Gillian Morgan packed her suitcase for what she thought would be a relaxing break with her childhood sweetheart Damien Cahalan.
Instead, she woke up to a set of instructions leading her on a fast and furious 12-hour mystery tour.
The couple, both from Borrisokane, County Tipperary, got to know one another as teens while attending the same secondary school.
Fast-forward to the present, and both are employed by Janssen (the pharmaceutical division of Johnson & Johnson).
Four years ago, Damien invited Gillian to spend a week in the Netherlands, where he was working at the time.
“I thought I was visiting him for a chilled week when he was living in The Hague,” she says.
“Damien told me he had to work for just a couple of hours one morning so I was having a lovely lie-in after he left — when I got a text to open the letter on the kitchen counter.”
Gillian found directions to follow for the day, as well as flight tickets to Rome, where she had lived and worked the year before.
At Fiumicino Airport, a chauffeur brought her to a hotel in Piazza Venezia. “There I found another letter instructing me to make my way to the top of Vittorio Emanuele monument (overlooking my favourite place in the world) by sunset,” she says.
“My third and final letter (which I was to open once on the rooftop) said: ‘I have a question for you’, and there Damien was, in front of me, on one knee.”
The couple, who had been based in Cork for seven years, moved back to their hometown in August.
They were wed on December 30, in St Mary’s Cathedral, Killarney, County Kerry, by Damien’s uncle, Monsignor Harry Bugler, who arrived from New Orleans to officiate.
The Brehon Hotel was their reception venue, where the bride’s dad Paddy Morgan and the groom’s mum and dad, Eileen and Pat Cahalan, led the celebrations.
Very much in their thoughts was the bride’s mother, the late Teresa Morgan.
“On the day, we had a special remembrance for my mother who sadly passed away suddenly on June 26, 2020. We know she would have been so proud to see us finally tie the knot, as Damien and I have been together 16 years now,” says Gillian.
“This was our third attempt to be married since 2020 after two covid postponements. It was definitely worth the wait, and the added bonus was that we had our beautiful baby girl Keeva (born August 3, 2022) there to celebrate with us this time around.”
Also by Gillian’s side on her big day was her sister Dani Morgan as maid of honour, while her friends Áine Hogan and Elaine McLoughney were her bridesmaids.
Damien’s friend Stephen Oakley was his best man while his brothers Stephen Cahalan and Ger Cahalan took on the role of groomsmen.
“We had friends and family members travel from Sydney Australia, Vancouver Canada, Denver, New York, New Orleans, Boston, Dubai, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands — and of course, the local hotspots from our hometown in Borrisokane,” adds Gillian.
“We were so glad that they all made the trip and there was a real sense of occasion and undeniable craic in the air, that lasted a couple of days as the celebrations transitioned into New Year’s Eve for day two.
“Somehow my family managed to have or get involved in three residents’ bar singsongs — the night before, night of and night after the wedding!”
Breda Daly (@lovestoryweddingphoto) was behind the camera snapping every special moment, while @mytruenorth.ie was the videographer.
Fiona Kennedy provided the church music, while Blacktye Wedding Band ensured the dance floor was the place to be after the reception feast.
Gillian looked stunning in a dress sourced in Diamond Bridal Cork, while the groom and his party were dapper thanks to Jim McLoughney Menswear, Nenagh, County Tipperary.
The bride and her party were ready for their close-ups thanks to Aine Doherty, the makeup artist, and the FMN Bridal team.
Wonderous Weddings devised the floral arrangements and O’Carroll’s Cakes created the wedding cake.
“After the wedding, Damien and I had a brief but stunning minimoon in the beautiful Castlemartyr Resort,” says Gillian.
“Our honeymoon plans have shifted to incorporate our baby girl Keeva so now, we are aiming for a trip to Australia to vi