When ‘The Swan Doctor’ Got Married! Three Lessons from the Big Day

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“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” Lao Tzu

As Alan and I celebrate our first wedding anniversary this autumnal September week, I want to share again a blog which I originally wrote in April 2018 and have updated so as to mark this milestone occasion.  It brings so much pleasure to now be able to write about the joyful moments in life, not just the low points, and highlight the lessons I have learned from these.

I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I am enjoying sharing it with you…

…I must start with an apology; I’ve been a very lazy ‘blogger’ but I was a very busy bride-to-be last year, and now I’m a blushing wife. A few people mentioned it was time I blogged about my wedding day. We actually had a wedding weekend which was just the best idea as all our family and friends got the opportunity to meet and really get to know each other.
I speak a lot about difficult times so I am more than delighted to have the opportunity to share the most joyful of times now too. After my divorce, I really did settle into life as a single mum and accepted my ‘lot.’ I didn’t obsess at all about meeting someone new but felt if the time and person was right, I might be open to the idea of a new relationship. I certainly didn’t think I would get married again. To cut a log story short, I met ‘my Alan’ aka ‘Big Al’ and the rest, as they say, is history.
We got engaged Valentine’s Weekend; Big Al planned on proposing to me just after midnight but he realised I was probably going to fall asleep in front of the telly, and I think his nerves got the better of him too whilst trying to keep

marry140 tea lights alight in our sun room without me noticing anything odd happening! So the proposal happened and was accepted at ~9.40pm on 13th February.
I was really surprised and also delighted. I immediately set to work on organising my fairytale event in a dreamy Irish castle on it’s own private island in County Fermanagh. I had been to Belle Isle Castle for my friend’s hen-do weekend and also for my 40th Birthday so I instantly knew this was the perfect intimate venue. I can not recommend Belle Isle castle and the staff there enough to you. Couples travel from all over the world to this unique and picturesque venue.

Belle Isle Castle

Conor Taggart entertaining guests at the pre-wedding party

I’ll cut straight through to the actual wedding as I could honestly write an individual book about my wedding planning. We had a party on the Friday night before the ‘big day’; I had requested the singer to announce my early departure to ensure I didn’t sit up chatting all night. Dutifully, he did so, and I dramatically left the room to a resounding rendition of ‘Nessun Dorma!’

I had worn beautiful blue sparkly shoes to the party which had killed my feet and at 4am I awoke with them throbbing so much I took some painkillers and tried to sleep. I wasn’t nervous – yet. No, the nerves and dry mouth kicked in just as the registrar came into the room to introduce herself and to do a final run-through with me. My tongue was sticking to the roof of my mouth and I only wanted to sip at some water; there was no way I was going to try go to the loo in my wedding dress at this stage (all brides will nod at this bit). My soon-to-be step-daughter Morgan gave me sips of water and I tried to ‘just breathe.’

Getting ready


Sophia and me having a moment

At this point I then realised my little girl Sophia was crying.  Tears of joy thankfully, but she was actually sobbing with just 10 minutes to go. “I know I’m biased mummy, but you are the most beautiful bride I’ve ever seen!” she said, as I tried to dry her tears and not toss her hair. I couldn’t really manage to hug her properly whilst we stood there in all our finery, but comforting her and sharing that little moment, helped me forget about my nerves and concentrate on the reality of the occasion. This was a huge day! Not just for me but also for my family. I had found true happiness and they were both an integral part of this happiness as well as witness to it. I’d come a long way emotionally and reaching the stage of accepting love and another person into our lives was

Trying not to cry!

actually an incredible achievement. So, it was now time to ‘do this thing.’
The tears kept flowing as I walked up the aisle to a wonderful string quartet playing ‘Secrets’ by One Republic. Big Al was crying, I was trying not to (so as to avoid the ‘Marilyn Monroe after a heavy night out look’ as opposed to radiant bride) and Sophia was also working on stifling her little emotions and tears too. Sophia was due to read ‘Us Two’ by AA Milne but the tears kept coming. With a little encouragement, she read the whole thing.

‘Us Two’ by AA Milne

The photos taken during that part of the ceremony, I shall forever treasure. Our photographer John was superb at capturing these moments I mention here; he was so in tune to the family dynamic and what was happening between us all that day.

The registrar didn’t need to tell Alan and I to turn and look at each other. We were already holding each other’s hands and supporting each other through the special seconds of taking our vows.

