Donal met Susan in June 2014 on a weekend trip she was on to Dublin. She was working as an intern at a church in the west of Ireland for three months, and Donal was an apprentice at a partnering church in Dublin. The two met and became fast friends. After Donal led a team to Susan’s town several weeks later, the pair began spending a lot more time together. Little did they know that some of the families at church were trying to match-make them, and suddenly they inexplicably were having their lunch breaks scheduled together and going on walks around town. A few weeks after Susan returned to the USA, Donal revealed his intentions via Skype, and the two have been together ever since. A long distance relationship to say the least, the two have eaten up lots of hours with video chatting, phone calls, and looking up plane fares. Susan flew to Ireland for a few weeks to meet Donal’s friends and family, and Donal spent a few weeks of the Spring in North Carolina. On Donal’s following trip, a six-week stay in the U.S., he proposed the week of their one-year anniversary at Kanuga, a favorite childhood location of Susan’s in the mountains. Read more about Susan and Donal’s uber romantic proposal story at the end of the blog. Their proposal was so sweet and thoughtful, it made me cry reading their wonderfully beautiful testament of love and faith!
Donal and Susan knew that they wanted a summer, church wedding fairly early on in their planning process. They both have quite traditional tastes, and also knew they wanted to have a relatively small wedding, if for no other reason that many loved friends and family members would not be able to make the trip overseas. Since they attended church in a building that was rented, they began looking at churches online, and fell in love with the history and small, Southern feel of Ephesus Baptist. The staff and members there that they were able to connect with were a joy to work with, and very supportive! The Carolina Inn has held a special place in Susan’s heart since before she went to UNC Chapel Hill. She has stayed there with family, had her graduation brunch there, gone to formals with her sorority, and celebrated lots of football and basketball victories! When wedding planning, Donal and Susan also fell in love with the classic, 1920’s look of the Old Well Ballroom. They could not feel more blessed or privileged for this location that they got to celebrate their marriage in. Everything about the planning process and day was a true joy.
At the beginning of the planning process, Susan’s one request was “No Carolina Blue.” She absolutely adores the color, but she felt like she wanted to do something different since it had been five years since college graduation. As it turns out, selecting the bridesmaids dress colors was one of the only majorly difficult decisions! Once she found a dress that everyone liked, the color just seemed to fall into place. Along with that Susan loved the golds, blushes, and creams that have become so popular lately, and they also used Navy tablecloths to make the lighter shades pop. And Susan didn’t mind one bit that they went with the Carolina Blue!
Besides their love of God and their profound faith, Susan and Donal are some of the most caring and humanitarian people I know! Susan and Donal made a donation to a local dog rescue association in my name. I cannot say enough how grateful I am for their wonderful generosity. This is especially dear to me because I love animals. Their bridesmaid’s gifts came from Fashion and Compassion, stunning products made by women overcoming poverty & injustice in the US, South America & Africa. Can I just say, “WOW!”.
Capturing Susan and Donal’s day was an absolute joy! Their love story, along with the faith they both share was inspiring. When I witnessed their first kiss (EVER) during the ceremony, I felt like I was beaming with happiness as much as the bride and groom! You could feel the entire room was oozing with love, bliss and overwhelming delight for the newlyweds! Thank you so much Susan and Donal for your endless charity and also for letting me be part of your day!!
Ceremony Venue: Ephesus Baptist Church
Reception Venue: The Carolina Inn
Bridal Gown – Ellis, Mecklenburg Bridal (Charlotte, NC)
Mother of the Bride Dress: Jade Couture
Bridesmaids Dresses: Alfred Angelo
Bridesmaids Gifts: Fashion and Compassion
Men’s Formalwear: Jos. A Bank
Florist: University Florist
Stationer: Little House Shoppe
Ceremony Musician: Daniel Salo
Reception Music: SPIN – Ryan Pflumm
Party Rentals: CE Rental
Guest Accommodations: The Carolina Inn, The Sheraton
Hair and Makeup – Jessica Reed Parker – ReedMyLipstick
Bridal Jewelry: Carolee
Bridesmaid Jewelry: Pearls
Engagement Ring: Diamonds Direct
Wedding Favors – donation to Charlotte Rescue Mission
Calligrapher: Tina Robinette
From the bride:
