Hello - The Fairytale Wedding of Westlife's NICKY BYRNE and Irish Prime Minister's Daughter GEORGINA AHERN
Credit: WestlifesGirlies TheGorgeousGeorginaByrne
It was a family affair, this most of Irish of weddings in France when Nicky Byrne of legendary boy band Westlife, married the Irish Prime Minister's daughter Georgina Ahern. The 410 plus guests were all almost all family and friends – but only the closest of friends, some of whom who also happened to be rock stars or play football professionally. There was not one politician in sight – except for the father of the bride – Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern. It was a proper family affair and they had all come to celebrate in true Irish style.
The day of the wedding, the air was full of romance: romance that naturally began with the couple themselves and then cumulated with the venue which was of course the exquisite Chateau D'Esclimont.
Nicky and Georgina, who are both 24, had always wanted to marry in France and once Nicky proposed and had been accepted on Christmas day – the hunt was on to find the fairytale place.
"We went on the Internet and whittled it down to about 15 chateaux." Nicky recalls. "But after Georgina had seen Chateau D'Esclimont with her mum, that was it. She didn't want to see anywhere else. It's just an amazing place."
Seven and a half months was not long to put it together, to reach the perfect moment Nicky and Georgina had been working on towards throughout their nine year romance. But come together beautifully it did, as the guests saw for their own eyes the moment they walked in to the church of St Pierre et Paul, near the chateau where roses and delphiniums in the weddings signature cream, lilac and purple, and trailing ivy enhanced the Romanesque splendour.
After everybody had taken their places there was a stirring towards the south door where the 'bestest men' and best man were lining up, as designers Donald Brennan and Niall Tyrell made last minute adjustments to their dark purple, lightweight, mohair suits and placed cream roses with purple violets in their buttonholes.
Then the doors opened and the organ thundered out the orchestral suite no 3 in D major by Bach as the 4 groomsmen proceeded 2 by 2 up the aisle, followed by best man Adam – Nicky's 13 year old brother. He was carrying the two black ring boxes. Hard on his heels came the groom. Following a French tradition, Nicky walked up the aisle with both his perents Nicholas and Yvonne.
He had wanted to look like a Prince on his wedding day and he did. His smile, even though he was nervous stretched from ear to ear. In fact he radiated with so much happiness that the guests could be forgiven for forgetting to take in his 'contemporary retro' look of cream fine bootlegged suit with brocade waistcoat.
He took his place in the apse beside his little brother and then another stirring was heard at the South door. This heralded the arrival of the bride.
This time it was the turn of Synan O'Mahony to make sure that everything was right with his fabulous designs: her attendants in lavender silk-crepe corsets and skirts, overlaid with French lilac Chantilly lace. The four bridesmaids followed by the matron of honour – Georgina's sister Cecilia, and the little flower girl – her little cousin Caoime Kelly, processed up the aisle to Tchailkovsky's Waltz of the flowers.
Whatever had gone on before, nothing had prepared the guests for the appearance of the bride. As she entered the church she exuded a sense of magic. Her long hair tumbled loose down her back, the white hourglass corset dress accentuated her exquisite figure, and its diagonal seems alight with cut glass crystal beads – a staggering 20,000 to be exact. And behind there was a six-foot train.
At Georgina's side were her father Bertie and her mother Miriam, as she moved up the aisle to join Nicky at the altar. The bride and groom took each other's hands and the service started immediately. It followed the basic Roman Catholic wedding Mass: but all the readings prayers and music were all chosen by the couple themselves.
This was such a family and friends wedding that as many as possible took part, friends like Ciara Moore and Betty Sherlock who read the two lessons and Cathy Vard, who sung in Gaelic.
Throughout the whole service Nicky and Georgina appeared to be on a different plane to everybody else, totally aware what was going on but also in a private world of their own, saying their vows in clear voices without even a stumble and exchanging the rings without a slip. Before lighting the marriage candle Nicky read the prayer for the newly married couple that was chosen by him.
What would anyone give to get Ronan Keating to sing at their wedding? Nicky & Georgina just asked Westlife's mentor and he obliged with their very favourite song 'I love the way you love me' There was a little sob as Cecilia listened to it.
In keeping with tradition were the prayers of the Faithful, one a prayer for musicians, one read by Noel Ahern, for World peace. He could only have been thinking of his brother, the Prime Minister, who brokered the Peace accord in Northern Ireland.