My colleague Carmel did the second reading ‘I carry your heart with me’ by EE Cummings. Alan and I had a long distance relationship in the early months and I had sent this to him one night when I was really missing him.

I Carry Your Heart With Me

By E.E Cummings

I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart)

I am never without it (anywhere I go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)

I fear no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet)

I want no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

Here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart).

My cousin Trevor is a Presbyterian minister and it was important to me that we had a blessing as a part of the ceremony. The story of Ruth from the bible was my dad’s favourite and I was named after this; I’m sure Trevor knew

Just married!

this, but I hadn’t discussed what I wanted him to say that day in any detail. My dad passed away in 2000 so I was truly delighted when he based what he said to us on this bible story with so much personal meaning.

Honestly, it was all so perfect. It was one of the few sunny days of the entire year and everyone soaked up the stunning views whilst eating canapés and sipping Prosecco (copious amounts were consumed!)

Alan reading the poem he wrote for me

Showing I was a little worried about what they would say!

The speeches were yet again emotional and extremely funny. My cousin William gave me away and my lifelong friend Adrian was Alan’s best man. I have to admit I was a tad worried what these men who had known ME all my life would say, but they did go pretty easy on me whilst they tortured each other and Big Al who again became a little overcome by the occasion as he tried to deliver his sentiments and read a poem he had written.

Of course, then we had the obligatory first dance to ‘Just For You’ by M People followed by compulsory efforts to dance the night away.

The First Dance

So what about my feet by this time?

My wedding shoes

Well the five inch heeled wedding shoes were cast aside and replaced with a pair of my daughter’s soft leather ballet slippers! Sophia had fractured her toe a short time before the wedding and these were her reserve footwear should her injury be too painful. By this stage she was wearing fluffy penguin slipper socks (!!) and I could steal her slippers. Only then did everyone realise I’m actually quite small as they only ever see me in heels.

I want to share some advice and my three main lessons from my wedding weekend experience. They are about both the overall occasion and the actual wedding day:
1. Take time to get to know yourself and love yourself before welcoming other people’s love into your life. They should compliment and add to your life experience as you embark on creating your life together. I worked on my own self-acceptance for quite some time before meeting Alan and I don’t think I could have welcomed Alan into my life and get married again if I hadn’t done that. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a work in progress, but I am more content in my 44 year-old skin than I ever was in my life before.
2. Accept your emotions and don’t be afraid to express them in the way you feel you need to. Our wedding day was incredibly emotional as we were acknowledging a love found later in life, created a new family unit and acknowledged that there were many people sadly no longer with us. The memory table was full of photos and probably just reflected that we were a little older and had experienced quite a bit of loss in our lifetime so far.
3. If you are getting married, just chill on the day. I was a total control freak as I organised every detail which of course had to be completely colour coordinated. Your wedding should be as beautiful as your heart desires but the most beautiful thing about it should be the love you have for each other.

Alan still speaks about how I just beamed and smiled all day. It was a genuine smile about a true love I at one time thought would forever elude me.

Alan frequently says to me

I didn’t know it until I met you, but it was always you.”


The Swan Doctor


Thanks to our wonderful wedding suppliers:

Wedding Photography by John O’Neill, Sperrins Photography https://sperrinsphotography.com/

Flowers by Ruth Hood https://www.flowersbyruthhood.co.uk/

Wedding dress and Bridesmaid dresses, Verona Bridal, Magherafelt http://www.veronabridal.co.uk/

Sophia’s dress custom made by Nicki McFarlane, available from: Petticoat Lane Bridal, Hillsborough (she did Kate and William’s flower girl dresses!) http://www.nickimacfarlane.com/


Men’s outfits by Debonair, Lisburn http://debonairmenswear.com/

Music by Arco string quartet http://www.arcoquartet.co.uk/weddings/

Entertainment by Conor Taggart and Alan Woods (MyWeddingDJ NI) http://www.conortaggart.co.uk/


Wedding stationery and wedding website from Minted, USA https://www.minted.com/

Wedding Cake:  Cakes By Victoria NI  https://www.facebook.com/CakesByVictoriaNI

Venue: Belle Isle Castle, Lisbellaw https://belle-isle.com/

Brides shoes from Precious, Cookstown https://www.facebook.com/precious.cookstown

Hair & Make-up by Rachael and Nicole Salon https://www.facebook.com/rnsalon/

Groom and his men pampered by The  Original Hair Bus Company http://www.thehairbus.com

Wedding video by Moon Monkeys productions