Lauren and Chris walking along beach with bouquet

Lauren and Chris met when they were 17 and 18, in a local bar on a students’ night. “Our first proper date was about a week later to the cinema, like most 17-year-old’s dates are!” says Lauren. “We’ve been together nearly 12 years now.”

Bride getting ready at home

A private beach proposal

Chris proposed in September 2019 on the beach in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. “He waited until the last night of the two-week holiday, which made our family at home very nervous,” says Lauren.

Bride with parents stood outside house before wedding

“He wanted to wait until there was no one on the beach, so he pretended that he was going to take a few photos. But he kept getting frustrated that there were people about! I’d always said I didn’t want a public engagement, so I think it was worrying him. When he finally asked I was so surprised, even though we’d been together so long. The whole thing just felt like such an amazing blur of emotions.”

Ballygally castle wedding venue

Dream dress shopping

Lauren found her dress at WED2B’s Belfast store. “The staff couldn’t have been better,” says Lauren. “ I tried on a few different styles but knew I wanted something really figure hugging, with a long train and lots of lace. Jessie was the dress I chose, and it was perfect. I also picked a belt and a cathedral-length veil. I literally said, ‘Give me your longest veil’, as I knew I wanted to make an entrance!” (For similar styles try Jamilla, India or Theoni)

Ballygally castle wedding venue ceremony room

Romantic castle weddings

“We only viewed one venue, which was Ballygally Castle, just outside of Larne in Northern Ireland,” says Lauren. “It’s right on the coast road, along the beach, which was perfect for us and for the photographs. We love the north coast, so the hotel was a no brainer. It was also great to have the ceremony and reception all in one place, as the winter weather in Northern Ireland can be unpredictable!” 

Bride being given away by father

The couple married on New Year's Eve 2021. "We both love Christmas, so getting married over the holidays was amazing,” says Lauren. “All of the Christmas decorations and the open fire in the hotel just made it feel so festive. The events staff were great and made sure everything ran smoothly on the day. We were so lucky that none of the Covid restrictions in Northern Ireland at the time applied to weddings, so we had no cap on numbers and were allowed to dance!”

Bride and Groom at the wedding ceremony saying vows

The big day

"The whole wedding day was surprisingly calm and stress free,” says Lauren. “I panicked a lot in the run-up, over minor details, but I also had a looming fear the wedding might not go ahead as planned due to Covid. We found out about 10 days before the wedding that it could happen, which was a huge relief.”

Bride and Groom holding hands at the wedding ceremony

“We got married at 1pm, so it was an early start to get all the bridal party ready,” says Lauren. “I loved the buzz of everyone in the house getting ready together. We were also lucky with the weather. It was an unseasonably mild day, which really helped with getting relaxed photos outside.”

Bride and Groom signing register at ceremony

“For the ceremony music I chose some of our favourite songs,” says Lauren. “I walked up the aisle with my dad to ‘Dreams’ by The Cranberries and back down the aisle to ‘Friday I’m In Love’ by The Cure.” 

Bride and groom stood with bridesmaids and groomsmen

After the ceremony there was a singer and a drinks reception with mulled wine. “It was so laid back,” says Lauren. “Seeing everyone laughing and hugging was just such a lovely feeling after being apart for so long.”

Bride with flowergirl, Bride and Groom stood together with bouquet

Greenery and winter florals

“We went with a lot of winter florals and greenery for our theme,” says Lauren. “I love green, so my bridesmaids wore beautiful dark green dresses and our invites had eucalyptus detailing on them."

Bride and Groom stood on bridge with bouquet facing each other

"For the decor we were lucky that the hotel had their stunning Christmas decorations up, so we didn’t have to do much to make the place our own. We had chair covers, floral decorations and wreaths as centrepieces.” 

Flower display on top wedding table

The couple had two wedding cakes, a rustic three-tier classic cake and a cake made from cheese, which was a huge hit. “Our favours were scratch cards, but only two out of our 80 guests won!” says Lauren.

Two wedding cakes decorated with red and pink roses

“The most memorable moment was just seeing all of our different friends and family celebrating together in one room. It was such a heartwarming feeling. To be able to have that after two years of uncertainty and being apart was priceless. For our evening reception we had a DJ who also did the countdown at midnight, which was a great way to ring in the New Year.”

Bride and Groom performing their first dance

My top tips…

“Don’t spend too much money on things people won’t remember,” says Lauren. “Also, remember that what you want is just down to you and your partner. Don’t stress about the small things on the day, as you won’t notice, and just make sure you take time to take it all in. Have some time alone if you can, and ultimately try and stay calm if you’re feeling nervous. I got very nervous during the vows and thought I said my husband’s name wrong. So, just try and breathe!”

Bride and groom holding hands with backs to the camera

Lauren’s Dream Team

Photographer: Treasure and Heart Photography 

Videographer: One Noise Media

Castle weddings venue: Ballygally Castle 

Bridal shops Belfast: WED2B

Florist: Flowery Potters 

Cake: Findies Cakes 

Stationary: Kaizen Weddings 

DJ: Darryn McGarry 

Singer: Oonagh Clarke 

Groom’s suit: Red Menswear 

Groomsmen’s suits: Gowdy’s Belfast

Makeup artist: Makeup by Natalie McNab

Hair: Ciara at The Beauty Lounge, Antrim

If you would like your big day to be one of our real castle weddings please click here to share your story and photos with us and we’ll be in touch. Or click here for more details about WED2B’s bridal shops Belfast.