As the service drew to an end – the penultimate prayer, the miracle prayer – was read by Jennifer, a cousin of Nicky's. This was found by Nicky's grandmother who had it copied for all her family. She gave it to a young teenage Nicky when he went to try his fortune as a footballer in Leeds. Then he kept it in his 'goalie bag' and it is with him still.
As Father Kevin Bartley said of the bridal couple: "It is very encouraging for people of their generation to take a lead from their commitment to each other and to their faith."
When it was all over Nicky and Georgina made their way down the aisle to thunderous applause, as they were showered with lilac and cream rose petals. Back in the chateau D'Esclimont they joined their guests in the shady grounds. There the Champainge and Irish stout bubbled and flowed freely. Love was definitely in the air, especially among Nicky's band mates Shane Filan and his fiancée Gillian Walsh, who got engaged on the same day as Nicky and Georgina, were looking forward to their own Christmas wedding, while Kian Egan was looking very much attached to his new girlfriend Jodi Albert, from Hollyoaks.
As the evening drew in, the party moved through curtains made up in the blue white and red of France and the green white and orange of Ireland in to a massive marquee. In the marquee waiters circulated with smoked wild salmon fresh from the river of Ireland.
Dustin the Turkey, a favourite Irish TV presenter from Nicky's childhood was also there with his usual brand of humour. Then the cutting of the cake – a wonderful creation of nine tiers – one for every year that Nicky & Georgina have been together.
Then it was the turn of Bertie, the bride's father as opposed to Bertie the politician – to make his speech. Groomsman Paul was taking bets on how long it would be. The winner was Georgina herself, a mere 19 seconds short of the lengthy speech of 15 minutes 19 seconds.
Among his moving remarks, Bertie told her: "I thank you for all the joy you've brought to my life." He added that she and her sister were his 'closest friends' and turning to his estranged wife he said: "Miriam, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for that."
With dinner over, it was time for the singing and dancing to start. Nicky & Georgina changed; Westlife did an impromptu rendition of Lulu’s 'Shout' followed by a rap number from Bryan Mcfadden about the couple. Finally Mr & Mrs Nicky Byrne returned and took to the dance floor, inspiring many of their guests to dance till dawn.
With a new day approaching Nicky summed up his and his bride's feelings about the wonderful day they had had. "We loved every minute of it. We've been planning our wedding day since we were kids – to have it as special as it was. We kept looking into each other's eyes just amazed it was happening at last." He said.
Two days earlier had chatted to us during a leisurely ride in a carriage in the grounds of Chateau D'Esclimont.
In this setting and on the Eve of your wedding, you must be reflecting on the 'fairytale' nature of your romance?
Nicky: Absolutely. We've been together since we were kids, childhood sweethearts.
When your that age you meet boys and girls at discos but neither of us had serious serious boyfriends and girlfriends – maybe the maximum of a month was the best we both got. And as soon as we found each other – that was it. We never looked back.
Georgina: We met in school and I was only 15, so it was definitely 'childhood' although we didn't think so at the time! It's every girl's dream to have a fairytale wedding and this is a dream come true.
You got engaged last Christmas Day – is there any significance to choosing August 9th as your wedding day?
Nicky: When you have a long term girlfriend, particularly someone like Georgina, whose father is so high profile, you are constantly asked, 'When's the big day?' I always said I would only propose to Georgina when we both knew that the time was right and when we knew we could plan a wedding properly. I never wanted to just get engaged, put a ring on Georgina's finger and say 'Sure, there is no rush' An engagement is obviously a commitment to the big thing, and this wedding is the big thing.
Seven months is not exactly a long engagement
Georgina: Well we always wanted a summer wedding and if we waited till next summer it would have been a long time. We definitely wanted it this summer.
Nicky: The band started a world tour in April and it finished 3 weeks ago. On top of that we have a new single coming out in September and we've already started to record the album for November. So the time scale pretty tight.
Was one of you the boss over the wedding plans or was it joint decisions throughout?
Georgina: It was joint decisions for everything. Obviously I was home a lot...
Nicky: Georgina took charge of everything!
Georgina: I would never make a decision without checking it out with Nicky. No matter where he was, I would ring him at all hours. I would fly over to him on tour to show him different options.
Nicky: You know the song My way by Frank Sinatra? I think we should call this Our Way – we did it this our way to make it our wedding.
Did you agree over everything?
Georgina: Mostly, but then we do agree on most thing anyway – even with the house.
Nicky: Of course we disagreed on little things but nothing to really argue about. The problems were that Georgina had to meet deadlines back in Ireland or the UK and make decisions. Me being away so much made it more difficult.
What roles did your respective families play in the planning?
