A Romantic Family Pub Wedding

Belfast Wedding


Vanessa and Colm tied the knot in April in Belfast. They had three wedding venues, with their ceremony taking place at Belfast City Hall before heading to Deanes Restaurant for their wedding breakfast and finally onto their own pub The Garrick Bar for the evening party.

With two children it was important to Vanessa and Colm that they had a family orientated day which was both relaxed and romantic.

Vanessa looked super elegant in La Sposa, teamed with Gina shoes while Colm donned a dapper three piece made to measure suit. I so love the floral bridesmaid dresses, the sweetie table with balloon decor and the pretty blooms.

Thanks so much to the wonderful This Modern Love for sharing their photographs with us today.


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The Proposal… I had always wanted grand gestures when it came to what I believed was my ideal proposal….Cristal on ice, rose petals on the bed, maybe a trip to New York…Colm on the other hand believed more in the element of surprise which actually turned out to be more romantic than all my fanciful ideas.

We have two children and had been dating for over 15 years, I thought Colm was never going to propose. We had discussed our ideal wedding venues, we had three venues in mind, all of which had a special place in our hearts for us. One morning in March 2012 I dragged Colm along to Belfast City Hall to see their ceremony room (just for a look). .

We had already booked to go to our favourite restaurant Deanes that night for dinner. Colm had been busy at work and we wanted to spend a bit of quality time together. Heading into the taxi on the way to the restaurant I joked to Colm “don’t forget the ring!” I really wasn’t expecting a proposal that night. Anyway to cut the story short, after a lovely meal in what was to then become one of our three wedding venues we took a walk past City Hall which was beautifully lit up against the night sky. Next thing I knew Colm was standing there with a ring. I made him get down on one knee and do it ‘properly’ and just over a year later we were married in that very building.

The Vision for the Day… We wanted a relaxed, fun,  family do in our home City of Belfast. We didn’t particularly want a traditional wedding but nor did we want anything too wacky. It was important that our two children Daniel (9) and Laila (7) were a big part of the day as we feel it was a union of a family not just of two people. Good food, drink  and music were high on our list of priorities for the day. I liked the idea of a relaxed yet romantic setting of dimmed lights  with candles and flowers with a few personal touches.

The Planning Process… I immediately rushed out to buy a bundle of wedding magazines the day after the proposal, however, I didn’t feel they had what I was looking for. Whilst browsing the internet I found a website called quirky weddings which is where I found my amazing wedding planner (Grace & Saviour) and awesome photographer (This Modern Love). We asked the company who look after our hanging baskets and window boxes for the bar (Nicky Mc Garry of Flowerish) to do our flowers – venues bouquets and button holes. It was Nicky’s first time supplying for a wedding and I think we’ve given her a taste for more.

We wanted our day to be representative of ourselves and who we are so as my Grandfather was Jamaican and Colm’s family are Irish we wanted these cultures to feature in the day. We had traditional Irish musicians and wanted to find something representative of my Jamaican heritage. This was a bit of a struggle living in Belfast. We initially thought of having Caribbean steel drummers but our evening venue was quite small and intimate. Eventually we stumbled upon a reggae artist living in Dublin who goes by the name of Natty Wailer. Natty (real name Ian Wynter) was an original member of Bob Marley and the Wailers.

Budget… What budget? Went totally out of the window.

The Venue… Our first venue of the day was Belfast City Hall. This is the building where we had previously registered our children’s births and the place of Colm’s proposal. It is a beautiful, historical Edwardian building in the heart of the city.

We then continued onto Deanes Restaurant which is a stones throw away from City Hall. Deanes is one of our favourite restaurants in Belfast and we knew both the food and service would be impeccable. We hired the restaurant exclusively for us and our 70 guests.

Our final venue is one extremely close to our hearts as it is our own pub, The Garrick Bar (best Guinness in Belfast!!). We had the traditional Irish music in one bar, the rowdy Jamaicans in another and upstairs we had a children’s party complete with sweetie table, magician, xbox and movies.

The Dress + Accessories… Bride’s dress was by Spanish designer La Sposa. The style, Denia. Jewellery was hand made by local designer Helen Fitzpatrick. Helen worked for a prestigious embroidery house in New York and has designed for Gucci, Prada and Vera Wang.

Finding the Dress… A friend of mine owned a bridal boutique at the time and I had seen my perfect dress on her facebook page. I made an appointment to try it on but thought beforehand that it probably wasn’t a good idea to keep all my eggs in one basket so to speak and maybe try on a couple elsewhere. I had a quick search online at images of dresses I liked, I took a picture of two on my mobile phone and made an appointment at a local bridal shop the night before trying on my dream dress.

