Nestled beautifully in the heart of the picturesque Co. Down countryside, Montalto Estate is a privately-owned demesne which dates back to the early 1600s. Rachel McFarlane married Michael Rourke at the Carriage Rooms on the 15th of September 2023. Featured in our Winter 2023 issue of SOCIAL & PERSONAL WEDDINGS, there are a few words to describe the beautiful day captured by Jayne Lindsay, delicate, romantic and dreamy.

The couple met just almost three years ago through mutual friends who thought they would be a good match. Rachel had just started her own coffee business, Batch Coffee, during lockdown and converted an old horsebox trailer which she ran in a quaint forest park on the outskirts of Belfast. Mike drove up to the coffee trailer and surprised her with a short but sweet interaction. The pair agreed later on in the week to go for an evening in which he could wine and dine her. The rest is history!

Michael wanted Rachel's engagement ring to come from his home city – Manchester, just for a personal touch and to feel like their two worlds coming together. "I flew back to Belfast Friday evening with the sparkling emerald ring planning, to take her to our favourite spot up the North Coast later in the week. However, when I landed back home, I just couldn’t wait any longer and decided to ‘pop the question’ along our usual coastal walk. All was going smoothly until the dog we were looking after decided to run off, just as I went down to one knee. Rachel couldn’t find the words to say yes straight away so I had to urge her for an answer. Upon saying yes, I placed the ring on her finger and swiftly ran away to chase the dog!"

Rachel didn’t want to change her normal routine and didn’t want too much on the day. Luckily she naturally has quite clear skin which helped. On the day she had Olivia Muldoon for her hair and Tippy Logronio for makeup. She wore her hair pulled back into a sleek bun and paired that with pearl earrings and a necklace. "I just wanted it to be natural and subtle as I felt the dress did most of the talking!" For her wedding fragrance, Rachel wore Jo Malone English Pear and Freesia. It’s delicate, light and floral which was perfect for the venue and it was the perfect final touch! "I had bought Michael the Crew mini selection set for the wedding day, as I didn’t want to commit to a scent without his help – to this day, he still can't remember which he wore on the day!"

Rachel and her mum took a trip down to Belfast and visited a couple of shops. She had in my head that she wanted a tight-fitting and plain dress but none of them made her feel like a bride. "I went into Ivy & White knowing the exact dress I wanted to try on but after a while, I had to accept that it really didn’t suit me. I then saw this fluffy, fun dress that I wanted to try on as a ‘wild card’, it was an instant yes!" It was perfect for dancing! She paired the ruffled gown with a gorgeous ruffled Beba veil from Blue Meadow Bridal which matched so perfectly with the fluffiness of the skirt. 

Michael had the idea of a brown, bold tartan suit. This idea he was sold on, however, Rachel already bought her dress which set the scene and aesthetic for the whole day, and the brown suit was not on her vision board! "We visited Freddy Hatchets in Belfast where Michael tried on a range of suits, including his brown one – thankfully after trying a few, we both agreed on the navy and black tux. We felt it was younger and smarter for our day."

Rachel's best friend of 22 years Linzi, her previous BFF Molly and eldest niece Amy were her fabulous bridesmaids. Accompanied by two beautiful flower girls, Ella & Charlotte. She chose the colour pink as it’s her favourite and left it up to them to choose their own dress. "Each one was slightly different shades but it catered to their ages and silhouettes. It was important they felt comfortable and fabulous at the same time!"

Rachel’s perspective, "I wanted a more casual ceremony and a less traditional one. I wanted the focus to be on our relationship and our journey up to that moment. My favourite part was reaching my husband at the front so I could grasp tightly onto his hand as I was a bit nervous!"
Michael’s Perspective, "Having armed myself with a sausage soda and a few glasses of whiskey, myself and my groomsmen headed to the wedding venue. I'm usually very calm and collected in all environments but on this occasion, I couldn’t hold my pure expression of happiness and joy. I’ll never forget the moment Rachel walked down the aisle, she looked so beautiful. I can only remember a few seconds before my eyes clouded over with tears of happiness."

The Carriage Rooms was always the couple's dream venue as it’s grand but elegant at the same time. From the open fires to the well-kept gardens they walked in, everything was just perfect. The venue space was exquisitely styled by Betty Williamson, with pink and green table runners, flowers and menus. Even when the skies opened up the Carriage Rooms team were able to keep the day flowing perfectly and their team made sure that every moment was amazing. "It lived up to my dreams in every way!"

The couple found Anna Smyth during the venue's wedding open day! It was the only wedding showcase they visited as Rachel was super prepared and just couldn’t find the perfect ceremony singer until she heard Anna's beautiful voice across the hall! "I booked Anna on the spot and she could not have gone more out of her way – she even recommended our evening band." Anna provided voice notes and song samples which were unbelievably good and perfectly captured the energy of the day. "Annas Number were our evening band, I wanted to avoid the typical cheesy wedding bands and they totally delivered. It felt like we had our very own concert surrounded by our favourite people. Everyone danced the night away, especially me as even my change of trainers couldn’t protect my feet from blisters. The best night ever."

About the best decision, Rachel had to say, "Choosing a venue that can cater for good and bad days! Northern Ireland is prone to a good pouring and the team at the Carriage Rooms took it all in their stride. It was so perfect to have many options for photography indoors, really gave us editor vibes."

About the worst decision, Rachel had to say, "
Not choosing a videographer! We have so many beautiful photos but there are some details I would love to relive in video. There’s a lot to take in and it would be nice to look back on the whole day. I feel you get so carried away on the day, chatting to so many people, a week or so later you realise it just flew back and is such a blur. Between prosecco and adrenaline, I definitely regret not documenting every moment."

- Gráinne