You can imagine my surprise when I learned that not only had my mother purchased her own wedding dress from McElhinneys, but it was also a Ronald Joyce design. I had absolutely no idea that this was the case until we returned home, having found my dress earlier that day. I couldn't believe that we had selected the same designer, from the same store almost 30 years apart.

My Mum came with me to search for my wedding dress. My bridesmaids wanted it to be a surprise reveal for them on the day which was lovely. I bought the dress from from McElhinneys in Ballybofey, County Donegal and attended one other bridal store before that. My first appointment was a real game changer. It was during this appointment I realised that I suited a ball-gown more than any other style of dress. I didn't have a very clear idea on the shape or style of dress I wanted before I started dress shopping but the thought of opting for a ball gown pleated dress didn't enter my mind until I started trying on dresses. I was quite fortunate as I quickly established what I felt most comfortable in, so it didn't take long after that to find my dress.

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I had browsed the McElhinneys dresses online a couple of times before my appointment and I have to admit that I hadn't even noticed the dress I would end up choosing. I didn't even have the dress fully on and I knew it was the one. I didn't really feel like a bride-to-be until that moment. It was quite an emotional experience. I chose the Audrey gown, style number 69157, a lace bodice with boat neckline over a Mikado ball gown skirt.

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Our ceremony was held at my family church in rural Northern Ireland. My husband is very musical, so he focused heavily on the selection of music and the hymns we sang during the service. We held a vintage-themed afternoon tea with canapes for our guests in the church hall which we complemented with a quirky vintage style horse box serving mobile refreshments.

Continuing the vintage theme, we travelled to our wedding reception venue with the bridal party in a Volkswagon Campervan and Beetle combination. What attracted us most to the venue was the country-style marquee as neither of us had attended a wedding in a marquee before so we thought it would be something a little different. We decorated the marquee with a black and white dance floor, lots of flowers, candles and white blossom trees. We designed our stationery to merge the first initials of our surnames together as a symbol of our families coming together as we are both very family orientated. This symbol appeared on our invitations, table menus and seating plan. We made our wedding welcome sign and table plan with gold mirrors that we sourced from charity shops and made table numbers and various wedding signage using gold frames. We spray painted a hula hoop gold and decorated it with flowers and soft fairy lights, turning this into a back drop for a photo booth in the evening that we set up with an iPad and rim light. This seemed to be a real hit with our guests!

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It was important to us that good food was served throughout the day and that we chose a lively wedding band for the evening reception. We were very conscious of how far some of our guests had to travel in the morning to the ceremony which is why we opted for afternoon tea and serving of canapes directly after the ceremony. We were absolutely thrilled with the food and the band on the day.

One thing I would like to say to future brides is that when you’re trying on dresses, I think it is best to be open-minded and use every opportunity to try on different styles. If I hadn't been open-minded I never would have found my dress.

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If you like Stephanie’s dress, take a look at our other ball gown designs.


Photography by Sarah Bryden