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Real Weddings: Louise and Daithi’s seaside wedding in Co Donegal

Real Weddings: Louise and Daithi’s seaside wedding in Co Donegal


by Shayna Sappington
22nd Jan 2023

Sligo natives Louise and Daithi always had one wedding venue in mind – Rockhill House Estate in Letterkenny. They recently tied the knot at their local church in Glenties before heading to their reception, supporting local suppliers and choosing sustainability where they could.

THE COUPLE
Louise McKenna, doctor, and Daithi O’Lionaird, IT consultant.

THEY LIVE
In Strandhill, Co Sligo.

THE VENUE
St Connell’s Church, Glenties, Co Donegal, then on to the beautiful Rockhill House Estate in Letterkenny.

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PHOTOGRAPHY
Jay Doherty.

THEY MET
In March 2017 at the Larch Hill International Scout Centre. I [Louise] had just joined the Dublin Wicklow Mountain Rescue Team and was attending a seminar there when I bumped into Daithi, who had also recently joined the team. I thought Daithi was lovely, but it was a few months before things really got going.

We went on a few dates over the course of that summer, but I moved to Liverpool for a few months to do a diploma in Tropical Medicine. Meanwhile, Daithi continued to keep in touch frequently and edged his way right in. By the time I’d come back in late November, the flame had well and truly been lit, and the rest, as they say, is history.

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THE PROPOSAL
We booked a weekend in November 2019 at the wonderful Finn Lough Resort in Fermanagh to celebrate our dating anniversary. We were relaxing and playing Jenga on the floor of our bubble dome before dinner, and sipping on some gin and tonics. I’d just won a game and was dancing around in victory. By the time I turned around Daithi was down on one knee and asking me to marry him.

I honestly got the shock of my life! I thought I was off the hook as I’d told him I didn’t want a ring, more than a couple of times that year, but he had other ideas. We had a very fun month or so after that as we kept it secret while we went ring shopping and announced it just before Christmas when my family were home from Australia.

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THE DRESS AND THE SUIT
It took me a little bit of time to figure out what dress I wanted as I’d never really thought about getting married, so I took my time to try a few different stores and styles. There was one designer that really stood out to me from the beginning. That was Daalarna Couture, a Hungarian fashion house.

The dress I chose was from Forever Bridal in Belfast. We went up to Belfast for the spin and it was the best idea, as I went there with no expectations on my own. And there it was – the dress I’d been waiting for, on the rail, in all its Daalarna beauty. The exquisite French lace and scalloping neck detail with the flowing tulle skirt just blew me away. It was the perfect size with only some minor alterations needed. I could not have been luckier!

For Daithi’s suit, he had an inkling for something a little different, and something that would be re-wearable. He decided on a taupe jacket and waistcoat with ash-coloured slacks. He worked closely with Louis Copeland to create this eclectic ensemble.

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THE CEREMONY
Was magical in itself. It took place in my local church in Glenties. St. Connell’s Church is a magnificently different building. Tall and angular, it was designed by one of the giants of Irish architecture, Liam McCormick in the 1970s. 

My good friend, Fr Nigel O’Gallachoir officiated a beautiful and heartfelt ceremony, which was very thoughtfully put together and personal to us. Wonderful music throughout was performed by Deirdre McGill and Kevin Herron on guitar, along with my friend Brenda Murphy on violin, who played a beautiful version of Gabriel’s Oboe as the entrance song. 

THE RECEPTION
Rockhill House Estate, just outside Letterkenny, was the one and only venue from the very beginning. We were so lucky to get a viewing on Valentine’s Day 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic began, and we were just blown away. We decided to book for May 2022 and were so lucky to be able to go ahead with our original date, as we were very aware of all the difficulties couples had had with restrictions up to that point.  

I’d been aware of Rockhill’s transformation from its previous life as an army base as my father had stories of going there for bomb disposals when he was working as a Garda around the time of the Troubles. My brother later worked briefly on initial development plans during its restoration, and I’d seen pictures of the finished house some years back and fell in love.

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The house and grounds are just so stunning and finished to the highest quality. It exudes romance and we just felt it was the perfect setting for our wedding. Kathryn and her team were so professional and helpful from start to finish. No detail was spared and the food and service were seamless throughout.

We wanted to include as many sustainable initiatives as possible. All the food served was locally sourced, as were the flowers, and I hope to upcycle or sell my dress. Daithi is a novice beekeeper, so we used local honey as favours, and to offset some of the emissions from travel involved in the day, we supported a local native woodland reforestation project.

THE ENTERTAINMENT
The fantastic Laura McFadden cellist in her string trio provided wonderful reception music, adding to the Bridgerton vibe of the reception rooms.

Red Alert, our local Glenties top-notch wedding band, was one of the first things we booked once we’d confirmed the wedding date, and they did not disappoint! Conal, Thomas, Micheal and Kevin kept us rocking into the wee hours, and the craic was ninety!

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THE DECOR
When you’re working with a venue like Rockhill, the décor is more or less done for you. We did really enjoy adding our own touches though and spent a lot of time personalising our stationery, which included a map of SW Donegal that was added in with the invites, detailing the relevant locations and beautiful tourist sites our guests would be surrounded by.

Our florist kindly brought our ceremony flowers for use in the dining hall after the ceremony, which added a beautiful touch. I also made calligraphy place cards for the tables, with the help of my dad. We spent hours painstakingly glueing delicate little pieces of gold leaf onto the corners of the cards.

A couple of nights before the wedding, Daithi and I used a pallet from his family’s shop to use as a board to put up some of our favourite photos and decorated it with fairy lights to display in the reception area of Rockhill.

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THEIR TOP TIPS
Enjoy the day and take in as much as you can. It goes by so so fast, so just have fun!

THEY WISH THEY HAD
Been able to spend more time with the guests, but the day just flies with a schedule that’s full to the brim.

THEIR BEST MOMENTS
The whole experience was just utter joy and love, having our loved ones with us to share our special day. We hope they all enjoyed it as much as we did. When the sun came out after a morning of heavy rain, it was just the icing on the cake, and to top it off further, the emergence of a rainbow as we arrived at Rockhill for photos just couldn’t have been more perfect.

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We went on a great adventure with Jay to Narin Beach after the ceremony, where he captured some truly amazing shots. It’s so nice looking back on these memories and the laughs we had with Jay and his team.

THE FIRST DANCE SONG
Virginia Moon by Foo Fighters.

THE CREW
Bride’s Dress: Daalarna Couture, Forever Bridal. Bride’s Shoes: Forever Soles. Bride’s Earrings: One Dame Lane. Bride’s Hair Pins: Megan Therese, Vintage Pearl Bridal. Groom’s Suit: Louis Copeland. Bridesmaids’ Dresses: The One I Love. Groomsmen’s Suits: Aston Formal Wear. Rings: Wehrly Bros. Hair: Darren Whelan. Make-Up: Carmel Gallagher. Florist: Judith Wolff, local Sligo Farmer’s Market. Cake: Top Tier By Rosena. Invitations: Red Berry Print.

See more photographs from Louise and Daithi’s wedding in the gallery below.

Photography by Jay Doherty.

Want to see your Real Wedding on IMAGE.ie? Email [email protected] with the subject line ‘Real Wedding’.

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