Real Weddings: This Pakistani Irish wedding is a beautiful blend of traditions
27th Feb 2023
Residing in Carlow, Nehdia and Dónal met as work colleagues before falling head over heels for one another. For their wedding, they honoured both their heritages by incorporating traditions like Irish handfasting, bhangra dancers and a Pakistani bridal dress.
Nehdia Akram and Dónall McDermott, insurance actuaries.
at work. I [Nehdia] am from Pakistan and moved to Dublin for college nearly 12 years ago, and Dónall is from Carlow. We both worked together for a few months after graduating and became really good friends. As Dónall’s friends like to tease him, after two years of chasing, we finally went on our first date!
Dónall had planned a Valentine’s trip in 2021 to Slieve Russell Hotel in Co Cavan, where he had planned to pop the question on the Cuilcagh Boardwalk Trail (AKA Stairway to Heaven). However, the 5km COVID restrictions in place meant we had to cancel. Dónall, undeterred, was to propose one way or the other that weekend.
It was a cold, rainy day but we got a small dry spell and went to the War Memorial Gardens in Islandbridge for a walk. After murmuring a few sentences that neither of us can recall, Dónall went down on one knee. What followed was some tears, laughs and hysterics that led to him putting the ring on my right hand, which we both didn’t realise until later! It was a simple, private moment that we both cherish.
THE DRESS & THE SUIT
I chose to wear a Pakistani bridal dress as a nod to my heritage. After speaking to a few designers over the phone but not being able to make the decision, I decided to take a short trip home and spent three days going to various designers in Lahore that I had shortlisted, with my mam by my side.
While waiting in Saira Shakira’s boutique (a Pakistani designer), a dress caught my eye, hanging in between all the other beautiful dresses. After trying it on and some video calls with my sisters, it felt like the one and I took the plunge!
I changed a few things around (colour, sleeves, back design, etc.). The dress was truly a bespoke gown with a lehenga skirt underneath. I also included a matching choli (crop top) to change into after dinner to be able to dance. The dress was hand embellished, and the gown alone weighed a whopping 15lbs (RIP my legs!).
I also finalised my four bridesmaids (all wore different dresses), my two nieces’ and my mam’s dresses in that short trip. Dónall chose a classic black tux with velvet shawl lapel for the day from Detail Menswear in Kilkenny.
THE CEREMONY & RECEPTION
Ireland has so many beautiful venue options. What sold Waterford Castle to us was the fact that we were able to hire the whole castle for just us and our guests that day. (Not to forget the dreamy ferry ride to its very own island and the beautiful grounds and setting for some great photos.)
The ceremony was held outdoors with the castle as the beautiful backdrop. It was a gorgeous day in June, and a few guests told us after our ceremony that while we were exchanging rings and saying ‘I dos’, the sun came out from behind the clouds which made the moment even more magical.
For the reception, the guests were welcome to enjoy themselves outside the castle, indoors beside the fireplace or close to the bar, wherever they fancied. It was like a big house party; the only difference is that your house is a castle!
We had a duo consisting of a pianist and a violinist for the ceremony and reception. My sister-in-law is a soprano, and she sang one of their late father’s favourites at the end of the ceremony, which made him part of the ceremony in some way.
For after-dinner entertainment, as a homage to my culture, we hired bhangra dancers (traditional folk dance and music) who taught a few steps to all the guests and set us all up for a night full of dancing.
After the Bhangra performance, we had a seven-piece band with a brass section (Unusual Suspects) and for the past midnight dancing, we had a DJ playing songs until the late hours. Credits to the bhangra dancers, our band and the DJ; I don’t think there was even a moment when the dancefloor was empty!
My colour theme was pastels (pink and coral), with gold accents. The flowers were done by Tina McGrath, The Wild Bunch. She made the most beautiful split arch and flower arrangements for the ceremony. She also did stunning bouquets for myself and my bridesmaids.
The dinner was held in Munster Room within the Castle. The room itself is so breath-taking with old-world vibes (much like the rest of the Castle), ‘less is more’ was the general rule of thumb as it did not need much decorating. Tina decorated the candelabras and the fireplace with some flower arrangements, and it did the trick.
I did a complete DIY for the wedding invites and table plans with the help of Dónall’s cousin, graphic designer Laura Kenny. She was brilliant and understood exactly the look I was going for. It was a complete hands-on process; buying the paper, cutting each individual piece and roughing up the edges to make it look vintage.
The envelopes and the wax stamps had our initial and date of the wedding embedded. We still have glue stains on our couch from it! Putting the invites together took more hours than we’d like to admit but it was a relaxing process and I felt like I put my stamp on the wedding rather than outsourcing everything.
THEIR TOP TIPS
Very cliché but do enjoy the lead-up to the wedding and try not to overthink it (easier said than done!). It really does work out on the day. It all depends on the professionals you hire, and you should trust them to pull it together for you. We got so lucky with the people we chose! A good wedding coordinator can make your day (thanks to ours, Gillian from Waterford Castle). Most importantly, take a few moments during the day to take it all in. You will want to relive it over and over!
THEY WISH THEY HAD
Looking back we would try to be more decisive in making decisions; it leaves you less stressed!
THEIR BEST MOMENTS
Hard to pick one as the whole day went so smoothly. In general, seeing all of our favourite people together celebrating with us was just so special. You feel like a celebrity on the day and our hearts were so full of gratitude.
FIRST DANCE SONG
You Are The Best Thing by Ray LaMontagne.
Bride’s Dress: Saira Shakira. Bridesmaids’ Dresses: various designers from Pakistan. Groom’s Tux: Detail Menswear. Florist: The Wild Bunch. Cake: Something Sweet. Hair: Leanne Nolan, Vow2Wow Hair. Make-up: Yvonne Maher. Videographer: Berg & Giles. Celebrant: Pat Clarke-Browne, Humanist Celebrant. Graphic Design: Laura Kenny. Band: Unusual Suspects. DJ: Trevor Harris.
See more photographs from Nehdia and Dónall’s wedding in the gallery below.
Photography by Brosnan Photographic.
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This article was originally published in August 2022.