When a couture creative director and floral designer say "I do," you already know you're in for some fabulous fashion and gorgeous décor. But when you add in the sweet way THEIA's Don O'Neill and Fleur de Pascal's Pascal Guillermie first met 23 (yes, 23!) years ago, a clear tent set in the ruins of an Irish castle, and over 200 guests from around the world, it becomes a party you definitely don't want to miss.
Let's go back to Paris in 1993. There, Don was a costumier for the Baroque Opera "Phaeton," and Pascal was one of the dancers in the production. "I spotted him on the first day, when we met the choir members and dancers in the auditorium," remembers Don. Over the course of a few weeks, Pascal made many visits to the costume department to have his costume adjusted as they prepared for the show, while Don worked up the nerve to find out if Pascal might be interested. Finally, after a long week of rehearsals, Pascal convinced Don to join the dancers at a Parisian nightclub, and the magic officially began. Twenty years later, on the beach at the Raleigh Hotel in Miami, the couple was celebrating their anniversary as they soaked up the sun. Just after 10:30 AM, a plane flew over the beach, toting a banner that read "Pascal Je T'aime, Will You Marry Me?". "Getting Pascal into position was a challenge!" Don remembers, as his now-husband put up a beach umbrella and then headed into the water just minutes before he needed to be directing his gaze skyward.
On June 11, 2016, Don and Pascal headed to Ballyheigue, the village in Ireland where Don grew up, to tie the knot at Ballyheigue Castle, overlooking the bay. "It was the perfect opportunity to have our family and friends finally get to visit my family home and my parents' bed and breakfast on the cliff," Don explains. "It was Pascal's idea to host the wedding at the castle, the perfect, enchanting setting for our celebration."
We won't keep you from the stunning views, fantastic style, and incredible design any longer — take a peek at the photos, by Sonya Revell, below!
Don created the grooms' matching suits, which he calls one of the most difficult design challenges he's ever faced. "They had to be special, magical, and unlike anything anyone had ever seen," he says. Both men wore blue-gray Nehru jackets, embroidered with antique silver glass beads and Swarovski crystals. Don's featured Celtic spirals, intertwined with Irish fuchsia blossoms and the Celtic gryphon from the Book of Kells, while Pascal's was adorned with seahorses. Beneath their jackets, they wore matching shirts embroidered with fuchsia blossoms, seahorses, and swirls.
"We took an entire year to plan the wedding," says Pascal. "We had a clear vision of what we wanted the weekend to feel like. The day after our wedding was Don's 50th birthday and he loves to celebrate his birthday, so I wanted the weekend to be our wedding as well as the best three-day party ever."
When Pascal and Don arrived at the castle, they released two red heart-shaped balloons — a nod to Don's beachfront proposal. "We were so surprised to arrive at the castle to our guests cheering and whistling. The reality of our wedding day was suddenly upon us!" Don remembers.
The ceremony took place overlooking Ballyheigue Bay, with rows of white chairs leading to a simple altar made of branches of Irish fuchsia. Pascal walked down the aisle with his mother, while Don walked with his father. "The four of us met at the top of the aisle and formed a line overlooking the bay. It was so emotional, with our guests cheering behind us," Don describes.
The grooms spent a year customizing their ceremony with their celebrant, sifting through vows and readings to craft a personalized celebration of their 23-year love story. Friends and family joined in for readings and prayers, including poems written by Don's brother and a story of their relationship told by a close friend.
Don's sister, Deidre, sang and played guitar throughout he ceremony. She wore THEIA, of course, donning the shimmering Celine gown from the Ballyheigue-themed Spring 2015 bridal runway show.
"I didn't give our celebrant time to tell Don to kiss me after we'd said our vows," says Pascal. "I just jumped into his arms and, after 23 years together, kissed the love of my life for the first time as my husband!"
"We did our best to incorporate the natural, stunning beauty of Ballyheigue into our wedding," says Don. "The details were bespoke, with a clear marquee tent, custom-stained oak floors, banquet-style tables, and wrought iron candelabras forming our rustic, elegant vision."
Pascal owns a floral atelier in New York, Fleur de Pascal, so he took on the majority of the wedding design himself. He drew his vision for the centerpieces and the table setups, then emailed his designs to their florist, Eleanor Groves of Eleanor's Flowers. "She recreated everything to perfection!" says Pascal. The sole flower was an Irish fuchsia, which was the favorite bloom of Don's late mother. "That way she was with us everywhere we went," Pascal explains.
The menus, printed in both English and French, described an indulgent, locally-inspired meal, from a goat cheese tart to Irish filet of beef with whipped potatoes and red onion jam, shitake mushroom risotto, and Atlantic salmon with asparagus. And of course, with Pascal's French heritage, the wines and champagne were specially selected and flown in for the occasion!
In honor of Don's 50th birthday, Pascal made sure there would be 50 guests in THEIA dresses to celebrate. "Their arrival at the castle felt like an award show red carpet!" says Don.
The grooms' first dance song was "This Love Will Carry," performed by Frances Black herself! Her daughter, folk singer Aoife Scott, then took to the microphone before The Bentley Boys took to the stage. At midnight, after guests had dined on a trio of chocolate cakes decorated to resemble three iconic THEIA gowns, Don blew out the candles on an oversized pavlova and the birthday celebrations began.
Instead of heading on their honeymoon after their wedding, the newlyweds actually did the reverse! "We knew we would be staying in Ireland with Pascal's family and friends around the wedding, with bus tours and day trips, so the year before, for our 22nd anniversary, we went to the Four Seasons Bora Bora. The over-water bungalows are heaven!" says Don.
The grooms' best advice is to take a few minutes to yourselves on your wedding day. "Step back to behold each other, hold hands, and see how lucky you are to be marrying this gorgeous person standing in front of you," says Don. "The moments we had just the two of us, as the day zoomed past, were so magical."
Ceremony & Reception Venue: Ballyheigue Castle Golf Club || Grooms' Attire: Custom, by Don O'Neill of THEIA || Wedding Bands: Niessing || Floral Design: Design by Fleur de Pascal, Flowers by Eleanor's Florist || Cocktail Hour Music: Ultimate Rhythm || Reception Music: Frances Black; Aoife Scott; The Bentley Boys || Catering: Masterchefs Hospitality || Rentals: Pavilion Marquees || Photographer: Sonya Revell
Want more ideas just like this? Then check out another couple's destination wedding in the video below.