TONY & MICHAEL
Back before the internet was a thing, the classified ads section of GCN often took up three pages, with people using it as a resource to find everything from sex to life partners, to new places to live.
For this very special weddings issue, in the 30th year of GCN’s publication, we speak to two married couples who met through our hallowed pages. It’s good to know that we were there at the very beginning.
Back in 1992, there weren’t many ways to meet potential partners. Eyes might lock across a crowded gay pub, or friends might introduce you, but apart from that, a lot depended on wide chances. Tony Kelly decided to take the other big option at the time, he placed an ad in GCN’s thriving personal ads section looking for love.
“It was a boxed ad,” he remembers. “I said was a graduate, looking for a similarly minded man. was living at home at the time, and got a big envelope stuffed with replies, many of them giving me great detail about the kind of men they were.”
Oddly, the one that stood out the most had little of that detail. It was from teacher Michael O’Reilly, who had already met a cohort of gay friends through the GCN ads. The two arranged to meet, and the rest, as they say, is history.
“We met at the entrance to UCD, just off the Stillorgan dual carriageway,” Michael remembers.
“I was waiting at the bus stop, waiting for his car,” Tony chimes in. “When he arrived got into his car and we went to Lamb Doyles in the Dublin mountains for a drink.”
It wasn’t love at first sight, both claim, but on the second date, at Michael’s house, he “seduced Tony with crab claws”.
“The way to a man’s heart is with food,” Michael laughs. “It worked.”
The two have been together ever since. Tony contacted GCN again in 2011, when he and Michael became the first actual couple to have a civil partnership in Ireland, under emergency conditions. Because Michael was having triple bypass heart surgery, and his life was in the balance, the pair were given an amnesty on the three-month wait time so they could get Tony’s inheritance rights in order in case Michael did not survive.
“We had a very quiet civil partnership ceremony,” says Michael. “There was just us and two witnesses, our great friends Marji and Ruth.”
Cut to a New Year’s Eve party with the same friends at the turn of last year, and some talk about resolutions for 2017.
“They said, ‘will you be getting married?’ or something like that, and then he proposed,” says Tony. “Ruth was on the phone to her sister-in-law in Germany and she said to her that she’d have to come, and when you issue an invitation to a German, there’s no going back!
When rang the registrar, the woman said, ‘Are you Tony Kelly who got the civil partnership in an emergency situation? Did Michael recover?’
“‘Well he must have,’ said, ‘because I’m ringing you to get married to him’.”
The nuptials, both ceremony and reception took place in Fallon and Byrne the following September, which was the place the two would have had for their civil partnership if they’d had time to arrange it.
“Fallon and Byrne were exemplary, from a wine tasting before the event, to everything on the day,” says Michael. “We had 125 guests for a sit-down meal so we had to have a set menu. We went for an aged Irish steak, and everyone got it cooked to their liking. People said to us it was the best food they’d ever had at a wedding.”
But of course, before any food was served, there was the ceremony. Both Tony and Michael’s brothers gave each of them away, but before either of them walked down the aisle, Tony had a little joke to play.
“We had a traditional band and one of them was a world-class uilleann pipe player,” he explains. “I got him to play Wagner’s ‘Here Comes The Bride’, when our ring bearers, our friends Marji and Paul were walking up the aisle before us. That got a good laugh.”
By the time Michael was waking up the aisle, he was becoming emotional. “For a moment wondered if I’d get through it,” he says. “It wasn’t to do with the ceremony, because we’d done it already with the civil partnership, but was thinking of my friends who couldn’t be there because they’ve passed on in the years since then.”
After vows and rings were exchanged, Marji read a poem called ‘Love Is’.
“She had read at our civil partnership too, so it tied the two together nicely,” Michael says.
“She introduced it in that way too,” Tony adds, “and it was lovely.”
There was a break after the ceremony, while the Fallon and Byrne gang got the room ready for the reception, with Michael giving everyone a print-out of places to go to have a great glass of wine or a good cup of coffee. By the time everyone got back for the reception, the same trad band had morphed into a jazz combo, who played for the entire meal, except for one very special moment.
Tony is a member of the Dublin lesbian and gay choir, Glória, who turned up resplendent to sing for newlyweds.
“There were some choir members invited, but the rest of them came and sang at the reception,” says Michael. “They sang Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’.”
