When Emmett Dunphy proposed to Claire Leahy on Inchydoney Beach in June 2019, neither could have anticipated just how eventful their engagement would be. “It started off well,” says Claire, “although he didn’t get down on one knee because there was a puddle in the spot he proposed,” she says laughing. “It was exciting and within weeks I had my wedding dress and when we viewed the Headfort Arms in Kells, we knew that was where we wanted to get married and booked it for July 2021.”
“After that, we put the wedding to the back of our minds,” says Emmett. “There was another important item on the agenda – buying a house. We had been looking for a long time for the right house with a bit of land for Claire’s horses and we found the perfect place in Archerstown, Co Westmeath. It was a busy time, signing contracts and getting ready to move.”
On moving day however, which happened to be St Valentine’s Day 2020, the couple got another surprise, Baby Dunphy was on the way. “We were thrilled,” says Claire. “Shocked, but thrilled. We were hoping a baby would arrive nine months after the wedding, we didn’t think it would be nine months before but moving into our home, just the two of us knowing a baby was on the way was very special. We were lucky to have the house sorted because weeks later, lockdown hit.”
At the start, both thought the wedding was too far away to be affected but as time passed, it became clear their big day in 2021 was unlikely to happen. “Friends that were due to marry during the summer said there were backlogs on marriage licenses getting processed, so we decided to get ahead of the game.”
Then on 7 October, after 37 hours in labour, with Emmett sitting outside in the carpark for most of it, beautiful baby Clodagh arrived. During those first few weeks of sleep deprivation, Claire and Emmett got a phone call from the registry office in Mullingar. “We didn’t expect to hear from them for ages but when we went for our appointment, the register told us they were performing weddings in December. At that point, we had our baby and house, and we just wanted to be married so we decided to bring the date forward to December 11.
“That was until my family in Kilkenny got wind that there was a wedding,” Emmett says laughing. “We were allowed 25 at a reception so that was the three of us, 11 from my family and 11 from Claire’s family.”
They both said the day itself was intimate, relaxed and utterly enjoyable. “We went to Fore Abbey and my lovely friend Eileen Doran took pictures before the registry office and when we arrived to the Headfort Arms, it was decorated beautifully with Christmas decorations and twinkling lights,” says Claire.
Emmett adds, “My family – who I hadn’t seen in months, and who hadn’t met Clodagh yet – were all there when we arrived, with my granny Bridget sitting in the middle of it all. It was very special when she held Clodagh, her first great grandchild.”
Claire adds: “We had a meal and a few drinks and my mam got a beautiful cake. We had so much fun and got to chat to all our family.”
However, there was no speeches or dancing. “We’re still going to have our big day, a proper Irish wedding at a time when it’s safe to do so,” says Emmett. “Claire will wear her beautiful white dress and we will dance on the dancefloor without masks and hug all our friends and family, whenever that may be. The important thing for now is that we are husband and wife.”
When Irish Country Living put John Healy on its front cover in 2016, there was one part of the interview that was off record. “I’ve met someone,” he had said with a cheeky grin. “It’s early days but going very well.”
It was a deep and emotional interview as John talked about life after two heart attacks and a heart transplant at 47. He had a sense of caution, like he was afraid to plan too far ahead.
Five years later, not only are John and Jovan still together, they are happily married. It isn’t surprising that Ireland’s most famous maître d’, from TV3’s The Restaurant married a chef. Jovan Radisic is from Croatia and is building his career in the kitchens of Dublin, currently in the Hyatt Centric, but it wasn’t through work they met, it was online. “We clicked straight away. When you know, you know.”
“So I turned round and said, ‘I do!’,” says Jovan laughing. “That was it,” said John. “I came home and said to my sister, ‘I think I got engaged’.”
John is maître d’ in Suesey Street in Dublin which is part of No. 25 Fitzwilliam Place, a beautiful and elegant Georgian building that hosts intimate weddings. “It was never going to be anywhere else and we planned for 60 or 70 people in October 2020,” says Jovan. “I was very excited about my family coming from Croatia.”
John says, “Before COVID, we had the menu planned, the wine picked, the music selected.”
The arrival of COVID-19 was very worrying for the couple as John is immune suppressed after his heart transplant and therefore, deemed high risk. During the summer, it became apparent their autumn wedding was not going to look anything like they had planned. “We actually cancelled the date,” John said. “But afterwards, we realised it could be a very long time again before family could travel and we wanted to be married. I spoke to my doctors and at the time, COVID wasn’t community-based so we picked a lovely date –11/11/2020 as our new wedding day. Twenty five of our closest family and friends were invited who knew how careful they had to be due to my health.”
When the day arrived, Jovan said he was nervous – which made John nervous – but when they walked into the room to I Only Got Eyes for You by the Flamingos, the nerves disappeared. “There was a lot of love and good wishes in the room but a real highlight was that John set up a Zoom on the big screen with my family in Croatia.”
Of course, you wouldn’t expect anything less than a stunning menu; pan-fried foie gras, seared scallops with smoked bacon, dry-aged beef fillet and soy-glazed duck breasts were just some of the options on the menu.
“One of the real perks of smaller weddings,” John says, “is because you have less people, you can throw the kitchen sink at the menu. The venue hosted 19 small weddings in December and throughout, couples planned the most stunning meals.”
Afterwards, they danced the night away. “John’s mother has had two hip operations and to see her out dancing and enjoying herself was such a joy,” says Jovan. Although it wasn’t the wedding they planned, they are both delighted to be married. John says: “There is a sense of security that is deep and unspoken, and very special.”
COVID-19 may have reduced the number of people allowed attend a wedding but there is no limit on animals. “The best part about COVID changing our wedding plans is that my horses Tinkerbell and Roana could be there,” laughs veterinary nursing student Cerys Adair.
The plan for the big day was for Cerys and Peter Adair to marry at the Field of Dreams in Bangor on 10 July 2020. “It’s a local wedding venue, very relaxed and picturesque. It’s mostly outdoors and we loved that al fresco feel. Shortly after Peter proposed, we had it booked.”
Cerys is a very organised bride and long before there were rumblings of COVID-19, the photographer was booked, the wedding gown picked, even the bridesmaids had their dresses.
“2019 was a busy year,” explains Peter. “We bought our house and did most of our wedding planning. So in March 2020 when COVID hit, it was a shock to the system. We were just about to send out wedding invitations when we said, ‘Hold up, we better see how this thing unfolds’.”
Cerys says when 10 July actually arrived, it was a surreal day. “We secretly wanted the weather to be bad so we could say, ‘Well it would have rained on our al-fresco wedding’, but of course, the sun shone. I felt a bit lost to be honest thinking this should be the best day of our lives and instead we are in the garden eating ice cream.”
But there was a glimmer of hope as the couple were planning a low-key ceremony. “We knew the wedding at the Field of Dreams wasn’t going to happen, but my nana lives in a cottage on a beautiful estate that I love so we chatted to her about doing something small there. Right away, she was on board. We sought permission from the lady that owned the land and my mum, who is very creative, started planning decorations.”
What unfolded was a beautiful ceremony on 12 September. “We were lucky, it was an Indian summer weekend, just before restrictions were reintroduced,” says Cerys. “It was 25 family members and my brother was able to travel from Galway.
Peter adds: “Afterwards, we went home and had a takeaway. Most people spend their wedding evening surrounded by lots of people but it was special, just the two of us. On 10 July this year, we are hoping to have a celebration in the Field of Dreams but it’s too hard to plan. The important thing for now is that we are married.”