A contemporary property on 10 acres of private grounds near Ballymahon, set in the heart of a secluded forest on the historic Newcastle Estate Demesne is The Stables in Ballymahon. In an intimate, late Summer wedding project lead for Women’s Aid, Mary Hayes married graphic designer for TV and film, Alessia Fusco. Photographed by Kyrstin Healy and featured in our Summer 2023 issue, this wedding day is utterly unique and completely perfect!

The pair met online and matched on two dating apps. It’s still unsettled who messaged whom first (apparently, Mary ghosted Alessia for a while), but once the two got chatting, it was non-stop laughs. "I knew I HAD to meet this girl; there was just something about her that put me at ease straight away. She made me laugh, and we had so many similar interests and values." They went to Dublin Zoo for their first date, which, in true lesbian fashion, lasted all day and ended in The George for a dance. From there, they were inseparable; each knew they had found a best friend and support system for life. "We have been through so much together as a couple and faced losses and challenges, but we are truly each other's biggest supporters and cheerleaders."

Being two women, there’s always the possibility that either could propose. Little did Alessia know that Mary was looking at rings, but she beat her to the chase! Family is super important to Mary, and she always said that she wanted her family to be there when she got engaged so that they could celebrate all together. Her family had planned a big jamboree with extended family at her parent's house in Tipperary. None of her family knew Alessia was planning to propose except her brother Tom and Aunt Mary, who held the ring. At the Jamboree, they were all camping outside under a big barn. It lashed rain all weekend, and they were drenched and covered in mud, but everyone was so excited to be together again after so long. "I hadn’t planned a specific time to propose; I just thought I would feel it when the time was right. So we were all playing a game of corn-in-the-hole, and it was getting very competitive and heated. It was the final game, and for whoever was taking their shot, the eyes of all 20 of Mary’s extended family were on them. So I stepped up to take my turn, gave a wink to Tom, went for another swing, swung around, and dropped to one knee. Her whole family erupted with cheers. We popped champagne and danced in the rain. It was utterly unforgettable."

Both brides wanted a very natural, dewy look. Mary is big into skincare and had both of them on a carefully thought-out skincare routine, so wanted their skin to shine through. She found Julie Martin on Instagram and fell in love with her style. "Her skills really celebrate skin in all its glory, and she made us both feel more beautiful than we’ve ever felt." The couple had many people for make-up, and she found a second artist with ease and helped the pair to feel settled on the day. Mary used to wear a really simple Zara perfume when they first started dating, and it always transports Alessia back to that time, so she wore that on the day. Alessia wore her signature D&G no3. 

Mary tried about three dress shops and found some beautiful dresses but never felt 100% herself. She wanted something that she could move and dance in and didn’t want something super feminine. She felt like a rockstar when she found her trousers in Alice May Bridal in Foxrock. "They were straight out of my Pinterest dreams, so comfortable, and I finally felt like myself, and they had pockets!" Mary struggled to find the exact top she wanted and was saved when she found Carol-Ann Hughes of NiAodha Designs in Wicklow. She custom-made the top on a tight deadline, which was utterly perfect. "Her attention to detail is unmatched. I found my veil on Facebook Marketplace, an absolute bargain, and the tiny pearls were a dream."

After going to a few bridal stores, Alessia knew she wanted something contemporary, comfortable and unexpected. She found her perfect dress in Reiss and bought it in both blue and white, so Mary thought she would be wearing blue. She couldn't keep the tears away when she saw Alessia in her dress. "I also wanted to change into trousers for the evening shenanigans, so I found a gorgeous set in Karen Millen. I felt phenomenal in both, and my jewellery was borrowed from my great Nonna which was a special touch."

Mary: The whole weekend was completely DIY. Mary & Alessia both knew they wanted a small wedding and didn’t want to be in a conventional wedding venue. Unfortunately, many venues in Ireland still take a very gendered approach to wedding services. They had lots of awkward calls and emails asking for the name of the groom and having to explain that it was two brides. "We also had a vision of tents, but it was tricky finding a place where we could have total freedom to plan the day we wanted to without being tied down to set menus, timetables and packages." They found The Stables in Ballymahon on Airbnb, which exceeded their expectations. "The owner Eoin was so accommodating and went above and beyond to help us have the weekend we wanted. We hired tents from Magnakata, and all of our families put in endless hours of help to get the whole place set up." Alessia’s mum hand-made all the dry flower arrangements and used her seamstress skills, hand-sewing each napkin! As a designer, Alessia is very creative, but she pulled out all the stops. She hand-made the giant streamer chandelier with the help of her brother Dario. She even taught herself to build neon signs and made two huge ones for decoration. From the placeholders to the disco balls to the smores party favours, and the hand-dyed pampas grass, the couple and their family made literally everything!

"Why have a band when you can surprise everyone with a drag show!" For entertainment, the brides had three of the most fabulous drag queens, Blondie Boots, Annie Naggins and Donatella Galway, who put on an unforgettable show. "None of our guests knew about the show, so when the girls strutted out to ‘Man, I feel like a Woman’, the whole room was on their feet." It was the perfect way to start the party, and a friend of the family and DJ, Ádhamh, lit up the dance floor spinning tunes until the early hours. During the speeches, Mary’s family also did a surprise rendition of Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You, complete with saxophones and trumpets.

About the best decision, Mary said, "The best decision was to keep it intimate and to do it our way. We made some unconventional decisions about the day, but it made it really special, and we both felt like it reflected us as a couple. For example, instead of doing a big reveal by walking down the aisle, we had a champagne hour with our guests before the ceremony, which put everyone at ease. It was also crucial to mark those in the LGBTQ+ community who had fought for our right to marry, who may not have lived to realise the same right. So during our ceremony, we took a moment to remember those before us. We also had Alessia’s twin sister as our celebrant. She is both of our best friends, so we couldn’t picture anyone else marrying us, and it made the ceremony so special."

About the best decision, Alessia said, "Our photographer Kyrstin Healy was also phenomenal. We both hate having our photo taken; she made us feel so relaxed and completely captured the whole vibe of our day. She’s now our official family photographer; we’re obsessed with her!"

- Gráinne