Georgina: My mother was always there for me – particularly for the dress, and all the invitations that we did in London. All my family have been there for everything too.
But they have let us do our own thing.
Nicky: We do both come from very normal backgrounds, but obviously in Ireland this is a high profile wedding, labelled as wedding of the year. That has added pressure to both our families – something that doesn't really bother us, but our perents are not used to it – except for Georgina's father. But they were there for everything we needed and backed us all the way. In every way they have been exceptional.
You rushed off a couple of days ago to a registry office in Wicklow, for a civil ceremony. Was this an oversight? Nicky: We've wanted to get married in France for as long as I can remember. We've been here so many times and it's a beautiful country. But the legal requirements on getting married here mean you need two ceremonies – a civil one and a religious one.
We had planned to do the civil one in London but then we thought we don't want to do it abroad. 'Lets do it in Ireland.' As far as we are concerned we are getting married on Saturday August 9th. August 9th is the day of our fairytale wedding and we don't care what anyone things, Georgina in my eyes is not my wife until we are married on Saturday. Look no wedding rings!
Georgina: It was over in 5 minutes. Nicky was wearing a red baseball cap and a T-shirt and I was wearing jeans. I didn't see it as a special day – every bride wants to feel like a princess on her wedding day and that certainly wasn't. I am a bride on Saturday.
Do you think that many Irish people will be disappointed that your proper wedding is not being held in Ireland?
Nicky: We've been knocked for not having it there which really hurt because I can honestly say with my hand on my heart that there is not a couple that I know that is proud to be Irish as we are. But most people in Ireland are delighted – loads have said, 'If I could do it, I would.' There was only a handful about us writing about us not having the wedding in Ireland and they are not friends – so who cares?
Georgina: We have a very Irish wedding anyway. Everything is Irish – the food, clothes and designs.
With all the logistics involved has there ever been a time when you wished you had gone for a small wedding in Ireland?
Georgina: There have been times, as the guest list has grown and multiplied, when we thought 'Oh god!' But we are really excited as we have all the people we really want here. All the important people to us – our families and friends.
Nicky: It is going to be a new experience for a lot of our Irish friends who wouldn't necessarily choose France as a holiday destination. If they go abroad they go to the South of Spain or to see America. Because we are so lucky to be in the position we are in financially and to come from such a strong family background – we are able to throw a party like this, which is going to be a real treat for them as well for ourselves.
I believe the two celebrants conducting the service are your local Parish priests?
Georgina: Father Michael McCullagh worked in a college where my Grandad had worked across the road from where we lived. When my grandparents passed away he conducted their funerals, and since then he has said annual masses, Family masses and Christenings and Weddings.
Nicky: Father Kevin Bartley is a young lad with a young attitude and a very good friend of my mam in the local church where I grew up. We both decided he was the perfect priest to do it.
The religious aspect to marriage is obviously very important to you both
Georgina: To me, the most important part is the church service as the blessing of our marriage. Anyone can go and sign a piece of paper – this is more special. It is two people coming together with their families and making their personal commitment to each other before them.
Nicky: For me too – the whole ceremony. Making such commitments as 'in sickness and in health and till death do us part' in the house of God.
How did you choose the music?
Georgina: Tchailkovsky's Waltz of the Flowers was a piece we both had to study in school. I think it is really pretty for the bridesmaids when they arrive with the flowers. I think I just stored it away in my mind for the wedding.
Nicky: Nadine Coyle is a young Irish girl from Girls Aloud. We don't know her that well but we know her voice. Our favourite song is 'Because you Loved Me' sung by Celine Dion. We knew Nadine could pass it off with such an amazing voice. And of course Ronan Keating is singing. When I came back from England, Boyzone were really big and I was trying to get into a boy band. I really love the lyrics of I love the Way you love me. If you analyse each line of the lyrics to Because you Loved me and I love the way you love me – that is the way Georgina and I feel about each other.
When it came to your outfit Nicky, did you have a clear idea of what you wanted?
Nicky: I actually like to think I'm quite fashionable and the wedding suit was something I wanted to be absolutely magnificent. I'm so used to wearing suits on stage but I didn't have a clue how I was going to capture the look I was looking for in a wedding suit. So I mentioned the look I wanted to some friends and they came up with Niall Tyrell and Donald Brennan, and I have to say that they could not have done better.
Georgina, can you just whisper a few hints about the gown? Did you have a clear idea from the start as to how you wanted it?
