A Co Antrim couple who were forced to cancel their glamorous Las Vegas wedding due to Covid-19 have described their alternative Portstewart beach wedding as 'absolutely perfect'.
Cathy and Stephen Gamble, who live in Ballymena, were planning to tie the knot at the five-star Bellagio Hotel in Vegas on April 9. But just two weeks before their big day, they were contacted by their travel firm and told their flights had been cancelled and that the wedding was off.
Initially the couple, who have four young sons between them, were going to rearrange for their nuptials to take place in Vegas next year. Then a Facebook post from popular Portstewart venue Harry's Shack, offering free of charge, intimate, outdoor weddings throughout June, caught Cathy's eye and the pair hastily organised a beach wedding, which took place on June 30.
Cathy (36), a front-line occupational therapist, said their small wedding, which was attended by 10 people, including the four boys, Riley (9), Harry and Max (7) and baby Charlie, turned out better than she could ever have imagined.
And she said that she and Stephen, a journalist, were so grateful to everyone who had helped them pull the wedding together in a short space of time.
"Stephen and I have both been married before so we decided to just slope off and get married at the Bellagio in Vegas; just the two of us," she says.
"It's a beautiful, five-star hotel with fountains that are programmed to go off when you say 'I do' and we were both so excited about it.
"About a fortnight before our wedding we were told all flights had been cancelled. We were a bit disappointed but I'm an occupational therapist working in an acute hospital so I could see what the nurses and doctors were going through. To worry about a wedding over a pandemic would've been so selfish. We talked about things; should we go for a small, local wedding this year or try for the Bellagio next year? Then I saw the post from Harry's Shack and that was it."
Harry's Shack is licensed to hold marriage ceremonies on its decking and with lockdown restrictions slightly eased around weddings, the beach venue seemed like the ideal solution. The pair applied to the registrar in Coleraine for a licence and were told it would take 28 days to arrive. But as the couple had already been through the legal process for a Vegas wedding, they were granted special permission to go ahead with the ceremony. They set the date for June 30 and immediately set about arranging their big day.
"My wedding dress was very fitted and sequinned but I'd bought it for a wedding at the Bellagio and wasn't sure it would look right for the beach," Cathy says.
"Then I thought 'why not? It's my wedding, so I'll wear it'. Stephen and his two friends ordered tuxedos from Freddie Hatchet's on the Albertbridge Road and I chose two of my work colleagues as my bridesmaids. It meant I could see them in work and on our lunch break, we were able to meet up and talk about plans.
"The girls were brilliant. They did my make-up and hair and organised flowers. On the day itself, the man from Harry's Shack was amazing. We brought champagne and a cake onto the decking and he provided everyone with tea and coffee, without taking a penny from us. Because of the restrictions, we could only have 10 people there but our family members were on a different decking from us and were able to observe.
"We had an absolutely perfect day.
"It may not have been the Bellagio but it's funny how things turn out. This way we were able to have the children and our friends there and that made it really special."