Northern Ireland weddings inspired by a galaxy far, far away
As Valentine’s Day draws closer, some celebrations will be extraordinary. Leona O’Neill talks to two recently married couples whose nuptials were based on their love of all things fantasy.
'We walked down aisle under a procession of lightsabers and wands'
Simon (31) and Heather Alexander (28), who live in Lisburn, had a wedding inspired by Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Star Wars.
Heather Alexander is no stranger to far-off galaxies, working as she does at the Armagh Planetarium.
Ahead of her 2017 marriage to Simon, who works as a job coach, she knew she had to bring a little space and stars down to earth for the day.
"We got married on October 7, and the reason we chose that date was because it was our first date and Simon proposed to me on that date also," she says.
"It seemed to be the only date that he'd remember, so we got married then too.
"We got married in the Westville hotel in Enniskillen. From the outset, we were of a mind that we're not traditional people.
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"We didn't have a church ceremony and we had no religion, which was odd for some members of the family.
"We asked ourselves, 'What are we? And the answer was, 'We are geeks'. So, we went for a geek-themed wedding.
"We wanted something that showed 'us' and what our relationship is like.
"Other than your typical wedding things, like choosing colours and suits and whatever, we started to think about what we could do to make ours special.
"We went to our cake maker and asked her if she would make us Minas Tirith from Lord of the Rings, and she said, 'Why not?'
"She made us a model cake, which we still have - it sits in our living room.
"One of our favourite things is Star Wars. I work in the Armagh Planetarium, and we would get Star Wars the Emerald Garrison (a costume club) visiting us for events, so I pulled a few strings and got them to come to our wedding.
"We met with our photographer, whose company is called We Could Be Heroes, and I asked him if he could put a Death Star in our wedding pictures. When he said it was no problem, I knew he was the right one."
On the big day itself, Heather and Simon made sure their celebration was out of this world.
"As we walked down the aisle after we got married, we walked under a procession of lightsabers and Harry Potter wands held up by guests," Heather says.
Our wedding tables were all named after Harry Potter, Marvel, DC Comics and Lord of the Rings.
We had model TIE Fighters from Star Wars flying around and I had a Batman mask that I wore on my hen do. The stormtroopers taught the kids at the wedding their moves.
"We had movie theme music, like Jurassic Park and Star Wars, playing before the ceremony, and we named cocktails after our favourite things, like the Dark Mark and Stormy from Harry Potter and the One Cocktail to Rule Them All after the Lord of the Rings quote.
"When Simon and I were walking into the reception, instead of the manager announcing that it was the new Mr and Mrs Alexander, we had Jedi knights do it and lead us in.
"In my husband's speech he shared a quote from the Hobbit, saying that there was no one he would rather share an adventure with than me."
It was certainly a day no one in attendance would forget in a hurry, and the couple ended their celebration with a geek honeymoon.
"It certainly was not your stereotypical wedding," Heather says. "We didn't want that - it wasn't us. Our guests embraced it. One thing that a few people said to me was it was 'just us'.
"We didn't ask for wedding gifts. We asked people to give us money, the reason being that we went to New Zealand for our geek-themed honeymoon.
"We went to where the Lord of the Rings was filmed at Hobbiton, which was brilliant.
"Any future celebrations will be just as elaborate as our wedding. Our house is already like a geek mansion with movie posters everywhere."
She adds:"Any children we have will be indoctrinated into Harry Potter, and if we choose to have the kids Christened, the celebration will be out there and not conventional because that's how we are. We don't go with the flow."
'In my vows I said I took David as my empire's only hope'
David (33) and Lauren Bland (29), who had a fantasy film and book-themed wedding in October, live in Crossgar
Everyone's wedding day is special, but only a few people can vow to love their other half from earth to a galaxy far, far away and have a wedding worthy of a movie.
Book-mad Lauren, from Londonderry, married Star Wars-crazy David, from Saintfield, last October.
The couple, who now live in Crossgar, met online eight years ago and knew they wanted to tie the knot in a non-conventional way.
"Our wedding was like a mish-mash of everything we love," Lauren says.
"I have an English degree and I love reading anything fantasy-themed or fairy tales. David is into Star Wars, Ghostbusters and Marvel heroes, so we decided we wanted the wedding to be about us and what we liked.
"We are members of the 501st Legion, a Star Wars costume and charity group. We dress up as Star Wars characters for charity events.
"With all that, we wanted to make the day about us and do what we liked."
Lauren, a human resources manager at La Dolce Vita in Newry, and David, who works for electrical retailer Currys, chose the Galgorm Resort and Spa for the winter wedding.
The couple and their friends and families worked on the ceremony's unique quirks.
"Our friend's mum made us the most beautiful cake in the shape of books," Lauren says.
"We had Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes and fairy tales.
"The best man dressed as a stormtrooper during the reception and we used lightsabers to decorate the room.
"We had Ferrero Rocher as favours with golden snitch wings on them from the Harry Potter films. I got pencils and shaped and painted them to look like wands in the centrepieces, and we got huge Alice in Wonderland cards and put them everywhere too.
"We had a stag lamp which was supposed to be the patronus from Harry Potter, and Star Wars ships around the tables also.
"Everyone loved it. They thought it was completely out of the ordinary to have a Stormtrooper turn up. I don't think anyone was expecting it. They had such a ball and took a lot of the bits and pieces home. It was so relaxed.
"We wrote our own vows. They were all about Star Wars. In David's he said to me I was the 'droid that he was looking for'. He ended with, 'May the force be strong with us all the days of our lives, always and for ever'.
"I vowed to take him as 'my lawfully wedded husband, my empire's only hope' and promised to follow him 'to all the worlds, through all of time and space, always and for ever'.
"The vows were pretty special. It was the best day ever. It was everything I dreamed of and more. I would go back and relive it all over again tomorrow.
"We postponed our honeymoon but are jetting off to Florida in June, where we will visit Harry Potter World at Universal for both our honeymoon and my 30th birthday celebrations."