Samuel Shannon-Anderson civil ceremony pics - he is the one with no beard. And also one of he and Adrian when he is Alexis Cox

“People said to us that we should wait until the law is passed. But we felt why should we wait? Just because the country says no, we were ready then.

“The amount of money we spent the first time getting hitched was astronomical, so this time it’s going to be just a little upgrade and then out for dinner with our parents and then a little party.

“Anyone should be allowed to marry whoever they want. These laws are the first massive step for Northern Ireland. We are way behind everyone else when it comes to these things.”

Elaine McCrory (40), a team leader in an accountancy firm, got engaged to her fiancee Nikki Leonard (30), a post office manager, in Las Vegas last month. She says that being able to get married will be ‘bittersweet’ for her after losing her mother in October last year.

Close

Elaine McCrory's (left) Las Vegas engagement to Nikki here. Elaine is the one with the brown curly hair.

Elaine McCrory's (left) Las Vegas engagement to Nikki here. Elaine is the one with the brown curly hair.

Elaine McCrory's (left) Las Vegas engagement to Nikki here. Elaine is the one with the brown curly hair.

Nikki and I met through a mutual friend who introduced us,” she says. “Our first date was in Lavery’s in Belfast city centre. We met for drinks, then went into town, partied and danced. We just clicked straight away. We have been together for two and a half years.

“Our proposal was actually a double one. I had no idea she was going to propose — and she had no idea that I was going to do it. I proposed to her on January 14. We were in Las Vegas with my family and I took her on a helicopter ride at the Grand Canyon. We had a picnic at the bottom of it and I got down on one knee.

“Then she proposed to me the next day on the rooftop of the most amazing restaurant overlooking Las Vegas.

“The only person who knew that we were both going to propose was my late mum Mary. Nikki had told her and I had told her. And my mum took that secret to the grave. She died in October from COPD. Our wedding day will be bittersweet because she’s not here. But I definitely felt like she was there on our engagement day. And it’s a comfort that she went knowing that the two of us had the same idea in mind. She knew that I’d be happy and that I’d met the person that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.”

Close

Elaine McCrory's engagement to Nikki

Elaine McCrory's engagement to Nikki

Elaine McCrory's engagement to Nikki

Elaine says that the new same-sex marriage laws mean that they can plan on getting married at home surrounded by their friends and family.

“Personally I think it’s brilliant,” she says. “I had always said that we wouldn’t get married because for me I didn’t think that there should be a distinction between if you were a same-sex couple or not with regards being able to get married. For me, marriage is really, really important. Had I considered it with Nikki before legislation, we would have had to go away and do it.

“And now the laws have changed and we can actually get married here and that is just so lovely, because all of our family is here.”

“We are in the process of planning it all now. We are looking around venues and we are taking all our families with us to look at places. That is a very special family time and had we had to get married outside of Northern Ireland, we wouldn’t have been able to do that.

“We are thinking of May 13 either next year or the year after. Thirteen is a very unlucky number, but we feel very lucky, so why not?

Close

Elaine's Las Vegas engagement to Nikki

Elaine's Las Vegas engagement to Nikki

Elaine's Las Vegas engagement to Nikki

“It’s amazing to be able to marry the woman I love at home. “The new laws make life feel like it should, we now have the same rights as everyone else, and that is amazing.

“Love is love at the end of the day, whether you are a same-sex couple or not.”

Please log in or register with belfasttelegraph.co.uk for free access to this article.

Already have an account?

Belfast Telegraph