Long distance romance turns to marriage

Posted on: 6th February, 2017

Category: Features

Contributor: Mary O'Brien

For February’s ‘Love is in the Air’ Feature Donna O’Neill from Clonakilty spoke to Mary O’Brien about her upcoming wedding plans.

Donna and Mark Maguire, a native of Courtmacsherry, plan to tie the knot on September 21 and have booked Garryvoe Hotel in East Cork for their wedding reception. The couple, both age 34, have been together for 10 years, although with Mark a First Officer working in the Merchant Navy, Donna says laughing that “he’s away most of the time so you could probably half that”.

Mark and Donna had been at their friends’ wedding in Doolin – another local couple, Gavin Moore and Michelle O’Mahony, who run the popular Monk’s Lane restaurant in Timoleague – when Mark took the opportunity of their time away together to pop the question.

“The wedding, which was amazing, was on a Sunday with the after-party on the Monday, so when Tuesday rolled around I was a bit worse for wear to say the least,” says Donna. “Mark insisted that we couldn’t ‘come all the way up to Doolin and not see the Cliffs of Moher’! I’m a bad passenger at the best of times and we had quite a road ahead of us to get home as it was, the weather was dull and drizzly…I was not impressed. When I think back, I can be particularly annoying when I’m hungover and it usually causes some friction, but he was being extra nice and understanding,” says Donna laughing, “it was all darling this and darling that.”

On arriving at the Cliffs of Moher, Mark asked Donna which direction she’d like to take. “There was a lovely tower over to our right and if we went to our left you could walk out near the edge of the Cliffs themselves. But I grumpily insisted that I just wanted to take some pictures and go,” she says.

Donna took out the camera and started snapping away. “I asked Mark to stand in so I could get a shot of him with the Cliffs in the background. As I was trying to focus the camera he kept shuffling. He seemed to be rummaging in his pocket for something and before I knew it he was down on one knee with a little box in his hand. I thought ‘this can’t be what I think it is’. We had never discussed it before so I was in total shock. I decided to keep clicking just in case. When reality finally set in, I walked towards him and he popped the question. Although I was in total disbelief the answer was simple. ‘Yes, of course I will’. For that moment it was as if there were just the two of us there…and not the hundreds of others walking around us. It was perfect.

Plus, I still have the picture to prove it!”

Donna is the owner of Pin-Up Hair Salon in Innishannon and specialises in weddings, so she has lots of experience and inspiration to draw from in planning her and Mark’s wedding.

After hearing a lot of great things about Garryvoe Hotel from the brides she had worked with, Donna put it to Mark and after visiting, the couple booked it as their wedding venue.

“While I have the pleasure of living in gorgeous West Cork, I also love the scenery down around Garryvoe and Ballycotton Bay. Being close to the sea also it was a no brainer for us,” explains Donna.

“The hotel itself has just won Wedding Venue of the Year with Weddings Online and it’s easy to see why. Deputy General Manager Andrzej has been on the ball with everything so far, answering all of our questions before we’ve even asked. The new refurbishments in the bar and drinks reception area also made a big impact on us and has given us the peace of mind that even if it’s pouring out of the heaven’s on our wedding day, we will still have amazing pictures inside.”

Donna’s feels that as time goes on, the style of their wedding will develop organically out of the things that they’re both drawn to. Her biggest worry is that being exposed to so many weddings and ideas and themes in her line of work, she’ll end up choosing a mish mash of things resulting in wedding chaos! “I’m hoping that Mark keeps me on the straight and narrow and that my worries won’t be realised.”

Donna and Mark are opting for an interfaith ceremony. “We’ve been to a few humanist and civil ceremonies but we never knew that interfaith ceremonies existed,” says Donna. “We were both raised Catholic but are non-practising and made our decision based on the celebrant who was recommended to us. It’s nice to know there are so many different options available for ceremonies these days.”

Although Mark’s job takes him away from home for long periods he has thrown himself into the planning of the wedding when he is at home. “I went to work as usual the day after the proposal,” says Donna “and by the time I arrived home, we had our own wedding email address, many enquiries had been made, budgets had been drawn up and Mark had been in touch with wedding planner ‘Franc’, who has a house near us, for a few wedding tips! Lets hope his enthusiasm lasts!”

Although her mum and sister are dying to go shopping, Donna plans to be in tip-top shape before trying on any dresses. “I’m adamant that I want to wait until I’ve toned up with the help of Eithne and Kieran at Howling Heart Fitness and Laura of Step With Laura. I think 12 months beforehand should give me more than enough time, so I’ll probably wait until August or September. Knowing me, if I had already bought, I’d have gone off the dress by the time the wedding rolls around.”

Like most brides, Donna says she is really looking forward to the ceremony above anything else on the day. “Feeling the love from all of our friends and family and the music…We have some extremely talented friends who I am hoping will do us the honour of creating the ‘soundtrack’ to our ceremony.”

So far the wedding planning process has been an enjoyable one. “It’s been really good fun just hashing out the things that we ‘could’ do,” says Donna “all sorts of whacky ideas that are fantastically unrealistic and that we really would need Franc and a massive budget to execute!”

Donna is leaving the honeymoon planning completely up to Mark “the navigation expert”. “Mark knows that I’d like it to be relaxing with as little packing and unpacking as possible. So if he wants to see lots of places then it’ll have to be a cruise and if he wants a break from the sea then he can pick one amazing place, or maybe two…”

Although at present Mark spends about two thirds of the year away at sea, the couple, who share a love of music, cooking and their two Cockapoos, are hoping that the future will allow them to see more of each other. “I’d love to see more of him and he feels the same. If that pans out, I just hope we don’t end up killing each other!” says Donna laughing.

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