LOVE BUG Covid couldn't stop Sarah and Patrick from saying 'we do'
Pandemic can't stop happy couple enjoying their special moment
It was third time lucky for Ireland's only bridal coach this week after twice being forced to cancel her big day.
Bridal mentor Sarah Cooney finally exchanged vows with fiancé Patrick Filan in front of just 21 family and friends on Monday.
And the newlywed urged other brides not to panic about the latest Level 3 restrictions limiting weddings to 25 people.
"The day went so seamlessly," beams Sarah from Cork. "It was just so lovely and intimate.
"The smaller number really was fabulous - we got around to everybody during the day, and we had time to spend with everybody.
"Try not to panic," she advises, "It's easier said than done - but the best thing you can do is take it day by day.
"Stay informed as much as possible in terms of what your options are and stay within the moment."
Life coach Sarah first set up her bridal coaching business to help women cope with the stress of organising a wedding in 2017.
But she ended up putting her own words of wisdom to the test after twice having to say 'I Don't' due to coronavirus.
"We were supposed to get married in Tuscany next May," explains Sarah, who originally had a guest list of 100.
"Then we moved it to this month at The Shelbourne as we weren't sure if people would want to travel.
"After Dublin went into Level 3 last month, we moved everything again down to Hayfield Manor in Cork.
"It's such a relief to be married, because my God, even up to the last couple of days it was so uncertain. Literally the night before our wedding, Nphet were talking about Level 5," she adds.
"Patrick's family were coming from Roscommon - if we had planned it for Wednesday, it wouldn't have happened because there's no way we'd go ahead without his family.
"We had already cut the numbers to nothing, so I don't think we would have been willing to sacrifice having them all with us.
"It was tidy tipping the whole time."
Wedding professional Sarah told how she's been flooded with calls and emails from stressed brides over the ever-changing rules.
The biggest tip she offers them over one-to-one and group Zoom consultations is: "Be kind to yourself."
"People are very understanding," she assures. "If couples need to postpone or cancel, nobody is going to be angry, and I think there is a lot of fear around that.
"Being honest, what I found most difficult when I was rearranging, was ringing suppliers and cancelling.
"It was like, 'Oh my God, these people are dependent on people like me for their business'.
"They're really hard phone calls to make, but there's not a lot you can do.
"Don't be putting added pressure and guilt on top of yourself as well."
Under Level 3, wedding ceremonies can go ahead with 25 guests from within the county.
However, any future move to Level 5 would force Covid brides and grooms to slash their guest list by 75 per cent to just six people.Video
"I would advise couples to hold out for what they really want," urges the expert, found at www.bridalcoaching.ie.
"That's what we did. I can't say to people, 'Go ahead regardless', because probably I wouldn't have.
"If we weren't able to have our family, I really don't think I'd go ahead with it, because I wanted our family there, I wanted the video, I wanted the photography and all of that."
"You have to go with your gut as well," adds Sarah, who launched a free SOS service for brides during lockdown.
"See what the guidelines are and give yourself a bit of a deadline as to when you need to make the hard decisions.
"Get support from people, and especially the person you're marrying - don't make the decision alone.
"I consulted with my partner at every turn as to what he wanted as well, and it takes the whole responsibility off the bride."
Coach Sarah invited other brides-to-be who are still worried to get in touch at no charge. And the new Mrs Filan promised engaged couples across the country it'll be all white in the end.
"It just felt magical," she recalls of the moment she finally said 'I Do' to her partner of six years on Monday.
"My maid of honour couldn't get over how chilled out I was on the morning of the wedding. I wasn't a bit nervous going up that aisle because I was so sure about wanting to marry Patrick.
"I'm over the moon - it feels really lovely to be married."