So, I arrived at Eden bridal in East Belfast and described briefly what I did and didn’t like. I explained that I was fairly open minded and willing to try various styles. The first dress that I was shown, to my surprise was one of the two that I had saved on my phone. We tried on a few and kept this one ‘til last. When I tried it on my eyes welled up…I knew this would be the dress I would get married in. I still went to my appointment the following day and tried on the dress that I’d originally had my heart set on. It looked awful on me, like a sack of potatoes. Decision made!!

Groom’s Attire… Colm never wanted the usual hire suit for his wedding. His 3 piece suit was made-to-measure by North Clothing Belfast using Loro Piana cloth. He chose everything down to the buttons and stitching and had the date of the wedding stitched into the lining (so there’s no excuse ever to miss an anniversary!).

The Readings + Music… Siobhan, my best friend since I was 9 read These are the hands (author unknown. We hired two classical guitarists for the ceremony. We chose a medley of Beatles songs to be played before and after the ceremony and they played Cavatina – most commonly known as the theme from The Deer Hunter as I walked down the aisle.

Beautiful Bridesmaids… My two sisters and my 7 year old daughter were my bridesmaids. I wanted to keep it a family affair. I also didn’t want them to wear typical bridesmaid dresses. I wanted something less formal and something they would wear again. The dresses were from topshop  and Laila’s was from Mini boden. I feel they tied in perfectly with the soft, romantic vision we had for the day.

The Flowers… The flowers were a big feature in our wedding, we had flowers everywhere imaginable. Nicky McGarry from Flowerish in Belfast had never done wedding flowers before. Nicky provides and maintains the flower boxes and hanging baskets for our bar. We believed that Nicky had great creativity and an eye for detail and would be able to do for us exactly what we had in mind. We were not disappointed. The flowers were inspired by the floral bridesmaid dresses. We wanted something with a natural, earthy feel with greens, blues and ivories.

The Cake… The cake was four tiers covered in Italian butter cream made by Cakes by James. Each tier was a different flavour, they were classic Victoria sponge, chocolate and raspberry, white chocolate and vanilla and finally stout and ginger cake.

Your Photographer… What can I say about our photographer…wow! I have been to so many weddings in the past where the photographs seem to have taken over the day. Every variation possible of family poses in multiple locations other than the actual wedding venue itself only for the photos to arrive and look staged, unnatural and the same as every other wedding album out there.  I DID NOT WANT THIS!!

I knew I wanted a more photojournalistic approach to the photos. I wanted the photos to capture real moments, of the day as it actually happened. I wanted a non intrusive photographer who wasn’t going to rub me up the wrong way.

I found someone who fitted the bill perfectly, Claire and Tim from This Modern Love. Tim was great to have around on the day, and the photographs…well, they speak for themselves!

The Details + Decor… Flowers, candles, and lots of personal touches. We had a timeline made of photos from early on in the relationship, to pregnancies and births to where we are today. In one bar we had traditional Irish musicians and in the other, Natty Wailer and our reggae vibes.

We had a children’s party room upstairs with big round balloons, a sweetie table, magician, Xbox, crafts, nail painting, movies and popcorn.

The Honeymoon… We spent a child free week in The Maldives. Absolute paradise and a great way to unwind after all the madness!

Memorable Moments… Colm: I met up at The Garrick Bar with Daniel, my best man Niall and my brother Kevin for a quick pint of Guinness before heading off to the ceremony. Unbeknown to me Vanessa had prepared a box of gifts for me all of which have special meaning to us as a couple. Amongst the gifts was a bottle of 21 Year Old Appleton Jamaican Rum and also an embroidered handkerchief which read: To dry your eyes on our special day. Today the Oates family become four 04.04.13

Vanessa: For me one of my most memorable moments was how emotional both Colm and my son Daniel were during the ceremony. It was an emotional day. My Dad’s speech which was more a stand up comedy act which concluded with a summary in the form of a rap also ranks highly.

Advice for Other Couples… Just enjoy the day…it’s over too quickly!

Credit Where Credit is Due…

Brides dress La Sposa from Eden Bridal, Belfast.

Bride’s shoes: Gina from Cruise www.cruisefashion.co.uk

Bride’s clutch bag: Anya Hindmarch www.anyahindmarch.com

Jewellery:  Helen Fitzpatrick

Groom’s suit: North,  Belfast

Cars: The Merchant Hotel and Spectrum cars www.merchanthotel.com  www.spectrum-cars.com

Wedding Planner Grace and Saviour

Flowers:  Flowerish, Belfast

Photographer: This Modern Love www.thismodernlove.co.uk

Cake: Cakes by James, Belfast www.cakesbyjames.co.uk

Hair: Michael Quinn

Makeup: Paddy Mc Gurgan www.paddymcgurganartist.com


Such a perfect day. I love the idea of the children’s room too, they must have had the best time. Thanks so much to Vanessa and Colm for sharing their wedding with us today XOXO Lou

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