The couples romantic love story and wedding recently featured in an episode of TG4’s series ‘An Gúna Bainise,’ an Irish language programme which focused on the changing wedding culture in Ireland through the decades.
Meet John and Niall whose wedding recently featured on TG4! John is an Art teacher of 20 years and Niall is a music teacher of 8 years. John is an artist (john_lynch_artist) on Instagram and a huge sports and football fan. John played football in the Irish league and represented Ulster University at the Collingwood Cup and Ireland at the Gay Games in Paris.
Niall is a musician who plays piano and violin. He is very busy on the local music scene as a pianist and Musical Director and has directed a huge number of musicals. He was nominated for Best Musical Director in Ireland at the AIMS Awards in 2017. Niall is currently the musical director of Belfast’s Irish language choir Na Béil Bhinne.
How did you both first meet?
We met in a bar in Belfast in August 2017. We hadn’t seen each other out before, which is strange as the gay scene in Belfast is quite small! John spotted Niall from across the bar and commented to his mates that Niall was the best-looking man in the bar that night, and his friends agreed.
Niall had spotted John but thought that John was way out of his league! We had a couple of dates but neither of us was ready to get into a relationship, so we ended up turning into very good friends. Fast forward to St Stephen’s Day 2017 and John couldn’t contain himself any longer. The next day he announced that they were boyfriends, and the story went on from there.
Tell us about the proposal!
John is the Head of Art in an integrated school. One of our first dates was to Hallows Gallery on the Ormeau Road in Belfast (a gallery in which John now exhibits work). We had been perusing the art and came across a piece by Chantalle Coombes called ‘Queen Emerging.’ John was really taken by the translucency of the wings and the art applied the paint After this they walked around Ormeau Park with an ice cream: it was another perfect date.
The next day Niall went back to Hallows Gallery and purchased the painting: even though the relationship was still very fresh he knew John was the one and this would be a great story if they were ever to get married. Niall stored the painting in a friend’s house (hi Mark!) for safekeeping. Fast forward to 2 years later: 28th February 2020. Things had been blossoming in the relationship with the 2 now living together for around a year. Niall had collected the artwork from his friend’s house as the moment was drawing close to asking John.
After finishing work on Friday, both went to the gym and got fish and chips in town afterwards. Niall was first home and had the painting waiting for John in the living room. When John walked into the house, he immediately remembered the painting and asked what was happening. Niall asked John did he want to marry him and THANKFULLY John said yes. It was amazing. We told our parents and close friends that night before sharing the celebratory news the following day. John was speechless all weekend because he was in shock!
When did you start planning your wedding?
The world went into lockdown less than 3 weeks after we got engaged, so the engagement had to work because we couldn’t go anywhere! So, the planning process was haphazard, to say the least, due to places being closed and not being able to view hotels etc…
During the planning process, we also bought an 82-year-old house that had lots of character and lots of renovations to undertake, so suffice to say it was a very busy time in the O’Flaherty-Lynch household. John took charge of everything to do with the house and Niall took charge of everything to do with the wedding. We decided that selecting the right venue right was one of the most important things to us and weren’t able to do any viewings until the Summer of 2017.
From here we viewed some fantastic wedding venues but, with John being from Derry and Niall having worked in the Dún Lúiche Gaeltacht summer courses, we decided upon West Donegal as everyone gets married in the Inishowen area of Donegal. Niall had visited An Chúirt many times before and was excited to see John’s reaction. From witnessing the surrounding stunning scenery to walking into the reception area, they knew it was the one for them.
Tell us a bit more about your suppliers
We had the ceremony and reception in An Chúirt Hotel. On the day, the hotel was decorated in dark greens, burnt umbers and golden yellows. We had large church candles, creating a warm autumnal theme. The canopies, champagne and main meal provided by An Chúirt were perfect! Exactly what envisaged for our day – our guests were well looked after throughout their stay. Our celebrant was Leantia at LoveLee Weddings.
The ceremony was perfect and was more than we could have imagined. Because we had our ceremony in An Chúirt, we did away with a lot of traditions. This allowed us to have the creative freedom to shape the day how we wanted. Our mothers walked us down the aisle, which was lovely. Leantia ensured that every guest was as much a part of our wedding and made the day highly memorable. She curated a lovely and warm ceremony that enabled our friends and family to relax and enjoy the whole thing. We had 2 flavours of cake (lemon drizzle and red velvet) and this was provided by McBride’s Cakes in Donegal. Again, very clear communication and the cakes were delicious!
