When Anthony Kinahan and Barry Gardiner exchanged vows at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Dundalk, they did so in front of the very people who fought to make their union possible. For them, their wedding wasn’t just a celebration of their love and commitment to each other, but a much needed ‘thank you’ to those who campaigned tirelessly alongside them in the run up to Ireland’s marriage equality referendum.
The couple themselves were heavily involved in the campaign. In fact, they decided to return home from London and dedicate themselves to the cause. They set up the first regional marriage equality group - Marriage Equality Louth - before it linked with Outcomers to eventually become Yes Equality.
Unaware that they had friends in common, Barry and Anthony first met by chance when they were teenagers. Barry’s friends had convinced him to join them at an LGBT+ disco in Dundalk, but when he got there his friends were nowhere to be seen. After an hour and half of waiting, Barry decided to head to a different pub. En route, he stopped to tie his shoelace and when he stood up, he heard a group of people calling his name. On the other side of the alley were his friends, with Anthony in tow, and together they continued the night. As the night progressed, Barry plucked up the courage to ask Anthony out and the rest, as Barry says, "is history."
On their fifth anniversary, Anthony wrote a letter to Barry but he didn’t send it. The letter read "Today is a great day. Nothing special happened, but came to the realisation that want to spend the rest of my life with you." Three months later, Anthony arranged for Barry’s mother to take him out shopping, and when they returned, he had laid out a new suit for him and took him out to dinner. A nervous Anthony dined with a very confused Barry and when they got home, Anthony took out two Claddagh rings and popped the question.
When civil partnership was introduced in the UK, Anthony and Barry decided to make arrangements for a ceremony in Belfast. Civil partnership wasn’t a reality in Ireland - let alone same-sex marriage - so for all intents and purposes, this was their wedding. Anthony’s parents walked him down the aisle and Barry’s father walked him - his mother couldn’t be there for the ceremony due to a family illness. In Belfast they had a humanist celebrant, and while the day was magical, they couldn’t help but feel disheartened when they crossed over the border for a reception in Dundalk, where their union was no longer recognised. They were consoled however, by their plans to move to London and start the next chapter of their journey together in the UK.
After several years of living in London, Barry and Anthony found themselves faced with a difficult decision. They wanted to become parents, but two truths suddenly became very apparent. Bureaucratically speaking, they had a better chance of becoming parents in the UK, but they knew that if they were going to take this next step they would need the support of their family and friends in Ireland.
At this point, the couple resolved to return home and do whatever they could to contribute to the fight for marriage equality.
On their return, they threw themselves head first into the campaign at a local and national level. Five years later, after that historic victory at Dublin Castle, Anthony and Barry found themselves being interviewed on The John Murray Show. On air, Barry decided it was his turn to propose, and of course, Anthony said yes. Listeners were touched, and many called in with generous donations including cakes, cupcakes, photography skills and flowers. Anthony stresses the kindness of those who donated their time and services to make their day special: “We may come across as freeloaders,” he jokes, “but when you get married for the second time, every little helps.”
Barry and Anthony got married on April 16 2016 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Dundalk. Over the course of the campaign for marriage equality, the hotel had donated generous prizes to help fundraise, and the couple were keen to patronise businesses that had shown their support.
Having already been ‘given away’ at their civil partnership ceremony, Anthony and Barry walked hand in hand down the aisle to ‘The Shire Theme’ from Lord of the Rings.
Their vows were an updated version of the ones they had exchanged at their civil partnership and their sentiment captured the journey it had taken to get there, and its impact on their relationship. “We’re not the same now, we’re more,” they recited. “We’re stronger than ever before.”
After the ceremony, the newlyweds shared their first dance to ‘I’ll Cover You’ from Rent. DJ Dave Kinahan, who had very kindly donated his services, ensured that the dance floor was never empty throughout the night. Like all good wedding parties, the night ended with a rousing performance of ‘Riverdance’.
For their honeymoon Barry and Anthony packed their bags for Lisbon where they stayed in multiple hotels throughout their trip. Every hotel, Barry notes, upgraded their rooms as soon as they found out they had just gotten married.
Looking back on the day four years later, Anthony and Barry emphasise how important it was for them to be surrounded by friends, family and activists. “We are so appreciative of all these people who had those important conversations, those difficult conversations,” Barry stresses. “We literally couldn’t have done it without them.” Anthony, reflecting on the campaign, agrees: “It was complete validation. All that fighting just to become a boring married couple like anyone else. That’s what we wanted and that’s what we got.”
Venue: Crowne Plaza Dundalk
Celebrant: Eithne Dempsey
Photographer: Liam Kidney Photography
Videographer: Garry McGovern
Suits: Mansworld Drogheda
Flowers: Wisteria Lane Florist
Cake: Chapel Cross Cakes
Desserts: Daisy Cottage Farm
Wine: Project Arts Centre Bar
Liane McCarthy asked Ciara Nolan out on Grattan Bridge -the bridge between the then Front Lounge (now Street 66) and Pantibar - an important landmark on the Rainbow Mile.
