Love Wins: Rowan & Daniel’s Fun-Filled Day at The Merchant Hotel

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Rowan and Daniel Phillips had a stylish same-sex wedding celebration in The Merchant Hotel after saying ‘I do’ in Dublin’s registry office.

Describing their wedding day as “full of positivity and love”, this week’s wedding of the week couple clearly created something special. 

Rowan and Daniel from North Belfast got married pre-Covid in 2018 when gay marriage wasn’t yet legalised in Northern Ireland – this led them to legally marry in Dublin registry office and plan a subsequent humanist ceremony and celebration at The Merchant Hotel in Belfast.

“It was the first same-sex wedding that any of us had been to – and that included ourselves!” Rowan says.

“The nice part was that we were able to keep up the ‘traditional’ ceremony while adding in a few new flares (as no one knew if it was our idea, or this was the generic template for a same-sex wedding) and it was nice to meet the standard expectations while introducing our own narrative.” 

RELATED TO: How To Break Traditions In Same Sex Weddings

HOW THEY MET

This perfect pair have been together for six years now and first met back in 2015 when they swiped right at first sight!

“Meeting someone in Belfast is a bit like when you go for a job – you either have to be referred by someone or meet online, so me and Dan met on Tinder when I swiped right!” Rowan laughs.

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“We were speaking for a good six or seven months before we actually met up. Then one day, I just decided to go for it and texted Dan asking if he wanted to go for a walk around Tollymore Forest Park.

“For several weeks when we were going out on drives together and Dan was wasting a lot of my petrol and we never looked back!”

Rowan and Daniel had an undeniable spark and quickly moved in together in September that same year.

“Like any good gay couple, we left it a good amount of time before we moved in just six months after meeting!” Rowan jokes.

“It was soon, but we had been through a lot together in a short period of time which definitely threw us in the deep end and made us stronger,” Daniel says.

“We met each other’s families about three or four weeks after meeting and Rowan’s sister was diagnosed with cancer so that was a really hard time, but it definitely brought us closer together and we’ve been inseparable ever since.”

RELATED TO: 33 Non-Religious Ceremony Readings That Will Leave You Speechless

THE PROPOSAL

Just a few days before their one-year anniversary, Rowan had everything set up for a romantic proposal on the beach and knew the way straight to Daniel’s heart with a surprise getaway!

“Dan had always said he would never want to propose, and he was only a person to be proposed to,” Rowan laughs.

“So I knew it was up to myself to come up with a good plan – we started off our day with a lovely breakfast at Patisserie Valerie in town and went for some relaxing massages together.

“We then came home and got changed into suits and went to Seapark in Holywood and had a nice picnic on the beach and after I popped the question, I surprised Dan with a stay in Culloden Estate and Spa.”

Daniel says: “I kind of had a little inkling when I saw our suits and I knew something was clearly going on, but I thought one of our friends might be getting engaged and it was actually us!”

THE PLANNING PROCESS

As gay marriage wasn’t yet legalised in Northern Ireland, the planning process for Rowan and Daniel was a tricky one.

“It was 2018 and we weren’t allowed to be legally married in Northern Ireland, so we actually went down south to Dublin’s registry office and had a humanist ceremony and celebration later the next week at The Merchant Hotel.” Daniel explains.

Rowan says: “We had been debating it for a while as we wanted to get married but were considering waiting until gay marriage was legalised in the North as a way of protest because we felt like our love wasn’t any less than anyone else’s.”

“We were pushing dates back further and further, but it seemed like nothing was really changing, so we knew it was either delay our wedding long-term or make a decision to go elsewhere.”

“So we decided to jump in the car with my sister and brother-in-law and drove to Dublin and went to the registry office and in about 30 minutes we were legally married!”

DREAM WEDDING SUPPLIERS

To celebrate their commitment and love for each other, Rowan and Daniel choose The Merchant Hotel in Belfast where they had a stylish humanist ceremony and reception one week after legally saying ‘I do’.

The Merchant was a great location and we went to one of their wedding opening days with both our mums – straight away we just thought it was absolutely beautiful and had a good feeling,” Daniel says.  

RELATED TO: Wedding of the Week: Marie & John’s Chilled Ceremony with a Grand Entrance

“They had done a lot of civil partnerships before and they’re very gay-friendly and were named the number gay wedding venue by GNI.”

“The staff were also next to none., especially the wedding co-ordinator Lynn Beggs who could never do enough for us – the service was just amazing.”

“One thing that really drew us to The Merchant Hotel also was that everything from the ceremony and reception were all under one roof and it was just really easy and comfortable,” Rowan says.

For entertainment, Rowan and Daniel went for a family favourite DJ, Barney Barnes from Stratrax Disco Roadshow.

“Barney had done my sister’s wedding, my cousin’s wedding and my brother’s wedding as well as lots of family celebrations, so we knew you couldn’t go wrong with him and he created such a fun and lively atmosphere,” Rowan says.  

For flowers, Rowan and Daniel ditched the traditional bouquets for their bridesmaids and went with beautiful plum and white corsages from Blooms of Belfast.

RELATED TO: Wedding of the Week: Shannon & Dillon’s Castle Cliffside Ceremony

Their cake by Edith McCreedy was stunning with a sentimental touch featuring stag cake toppers which related to their unique love story.

“As we both loved the autumn season and the fact that our first date was in Tollymore Forest, we had a recurring theme of stags throughout the day which represented the time of year and us as a same sex couple,” Rowan says.

“Stags are seen as very powerful creatures and as a same-sex couple in Northern Ireland, we draw a lot of power from our sexuality and identity.”

WEDDING WARDROBE

These two looked as sharp as it gets with matching navy suits and grey checked waist coats from North End Dress Hire in Belfast.

They also had their bridesmaids rocking gorgeous plum numbers from online store JJs House, which also matched in with their bow ties and autumnal colour scheme.

RELATED TO: Wedding of the Week: Rebecca and Chris’s Beautiful Barn Celebration

CAPTURING THE DAY

Capturing the day was their wedding photographer, Michael McCamley from MMC Photography who caught all their favourite heart-warming moments.

“He was fantastic and had done the photographs for my sister’s wedding as well, so he knew he had great style and made us a lovely photo album which we got to design ourselves,” Daniel says.

FAVOURITE MOMENTS

Looking back, Rowan and Daniel are so grateful for their dream day filled with so much love and positivity, but there are a few favourite moments that stand out above the rest.

“My favourite part of the day was after we had done the official side of things and we were able to walk into our reception after all our family and friends and have a little dance and celebration – that’s where it really sank in and was my favourite moment of the day,” Rowan says.

“There was also a really special moment when we were on the backsteps of The Merchant and we were getting our group photograph done when this huge crowd across the street were clapping and cheering and it was just amazing positivity from everyone.”

“My favourite moment has to be when we were getting our photographs done on the cobbled streets near Harp Bar at Cathedral Quarter and people were walking past and saying congratulations and wishing us the best – the sheer love from everyone is something we’ll never forget.” Daniel says.

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