“It was such a treat,” Tony says. “Glória were still on their summer break, but 90 per cent of the choir came and sang, which meant a huge amount to us.”
The party continued, but not into the very wee small hours. “We wanted it to be finite,” says Michael. “It had to end at a certain time anyway.”
“The last thing did was try to get the women that was in college with, in UCD out,” Tony laughs. “We could hardly get them to leave!”
Both men are wistful when asked again about the day they met through GCN, and if they ever imagined that one day they’d walk down the aisle back then.
“The team work with are a lot younger than me, and for them this is ordinary,” Tony, who is a social worker, says. “I tell them stories about our lives together and how it wasn’t without its struggles and it wasn’t without its homophobia, and they find it extraordinary.”
ELAINE & BRONAGH
For 30 years, GCN has been bringing you all the news that matters, yet somehow in between all that, we still find time to match you up with the love of your life. All in a day’s work.
Well, maybe more than a day, because when Elaine and Bronagh first met, it wasn’t quite love at first sight. And it wasn’t quite a lonely hearts advert in the pages of yours truly that brought them together either. It was an ad in the classifieds section looking for a flatmate in a house share.
“It was in 1995,” Elaine remembers. “At that time there was no internet or anything. It was the March or April edition. replied to an ad for a house share on South Circular Road with two girls, Eemer and Deirdre. It was a beautiful summer, so don’t know whether it was the fact owned a barbecue that got me the house.”
Bronagh clears things up. “I think they picked her mainly because she used to go home on the weekends.”
“They were both friends of Bronagh’s, who was having a party in the house she was renting down the road,” Elaine continues. “And went with them.”
The sparks didn’t exactly fly during that fateful encounter. “It was a Eurovision party and think Bronagh was dressed as Johnny Logan. It didn’t sink in with me at the time; just thought she was very oddly dressed!”
“I was sporting a white suit and black shirt, the ‘Hold Me Now’ look,” Bronagh explains. “I have no imagination, so that was an easy costume!”
While the Logan look didn’t exactly bring home the trophy for Bronagh that night, the second meeting proved to be the charm. “The Ormond Hotel held a very salubrious disco for women,” Bronagh laughs, “It was laid out like a wedding, with big long tables and a dance floor. It was great, you’d always meet people you knew.”
Although that was the second time meeting, it was the first time Elaine saw Bronagh dressed normally. “I thought ‘Oh God, she’s actually quite cool’! She asked me out to dance and looking back now, it was a huge deal because even at our wedding she lost stones worrying about the first dance. And that was it. We’ve been together ever since.”
The couple were married on September 10, 2015, over 20 years after they first got together, the happy occasion taking place in Wineport Lodge by Lough Rea.
“We decided we weren’t going to go mad,” says Elaine. “Both my parents had passed away and Bronagh’s mother too, and her dad wasn’t well enough to come. So we brought some family and lots of friends and left it at about 50 people.
The ceremony was filled with wonderful personal touches, including the mini escorts who walked them down the aisle. “Our friend has triplets and they actually gave us away, one each and then the other little guy was the ring bearer,” smiles Elaine before breaking into a giggle. “We were asked if we wanted to put anything into the vows and added in a line that Bronagh didn’t know about. The thing is, I’m terrible for doing housework; it drives her nuts. So vowed wouldn’t turn the hoover on before ten o’clock any morning.
“That’s been the hardest to stick to. A friend said to me, that’ll be the one vow you’ll break.”
For every couple, a wedding day is filled with special moments, but one in particular is still close to Bronagh’s heart. She sets the scene: “Our wedding planner was great. After the ceremony, she made everyone go into the dining room and then sat the two of us on the deck by the lake and poured us each a glass of wine. She said, ‘Sit there and enjoy this moment, because this is your day and it’s going to fly.’
“Afterwards, we went back into the restaurant. There were a number of members of Glória choir there, as Elaine is a member. The wedding planner had said to them: ‘Are you a choir? Sing them in to the meal’. They sang ‘I Cant’ Help Falling In Love With You’, by Elvis. Everybody else in the room knew the chorus and joined in.”
Bronagh’s voice still gives away what a heartfelt moment it was when she says, “It was a total surprise.”
Considering the couple were together for so long beforehand, did it feel any different when they got married?
“Yes,” says Elaine, with a smile. “I know that sounds mad, but it really did. For our honeymoon we went to Marbella, where we’ve gone on holiday most years, but even that felt different. It all felt new.”