“Real cliche” Ciara jokes. “But awesome.”
They met in 2012 during the Dublin Gay Theatre Festival.
Ciara was the technical director and Liane was a volunteer.
They still work in the theatre - and the experience in that industry proved to be quite helpful when they got married five years later.
Liane proposed to Ciara during Christmas 2015, but both women had marriage on the brain throughout the marriage equality referendum. Ciara recalls how her stress led her to crafting individual Yes Equality cards and envelopes and placing them around town, encouraging others to write to their loved ones and ask for that all important Yes.
It wasn’t until the Christmas before the wedding that Ciara and Liane started planning their day, but when they did, they found the process quite straight-forward. “Both of us work in the theatre industry so we’re used to having to plan and organise, so it was very natural for us,” Ciara notes. Moreover, they had a circle of friends who were happy to gift the couple their own specialised skills which made the day so much easier. Their friend Sinead from Adonis Flowers sorted them out with all things floral, and one of the musicians in the six-piece band - Vintage Vibes Band - was Ciara’s school friend Aoife. Even more friends helped out with make-up, lighting and sound. Liane emphasises the generosity of their friends, noting that they took a potentially stressful day and ensured it was smooth sailing from the get-go.
Liane and Ciara had their hearts set on marrying at City Hall, and their plan was to arrive separately. However, Liane was running late that morning - she jokes that she’d be late to her own funeral - and so they ended up arriving together. They walked down the aisle hand-in-hand with their fathers on either side, while three singers from Celtic Woman sang Etta James’ ‘At Last’. They wrote their own vows - Liane had hers wrapped up intricately with a little ribbon, while Ciara felt comparatively uncouth as she unfolded hers.
While they acknowledge that some couples feel instantly ‘married’ after the ceremony, Ciara and Liane agree that they’ve always felt married and the ceremony just solidified their commitment.
They newlyweds walked back down the aisle to ‘Under Your Spell’ from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, before they headed to Trinity College to take some photos. As they headed down Dame Street hand in hand, passersby stopped to congratulate them. They noted that as two women in wedding dresses, they turned many heads, but most onlookers followed through with kind words and sincere congratulations.
Their wedding reception was held at Clontarf Castle and they kicked things off with a Prosecco reception and photos before a three course meal and speeches. One joke in particular stands out - in his speech, Ciara’s father recalls how he once told his sons that all they needed in life was the love of a good woman, though he hadn’t realised at the time that his daughter was also listening.
After dinner, dessert and toasts, Ciara and Liane took to the dancefloor. Liane choreographed their first dance - a routine to Ingrid Michealson’s ‘The Way Am’. “She’s a Billie Barry kid,” Ciara laughs. “I’m not.”
The newlyweds stayed on the dancefloor with their friends and family until two in the morning, and then they headed to the residents bar for more drinks and a sing-song. At three, Liane and Ciara called it a night and went to their hotel room where they opened up their cards and read the guestbook. “It was really sweet just to see all the nice things people had to say,” Liane notes. Ciara agrees: “I felt very loved and not just by you.”
The coming together of their families and friends was a highlight for the couple. “I’ve never had a day in my life where felt more supported by my family and all our friends at the same time,” Liane says. Ciara adds that while she was obviously bowled over marrying Liane, to see everyone come together was what made the day perfect.
A few days after the wedding, they flew to Sitges in Spain for a honeymoon, but in their post-celebration haze they ended up packing 13 pairs of shoes and not enough clothes to last the four days. Once there, however, they relaxed into their holiday which was spent mostly by the pool, though they did go to Sitges’ famous Queens bar for a night of drag and cabaret.
Reflecting on the day itself, Ciara notes that emotions flew high throughout: “I did a lot of crying on the day of our wedding. As soon as they opened the doors at City Hall, started to cry. cried for the entire ceremony, and then Liane couldn’t help herself either, and then the congregation started to cry too. But it was all good tears. wasn’t just wailing in the corner going, ‘What am doing!?’”
They look back on the little hiccups of the day and laugh. During the ceremony, they both lit each other’s candle, and they walked down City Hall on the wrong side so that Ciara ended up sitting with Liane’s family while Liane was sat with Ciara’s. “Those little things could never take away from that day” Liane confirms. Ciara agrees, adding “Nothing could ruin the day that you married me.”
Venue: Clontarf Castle
Photographer: Tony McLean
Outfits: Liane - Bertex Bridal, Ciara - MK Bridal, Navan
Flowers: Sinead at Adonis Flowers Designs
Ceremony Music: Celtic Woman
Wedding Band: Vintage Spy Band
Cake: Sinead Burke
Rings: Handcraft Jewellers, Newbridge
Make up: Chris Rowan