Donal and I had been discussing the possibility of getting engaged for awhile, and had been studying pre-marital counseling materials and researching visa options. After Donal had been in the USA for a visit for about five weeks last summer, I began receiving a different card and gift each day of the week. We were approaching our one-year anniversary on September 2nd, and I had been wondering if anything would happen on that day. I had joked with him before that if he gave me a big speech about our relationship when he proposed, that he would have to write it down beforehand, because I wouldn’t hear a word of it due to being in shock. On the “First Day”, Donal presented me with a card which he had filled with words about why he loved me, how he was grateful for our relationship, and thanking God for bringing us together. He extended these words into a different card every day for five days in a row. I also received a different gift every day: Day 1 – a Red Velvet Cupcake Day 2 – playing and singing a song on the guitar for me (“Babylon”) Day 3 – a watercolor picture of the two of us he had painted, taken from a picture of the two of us taken at Duke Gardens Day 4 – a long poem detailing our relationship over the last year Day 5 – sending a string of pictures of the two of us taken on our summer travels over the last few weeks Then, there were two days of “silence”, so to speak, gift and card wise. I was quietly wondering to myself what exactly the next step was! By the way, I didn’t realize at the time the connection made between the gifts. Donal explained to me after the proposal that, as a former history student, he was making a chronological pattern with the gifts. One our one month anniversary, he had bought a cupcake from a local bakery with a candle for us to “blow out” over Skype. The second day, he sang a song for me that he had played the first time I ventured over to Ireland to meet his family. The third day was a painting of a favorite picture of ours taken on his first trip to the United States. The fourth day was detailing the last year of our relationship, and the fifth was pictures taken on his second, and so far longest, trip to the US. Then, on Sunday, August 30th, 2015, Donal pulled a massive surprise that I still can’t believe I didn’t catch on to. After leaving church, I received a text message from Laura, my friend and roommate, stating that her and Jackie, my other friend/roommate, had been thinking of doing a day trip to the mountains to go apple picking and to a brewery, and asked if we wanted to go. We immediately agreed, although I couldn’t help but wonder why on earth we were leaving at 2:30 in the afternoon to drive all the way up to the mountains for the day. In my head though, the words “Spontaneous Adventure!” overpowered all else. We piled into Laura’s car and noted how beautiful the weather had turned, as Laura’s phone gave silent navigational instructions up front, which I didn’t think much of. About an hour into the trip, Laura casually mentioned that her aunt had mentioned that there was a really pretty lake near where we were and where she lived, and did we maybe all want to go check it out? We agreed, and about a half hour later I see us approaching a big entrance sign that says “Kanuga”. Not putting two and two together at all, I suddenly burst into excitement. “OH MY GOSH!!! This is the place I had told you about a long time ago that I had always wanted to show you (Donal)! Laura, is this the lake your aunt told you about?!” “Yeah, I think so!” she responded, pulling in the drive. I was on cloud nine, saying things that probably had them all in hysterics looking back like “What an amazing coincidence!!!” Kanuga was a place that I had grown up going to every Thanksgiving for about 5 days from the ages of 6-19 with my whole mom’s side of the family. It was, and is, one of my favorite places in the world. We always spent the week in the same cabin overlooking a lake, made fires, spent days without essentially any electronics, had tea, made crafts, and ate really good food. In part, it represented family unity to me. I had always wanted to go back to spend another holiday or season there. Donal had picked up that it was clearly a special place to me. It was the perfect place to establish that we were taking a step in beginning our own addition as a family unit as well. We get out of the car, me still obliviously listing all of the locations that I wanted to show them. While Donal was probably patting his bag making sure that the box was still in there, I was on a ramble. “And then we can go to the boathouse, and the Canteen, and the…” Jackie stated as we got out that she was going to look over at the main building, and Laura said that she needed to check something with the car, but that we should go ahead. Donal asked me to show him the lake, where there was a lookout point. As soon as we started to walk down, I was about to jokingly ask if he was about to propose to me, but held back. When we got to the edge, he put his arm around me, and said “You know I want to spend the rest of my life with you, right?” I suddenly stared at him and slowly said “Me too…”, finally putting it all together. He got down on one knee, and asked me to marry him, already having given me a six-paged speech in his cards the week before. I immediately just started laughing and said “Yes” a whole lot (I lost track of the number of times I think…), and was in a slightly stunned state of disbelief. After answering I looked to the left to see Laura and Jackie hiding in the bushes taking pictures. We didn’t realize this at the time, but it was very funny because for probably only about 5 seconds, but what felt like awhile, he stayed on one knee expecting me to take the ring and put it on, and I was expecting for him to jump up and hug me, so we kind of grinned stupidly at each other for a little bit as our picture was being taken! Finally, he hopped up and fist pumped, like a true 80’s movie would call for ; ) Afterwards, I was pretty much in a dreamlike state for the next 24 hours or so. We celebrated by actually going to a brewery (Laura was like “I didn’t want to totally lie, so I really did find a good one!), ate hot dogs from a food truck, and had a beer as the weather turned chilly, perfect for the scenery. It was very “us”. After that we figured we should commemorate the day a bit more, so we went to the Grove Park Inn to take in the views and share appetizers and desserts.