Our wedding story: finding love second time around

Paddy McKenna and Marie Donnelly didn't expect to find love after both of their spouses passed away. And then they went dancing...

Paddy McKenna and Marie Donnelly each have a story that led them to where they are today.

A retired marketing director for Guinness Group Sales Ireland, Paddy's late wife was in the final stages of Alzheimer's when his doctor advised him to "develop another life". On the suggestion of a close friend, he went dancing and one such outing ended up in the Red Cow hotel.

“Initially I didn’t find it very interesting . . . but then I saw this beautiful, elegant woman who was a superb dancer. I just had to ask her for a dance. I was intrigued and planned there and then to dance regularly with her.”

Although he and Marie, a retired banker with AIB, gradually became good friends, "she refused to socialise outside of dancing. She would never allow me to sit with her, never let me buy her a drink or in any way compromise her."


In February 2012, Paddy’s wife died.

“At this stage, I was very sad and lonely, so I developed my friendship with Marie. I was now able to persuade her to have a drink with me and even persuaded her to have a meal with me . . . what progress! So we dated and danced for four years,” Paddy says.

After Marie’s husband died of cancer in 2008, she joined Beginning Experience, a peer support group for widows, separated or divorced people.

“I met fabulous people there who changed my life . . . one took me to Jury’s to dance. I hated it at first and then I found it a great outlet and became addicted to the freedom of being able to socialise on my own with other singletons,” she says.

“The nights are the worst when you first find yourself alone . . . when the children visited, they usually left about 9.30pm and sure that’s when you go out dancing.

“One night in the Red Cow, Paddy asked me to dance and from then on I was sure of a dance if Paddy was there . . . he then turned up at Jury’s hotel and I was suddenly sure of a dance there too.”

The couple chatted occasionally by Skype and the following year Paddy asked Marie out. By then, she says, “it was quite natural to accept. This was a strange one for me because I never did want another relationship.”

Paddy says: “Finally, I persuaded her that we could have a fabulous life together if we married.”

He subsequently proposed on February 7th, 2016.

“Of course, I said yes,” says Marie, “I love him. I always said I wouldn’t marry again but it took someone very special to change my mind.”

On June 25th, 2016, they were married by Marie's friend from Beginning Experience, Fr Eugene Curran in St Columbanus and Gall in Milltown.

While they went without bouquets, booklets, a cake and favours, the bride (accompanied up the aisle by her son Peter) wore a full-length dress, headdress and a white orchid on her pearl bracelet.

The couple's witnesses were Marie's daughter Collette and Paddy's daughter Roisin. The bride's other daughter Imelda was bridesmaid, her grand-daughter Siena (4) was the flower girl and grandson Luca (18 months) was the pageboy. Grandsons Niall (11) and Patrick (15) were the readers and both families were involved in the bidding prayers and offertory.

The newlyweds, who describe themselves as " content, fulfilled and excited about the future", had their first dance to Could I Have This Dance For The Rest Of My Life? Photographs: Richard Gavin