What about your music and entertainment?
With Niall being a music teacher, the music was extremely important. During the ceremony, we had Dónal and Mark from Miscast Belfast. They provided stripped-back, acoustic covers of musical theatre and pop songs and it fit the day perfectly. During the drink’s reception, beautiful harp music was provided by Ciara Taaffe. Our wedding band was Portabello: an 8-piece swing/cover band from Derry City. They were able to accommodate the request for our first dance (Only You by Yazoo) and were entertaining, top-quality musicians for their whole set.
To finish off we had Lady Portia, Belfast’s premier drag Queen playing party games and doing a DJ set. She was hilarious, and our guests loved this part of the evening. This was the first wedding any of us had been to where a drag queen was the entertainment! Most of the 180 guests were straight and it was another additional fun factor to our wedding that’s present in our relationship.
Who captured your day?
From dawn to dusk, our day was captured by the talented Conor and his team at ‘Light and Wisdom’ photography. We had seen Conor’s work online when looking at potential wedding photographers. We loved his style: capturing the day as it happened rather than staged photographs. Conor was an absolute professional to work with through emails, texts, and phone calls, we couldn’t recommend him enough.
He then met us in person beforehand to really make sure our vision for the photographs was aligned. He went to John’s house the morning of the wedding, with another of his team coming to Niall in the hotel. Both were excellent and made everyone feel at ease throughout the day, capturing brilliant shots throughout. The group shots Niall and John had wanted were all well taken too, with great suggestions on how best to capture these.
What did you and the wedding party wear?
The suits were by Herbie Frogg from Bogarts in Belfast. Both grooms, all groomsmen, and John’s father were all in the same suit. Gary, Sean, and their staff were all fantastic throughout the process and were an excellent guiding force. John designed a wedding logo of autumn leaves that was used in the design of the save the dates, wedding invites, wedding menu and everything wedding-related.
Instead of flowers for the lapels we decided to transform the logo into a lapel pin, that the wedding party all wore. The lapel pin was coloured dark green, burnt umber, and golden yellows. This was another great thought from John, whose eye for detail and vision is part of the reason that the wedding was so successful, says Niall! The dress code was black-tie, and everyone came dressed to impress! We also had no children at the wedding. Many married couples commented that they loved having a weekend away without children. They could really enjoy the romantic occasion! Coupled with the black-tie dress code, really added to the feeling of class and having an adult occasion.
What was your favourite part of the day?
Niall – I could talk all day about my favourite moments. A choice few are as follows:
- Having our mums walk us down the aisle! Turning round to see John’s mum walking him up towards me at the start of the ceremony. A slowed-down acoustic version of Clearest Blue by Chvrches was playing.
- John trying to plant the lips on me in the middle of the ceremony, ahead of schedule!
- Hearing my friend Daniel reading his piece of poetry that he wrote for the event titled, Auditioning.
- The speeches. In particular, John’s was both full of love and hilarious.
- Seeing my mother’s reaction to meeting her first drag queen: she loved it!
John – The entire day was perfect. When other couples say ‘It was the best day of my life’, I can now fully appreciate that comment and empathise with them. If I had one wish, I would love to have it all over again because the day flies in and you never have enough time with everyone. Our family and friends made our day, and I will also be grateful to them because they all played their part in making it magical for everyone.
100 guests stayed in Donegal for day 2 in Tábhairne Leo – we provided food for everyone; it was a great opportunity to catch up and see how everyone enjoyed the day.
Any advice you can give?
Relax and enjoy it. This is a once-in-a-lifetime event. All the people you love and who love you are in one room together and there’s no feeling quite like it. Give yourself enough time to plan. We started looking at venues 4 months after we got engaged and then booked it more than 2 years in advance. Don’t let it take over your life: the wedding day isn’t as important as the marriage so ensure that you’re still doing the things that make you as a couple.
On the day and after the ceremony and before the meal; take time away from everyone and check in with each other and see how each of you are doing so far. Catch your breath and have a drink together! Repeat this after the meal. We used this piece of advice, and it really worked for us: the day is so busy and can run away from you without realising.