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Getting married in Covid times

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NEWLY WEDSAchill man Damian McGreal and Galwegian Marisa Best-Lydon didn’t let Covid-19 halt their wedding plans earlier this month.

Achill man and Galway girl tie knot adhering to restrictions

Edwin McGreal

Not even Covid-19 could derail this whirlwind romance.
Achill man Damian McGreal met Galway girl Marisa Best-Lydon in The Front Door bar in Galway City on November 15 last year. They hit it off straight away, and it wasn’t long before Damian started thinking about proposing.
“My first thought was to propose on our first anniversary but as we spent more time with each other, I decided to fast forward and thought wouldn’t it be great to get married on our anniversary. So I proposed on Valentine’s Night in Salthill,” Damian told The Mayo News.
“He couldn’t wait any longer,” added Marisa, who gave an emphatic ‘yes’ and so the planning started in earnest with a circle around one date – November 15, 2020.
However, neither could foresee the direction 2020 would soon take as Covid-19 changed everyone’s lives dramatically. As a nurse in University Hospital Galway, Marisa witnessed the impact more than most.
But determination and a positive outlook will go a long way, and the couple worked within all the restrictions and tied the knot on November 15 in Galway.
Needless to say, any amount of curveballs were thrown at them along the way.
The initial plan was for a wedding with 250 to 300 guests, and Damian and Marisa booked the Connemara Coast Hotel in Furbo.
In the first lockdown there was a widespread belief that come autumn and winter, we would be back to normal. That’s what Damian and Marisa thought too.
But as time moved on, it became increasingly clear that ‘normal’ was a long way away.
September and the publishing of the different levels for Living with Covid-19 brought confirmation that the big wedding was off the table.
Level 1 would allow for 100 guests, Level 2 for 50, Level 3 for 25 and only six could attend a wedding under initial proposals for Levels 4 and 5.
You can imagine the worries Marisa and Damian faced as Ireland prepared to go to Level 5 on October 22.
“We were so delighted when that was announced that weddings could stay at 25 [in Level 5],” said Marisa.
It was, the couple reflect, nearly easier to prepare for 25 than 50. Marisa is one of nine, Damian one of four so when the immediate families and long-term partners were all added up, that was 20. Damian invited two friends and Marisa invited three. Had they been able to go to 50, the couple reckon there would have been far too many hard decisions.

Change of plans
But the panic wasn’t over. Not long after the Level 5 restrictions were announced, the Connemara Coast Hotel rang to inform them that they would not be able to remain open under the Level 5 restrictions.
“We took it in our stride though. They were really good to work with and there was no point panicking. We just rang around to see what options we had,” Damian, from Askill on Achill Island, said.
“Damian was amazing,” recalls Marisa. “We rang the Salthill Hotel and they were amazing too. They told us to relax, that they would take it from there and they did. They could not do enough and the food was amazing,” she added.
It really was a family affair on the day. Marisa’s sister did make-up and her brother’s girlfriend did all their hair.
The couple could not get over the goodwill of their friends and family. Everyone understood the limits and Marisa’s bridesmaid, Aoife, even offered to step aside if numbers were an issue.
The couple got married in Marisa’s local church, St James’s in Bushypark, with 25 in attendance. However, family, friends and neighbours in the area waved them on afterwards from the front of their homes in an impromptu celebration.  
From there, they went to The Front Door to capture the iconic wedding photo outside the bar when they first met, one year to the day.
Then they hit for the hotel, with Stuart Moyles’s ‘Streets of Galway’ playing as they entered the reception. Their first dance was to Michael Bublé’s ‘Everything’.
Damian – who runs his own construction company, McGreal Contracts, in Galway – and Marisa are spending their honeymoon this week on Achill Island, in a family cottage, before returning to Galway.
Covid-19 has brought a lot of heartbreak around the country and the world, but for Damian and Marisa McGreal, 2020 will be remembered as the year they got engaged and married.
It may not have been how they planned, but neither has any regret after their initial wedding plans were considerably downsized.
“I’d highly recommend a small, family wedding after experiencing it. It’s all about your family,” said Damian.
We will leave the final word to Marisa McGreal.
“To be honest, Covid-19 was a blessing in disguise. It allowed us to have a magical day with our families. It was the most wonderful day of my life. I wouldn’t change a thing.”