Georgina: I had a particular shape and style in mind and I wanted something extra special, something completely different that nobody else had and therefore I wasn't going to get it from a shop. Synan O'Mahony made a few sketches for me and the result is exactly how I wanted – a fitted type of dress. It's very sparkly! I love sparkles! It's a dream dress!
What was it like the first time you put on the finished dress?
Georgina: I just had my mother in the room – even my sister hasn't seen it, I'm just so excited. I haven't let the dress go since Synan gave it to me. I've guarded it like the crown jewels.
Tell us about the rings you'll exchange
Georgina: My 18-carat gold band set with 8 diamonds was something that we chose together. Where we girls get three rings – an engagement ring, the wedding ring and the eternity ring, the man has just one. So I think it should be rather special. Nicky's is a handsome platinum band set with 30 diamonds, 20 princes cut and 10 brilliant cut, designed by Paul Sheeran.
Was it difficult to decide on the bridesmaids?
Georgina: It was difficult to leave people out. But I have always known who the important people are in my life. Obviously the two sisters are bridesmaids and I have got 3 really close friends – Gemma, Karen & Barbara. If I could have had more I would!
What about the best man and groomsmen?
Nicky: My little brother Adam was always going to be best man but I suppose him only being 13 I have never socialised with him so he wouldn't have had the funny side of my life. So as my groomsmen there are 3 guys who I have grown up with, who were in the same football team as me, guys who from the age of 4 I regarded as my best mates. And with everything I have ever achieved they are just the same as always. I think my mates are an inspiration and basically there was never a question that Colm, Sean, and Paul should be there. I also have Mark, my sister Gillian's fiancé who is part of the family.
Was it hard to limit the number of guests?
Georgina: Yes. We do have very big families.
Nicky: We are up to 410 guests and I have only invited about 15 people from work.
This is so obviously a family wedding: was there no move from your father to bring the party faithful?
Georgina: Absolutely not, there are no politicians coming. My father is a private man as well and he sees this as strictly a family day. And that is a nice way to have it.
It is a bit of a break for him too. He has been very relaxed. I never knew how he would take it from the day Nicky asked if he could marry me. He has been so excited for me, and really involved as well – even though he's been busy. He's been really great.
Your parents have been legally separated for a long time. Has the wedding brought you closer together as a family?
Georgina: My parents have always been on speaking terms on special occasions like graduations. I don't know if we have become closer as a family because of the wedding as we have always been close – so this is nothing out of the norm.
Did you have a wedding list?
Georgina: No. We told guests in the invitations what we really wanted was their presence rather than their presents.
Nicky: Some members of the Irish government have sent gifts. Also the fans have been really generous as always.
Speaking of fans, you face audiences of hundreds of thousands without apparent nerves. How does Saturday strike you?
Nicky: The nerves are beginning to set in – the thought of entering a church with 410 people there, having to walk up with my mother and father to give me away. It is time to grow up and I find it a bit awesome. I am going to be nervous but obviously I deal with nerves quite well so I should be ok.
Georgina: I am nervous but also very excited – I am not used to hundreds of people looking at me. But then they are all our friends and family giving me their support.
Are you planning to start a family?
Nicky: We see Bryan Mcfadden with his two young daughters and they are the most beautiful things in the world. You lift them up and you want to start a family. When? That is the big question. It could be tomorrow and we'd be delighted. But we haven't started to plan.
Georgina: But definitely we will be.
What did you do for your stag and hen nights?
Nicky: Last weekend my mates told me to show up at Dublin airport with my passport.
When I showed up they were all wearing T–Shirts of me as a 5-year-old and they flew me to Marbella.
Georgina: The hen night was in Manchester and there were 30 of us girls. We had a beautiful meal and then played a game where everyone had to ask me a question that they had already asked Nicky and if I answered it correctly they gave me a very personal gift. I was definitely in tears and came home with sack loads of memories.
Nicky, you've already had 2 careers as a footballer and a pop star, might you have a third?
Nicky: I don't know how you can beat going from a footballer in to a pop life and I couldn't be happier with the girl of my dreams. Maybe some time in the future if the band ended I'd look at other thing – acting maybe?
It's always reported that Georgina was there for you when you came back from Leeds broken hearted when your football career was over, who bought you take away's out of her pocket money, who encouraged you to go for the interview that led to you joining Westlife. What have you done to complement Georgina?
Nicky: We have done everything for each other.
He has always been there for me and I for him. We are the best of friends and we have grown together, and we have both been there for each other through everything.
Nicky: It might have been puppy love in the beginning and it has worked out fantastically well. We are both the luckiest people in the world and I'm sure we will be the happiest people in the world on our wedding day.