Commanding stunning views directly overlooking scenic Lough Erne, the Killyhevlin Lakeside Hotel was the breathtaking backdrop for Mark Willis and Lesley Hegarty's modern and romantic wedding on the 10th of August 2023. If you're in love with the idea of an elegant summer wedding by the water, you will fall head over heels when you see the details captured by Alexandra Barfoot.

The couple met back in 2018 through mutual friends, but it wasn’t until 2021 that finally they decided to go on a date. They felt an instant connection, love blossomed, and years later they're still head over heels for one another.  

The couple had talked about rings but had never actually gone to look for one. Lesley knew exactly what she wanted in her dream engagement ring, but as it turned out, Mark had a completely different vision. After a few conversations, the pair concluded that if they were going to get engaged, they would go to look at rings together. On the 3rd of December, the couple took a trip to Fermanagh to look for new fishing spots for Mark (An avid fisherman). "I remember the day being so cold and I kept saying how I would rather that we went on a nice walk and got brunch and a coffee somewhere else." Mark had packed a picnic and after the lunch had been eaten, he dug through the bag and a red ring box was produced. Mark dropped to one knee and asked Lesley to be his bride. "I was so surprised, I  didn’t see it coming, especially after our conversation about going to look at rings in a shop! The looking for fishing spots - turned into the best day!"

Lesley's beauty journey was relatively simple. She had a few facials in the lead-up to the wedding but just generally stuck to her normal skincare routine. Bella Rose Beauty has done Lesley's makeup for almost every wedding she has attended as a guest so it was a no-brainer that Claire would be doing her wedding makeup!  For hair, she went with the fabulous Rebecca Mullholland. "I couldn’t have had a better glam squad to get us ready the morning of the wedding." Her signature scent for the wedding was Jo Malone Peony & Blush Suede, an exquisite floral fragrance with delicate rose and honey accents and a subtle, green freshness. Perfect for summer!

Lesley actually found her wedding dress a week after getting engaged! Having been a bridesmaid six times before, she knew the process of dress shopping like the back of her hand. She was scrolling on Instagram a few months before the engagement and noticed that a bridal shop she had previously visited with a friend, Dream Weddings Coleraine, had posted a wedding dress that she just loved. However, she quickly scrolled on as she thought that she wouldn’t be needing a wedding dress anytime soon! After the engagement the same shop reappeared on her Instagram feed, so on a whim, she sent a message to ask if they still had the dress in stock. Much to Lesley's delight, they did! "There were so many lovely dresses but I kept coming back to the first one, and that was the dress I went for."

For her bridesmaids, Lesley asked her sister Andrea and Marks's sister Lisa. "We just looked online for dresses as my sister was studying in Liverpool, it just made it easier getting dresses delivered to the house than trying to arrange a time that suited all three of us to go to a bridal shop." Wanting something that the girls felt comfortable in, Lesley left no stone unturned and ordered quite a hefty amount of champagne dresses, eventually finding the perfect off-the-shoulder, floor-length dress from Pretty Lavish.

The ceremony was in Lesley's home church and her past minister, David Bingham, was able to come back to marry the couple. "The whole ceremony was a dream. Marks’ cousins played the music and I walked down the aisle. We had different family members reading scripture and friends singing during the service, as we wanted the ceremony to be as personal as possible. My favourite part was seeing all our favourite people in the church building watching us get married!"

When it came to finding the venue Lesley and Mark had a few rules, the primary one being that they would only book a venue that had a one-wedding-a-day policy. They also wanted somewhere that none of their friends had been married in, as the two had been to so many weddings over the years. Mark went to view the Killyhelvin Lakeside Hotel with his mum and both came back with rave reviews. The following week the couple took Lesley's parents to check it out and again the group felt positive. "We loved the setting of the hotel and having the Lough Erne in the background. It made it a bit more special as we got engaged in Fermanagh too."

The couple picked ‘The Best Men NI" as their wedding band. "We wanted a band who would have every guest out of their seats and on the dance floor and that is exactly what we got." Neither Lesley nor Mark had ever heard the band play in person, but after a promising recommendation from Lesley's mum and some thorough research, the pair asked them to perform. For the DJ they had DJ Ryan Millar. He played at a friend's wedding a couple of months prior and created such an unbelievable atmosphere. "Mark actually messaged him after our friend's wedding and our wedding date was the one night he had free that whole week, so we knew it was a must to have him. He was amazing! Our dance floor wasn’t empty once the whole evening!"

Regarding the best decision, Lesley had to say, "We loved everything about our wedding. I loved all the decisions that we made, from picking the date, and venue, to the photographer. We loved being able to spend time with family who had travelled over from Spain to share our special day with us. Having our wedding on a Thursday meant we  were able to continue celebrating with friends and family that whole weekend."

- Gráinne