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Philomena Begley: Meghan Markle's right to give wedding - what I'd have said at mine

 'I know it's not traditional for the bride to make a speech, but...'

Meghan Markle is planning to give a speech at her wedding to Prince Harry on May 19 at St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. Such a break with tradition wouldn't have happened when our writer Lindy McDowell wed in 1984 and country singer Philomena Begley tied the knot in 1974. But if they had stood up to say a few words, what would they have said? Read on ...

Lindy MDowell: ‘I had a busy morning, first it was up to the Royal for a baby scan’

I didn't make a speech at my own wedding to Jim on January 23, 1984. Back then I didn't have the confidence of a Meghan Markle. The big crowd of guests in attendance would have seemed too intimidating. We'd invited over 200 people.

And yes, I know what you're thinking right away here. Her maiden name was Onassis.

Actually the absolute opposite. We hadn't a penny. But it was a case of wait a couple of years and we'd still be skint so why not just go for it.

We got married in Belfast City Hall, held the reception in the old Annadale Rugby Club premises and with the help of friends and a lovely lady called Jessie who was a stalwart of the club, we self-catered.

Had I made a speech in the day it might have gone something like this ...

Ladies and gentlemen, family and friends, I want to thank you all for making the effort to get here today.

When my friend Maggie phoned me this morning and told me that the snow was already two feet deep up here in the Castlereagh hills and that we might as well call the whole thing off, I'll admit it was a bit of a gunk.

But you all got here. Well done especially to Nikki, who when she saw the snow really was that bad, took off her new suede boots and walked down the club driveway in her bare feet. The boots would have been ruined.

Like most brides I've had a busy morning. Up to the Royal Maternity first of all, for the baby scan, then downtown to buy a wedding ring. It cost only £19. Down the years I will treasure it more than rubies.

On our way into the City Hall for the registry office wedding (before a limited number of family and friends) I slipped in the snow and almost fell. My engagement ring flew off and there was a bit of a scramble to find it.

Luckily our friend Mickey Murdoch, who was our witness at this morning's ceremony, spotted it on the bonnet of a car that was being driven out of the City Hall car park. A close call. But I've taken it as a good omen.

I would like to thank all my friends who've made such an effort to help organise today's reception. Dympna did the table decor. We got the white paper tablecloths from the cash and carry where we also bought the food.

I thought with the candles in wine bottles it all looked very fashionably Eighties. My da though, was a bit taken aback when he saw it.

"Jaysus, Dympna," he said when he came in. "What a time to have a power cut!"

I would like to apologise to my poor da for not accepting the money he offered me to pay for a 'proper' reception. But we wanted to do it our way. To us it's about having those we love around us. So, sorry too, mother, that I didn't go for the big white wedding dress. The grey suit from Wallis is much more me. Besides I can pay it off on the store card.

The cake you baked us is spectacular. About the only traditionally weddingy aspect to this wedding. I will never forget the cake. Or the love that baked it.

Big thanks to all the girls, Luise, Lorrae, Maggie, Fiona and Dympna, Mickey, Denis and Chris who came with us yesterday to the Cash and Carry to buy the food on our meagre budget.

Yes, in retrospect maybe we should have put more thought into the planning.

Although we don't have menu cards here today you will have seen that the 'buffet' consists of hot soup, cold chicken, garlic bread and vats of coleslaw. We misjudged the chicken badly. Who knew how little chicken meat actually came off one chicken?

So apologies to those of you who only got the soup, the bread and the coleslaw.

Mickey insisted yesterday we buy a couple of tins of mussels in oil. If you're interested those are still available ...

I know it's very chilly. I think the heating's gone down. But the lovely Desi McHenry, who's here with a couple of his friends from Blackthorn, will give us a tune or two and that will warm everyone up as we go into the wee hours.

Looking around me now I have nothing of great consequence to say. But much to see. Because before me are the friends and family who truly are, and will remain, the most important in our lives.

And sadly in some cases, in our memory.

A generation will pass and we will lose family and friends much too young. So this is what is most special about this day. Having the people we love around us.

That is what truly matters whether you are a princess or a wedding planning pauper.

When in future I think of our wedding this January day, I will always remember the cold. Our marriage will be the warmth.

Every wedding day, gilded or economically stretched is about hope.

Hope and heady optimism.

And love.

So thank you for being with us on this most momentous day in our lives.

And if any of you could make it back tomorrow, we'd appreciate a hand cleaning up the club...

Philomena Begley: 'We had a quick lunch after, then headed off for a gig that night'

My husband Tom and I marked our 44th wedding anniversary just last week. We were together from the very start of my musical career, when I joined The Old Cross Ceili Band, which later became The Country Flavour, and we then we formed The Ramblin' Men, which means we have been a couple for more than 55 years now in total.

The band were like a family as we toured the length and breadth of Ireland and Tom, who played mandolin in the early days, definitely caught my eye and we found ourselves growing closer and closer as the years passed by. We were never very public about our romance but we had a deep connection from the get-go.

One afternoon in 1969 we both went to Monaghan and got engaged having just managed to buy a ring moments before the shop closed. The ring had a wee diamond with shoulders and it cost 45 Irish pounds, which back then were known as 'punts.'

We were married in a very intimate ceremony, also in Monaghan, and had only seven guests there to celebrate with us, so there weren't too many speeches on the day - after all, what would you say to such a small audience? Plus, I'd had a really bad flu in the run-up to the wedding, so a speech was the last thing on my mind. I wore a white dress which I bought in Dungannon, along with red and white polka dot shoes and a hat that was flung in the back of the car as soon as I left the house.

I think it's nice that Meghan Markle will make a speech on her wedding day to Prince Harry. She seems like a very articulate and intelligent young lady and I'm sure she will have plenty to say on the most important day of her life. It's very different times now and I think it's just right that both women and men get to make a speech if they want to. I didn't have as long to plan our wedding as Meghan and Harry do, and that suited me as I really didn't want any fuss. It was a very swift and smooth ceremony and we had a quick lunch afterwards in the Oriel Hotel before heading off to Portumna in Co Galway to play a gig that night.

I suppose if I were to make a speech now or if I was to give any advice to young couples starting out, it would be to support each other in every way possible. Tom has always been very supportive of my music career and I respect that his home and farming life is what he enjoys to do best, so mutual understanding is something I would definitely recommend. Music is something that I could never walk away from and he fully gets that it's not going to ever change, while I admire his love for his farming and outdoor work that keeps him busy every day. We do what most couples at our time of life do, in that we each potter about and do things that we enjoy both together and as individuals. It's lovely to get time out too and every year we take a holiday to Spain where we love to eat, relax and I always end up singing a song or two in the local pub there that we both enjoy going to.

We have three children and five grandchildren who keep us very busy and even though I still spend some time out performing across Ireland, the UK and further afield we all talk a lot to each other, which again helps everything to run smoothly. It's definitely a good idea to communicate lots and it's always nice to have someone to come home to and chat about your day. Tom and I are exceptionally close as friends and we have a very welcoming home which we worked hard for and it's nice that we both get to appreciate it so much. With so many years clocked up we must be doing something right.

I have great admiration for both Harry and William and I believe they are a credit to their late mother, who I'm sure will be looking out for Harry as he prepares for his big day. It will no doubt be an emotional occasion under the circumstances, but a happy one too, of course.

I am certainly enjoying keeping an eye on all the preparations plus I wish them many years of happiness together.

Belfast Telegraph


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