Wedding hopefuls hail end to Covid-related limit on guests

So many relatives set to be disappointed if, as many predicted, limit had remained at 100

Hannah McKenna and Ashley Maguire who are getting married this Saturday at Lough Rynn Castle in Co Leitrim with 210 guests in attendance. Photograph: Peter Carvill Photography

Hannah McKenna and Ashley Maguire who are getting married this Saturday at Lough Rynn Castle in Co Leitrim with 210 guests in attendance. Photograph: Peter Carvill Photography

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Ashley Maguire had some sleepless nights last week as he wondered whether he and his fiancee Hannah McKenna would, at the 11th hour, have to disappoint any of the 210 guests due to attend their wedding in Co Leitrim on Saturday.

He said Lough Rynn Castle, which is hosting the reception, “kept saying, ‘stay positive’ – but they weren’t going to be the ones ringing people saying, ‘sorry you can’t come after all’ ”.

McKenna was not a bit surprised when the Government announced that today would mark an end to coronavirus-related limits on guest numbers.

Throughout the pandemic, as the permitted attendance went from six to 25 to 50 and eventually 100, she remained confident. Her father, Oliver, is one of 17 children, 15 of whom survive, so the Co Monaghan teacher was never going to countenance doing her big day on a smaller scale.

Maguire, an accountant, said his dad comes from a family of nine, so many aunts and uncles were going to be disappointed if, as many predicted, the limit stayed at 100.

“Hannah’s mother Eithne died in 2019 before we got engaged and she kept saying her mother was looking down on us and that she would sort it. Hannah stayed cool, calm and collected,” he said.

Easing restrictions

Maguire, on the other hand, had to stop himself from looking at news updates on his phone as case numbers soared and speculation grew that a delay to the easing of restrictions was imminent.

“I was going through the guest list in my head thinking who would we cancel and when would we ring them,” said the Corcaghan, Co Monaghan native, who was stressed at the prospect of offending people who would not make the cut.

The couple booked the date in the pre-pandemic days of December 2019 and have since seen other people’s weddings cancelled or going ahead with small numbers present.

“We could have dropped to 100 but we never wanted that. Hannah always wanted the fairy tale wedding, so we kept to the plan,” said Maguire.

Ruth Conlon, sales and marketing manager at Lough Rynn Castle, has seen wedding plans change many times over the last 20 months.

“We have had couples who went ahead with six guests and we have opened up the castle for eight,” she said. “We had couples on the cusp of getting married in April, who put it off to July and then to December. Some have moved [the date] five times . It has been a complete roller coaster.”

However, some couples deemed the lockdown rules a blessing and grasped the opportunity to have a low-key wedding without having to offend extended family, neighbours or acquaintances they felt obliged to invite.

“We picked up extra weddings that way,” she said. “People rang and said I never wanted a big day but this is my opportunity to get married with just 25 people.”

Marlena McKenna and Paul Ennis, from Dunboyne in Co Meath, say it is a coincidence that they chose today, the day the restrictions are due to ease, as their wedding date .

Stress and worry

In normal times they would have invited up to 160 people, but have no regrets about sticking to the 100 who will join them at Lough Rynn Castle after the ceremony in St Patrick’s Church, Mohill.

“We could not count on the Government lifting restrictions because they have changed their minds before,” said Marlena. “We didn’t want to invite people and then maybe have to uninvite them. There’s enough to stress about without having to worry about that.”

The couple had a son, Liam, who is now 13-months-old, during the lockdown, so have had plenty on their minds other than ever-changing rules on weddings.

“We are very lucky as this was always our date and thankfully we never had to cancel,” she said. “We knew 2021 was going to be very busy for weddings with so many cancelled last year and we feel lucky to have got the date . . . we’re just looking really looking forward to the day now.”

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