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A bride- and groom-to-be have been left disappointed after their wedding was cancelled – and even more so since they’d had the date permanently tattooed on their arms.
Francis Donald, 26, proposed to Fionnuala Kearney, 24, in December 2017, and the couple started planning their nuptials immediately.
They set the date - 16 October, 2020 - and decided to have it inked in Roman numerals onto their arms during a holiday to Turkey last year.
But they faced a hard decision when the venue, Hugh McCanns hotel in Newcastle, County Down, told them they would have to postpone their wedding until 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
After working so hard on their big day, Kearney and Francis were devastated – and had the shock of their lives when they looked down at their arms and remembered their tattoos.
The couple have moved their wedding date to April 2021, and have started to think of ideas about what they can do to keep the tattoos meaningful.
Kearney, a social worker from Belfast, Northern Ireland, said: "Ever since Francis and I got together, I knew I wanted to marry him – so when he proposed on New Year's Eve in 2017, I was thrilled.
"I had always dreamed of my wedding day, so started planning it straight away.
"We were in Turkey and had checked out of our hotel at 9am, but had to wait until the evening for our flight home – so we decided to go on a bar crawl.
"We strolled past a tattoo salon and we were tipsy, so thought it was a great idea to get matching tattoos.
"It's funny because we were being extra careful to make sure we got the Roman numerals correct, and the staff were teasing us, saying: 'Are you sure that's the right date?'
"When I was told we would have to postpone the wedding I was devastated, of course – but we only realised afterwards about our tattoos. If you don't laugh, you'll cry!"
Kearney and Donald met whilst studying at Ulster University in 2015, when they both worked as residential assistants in student halls.
The future bride, who was studying psychology at the time, said: "We had a love-hate relationship at first.
"We used to see one another whilst working at halls and we didn't always get on."
The duo grew closer, however, and Donald – who was studying IT – asked her to be his girlfriend during their first year of university.
They went on a romantic getaway over New Year 2017, and stayed in a library-themed private lodge on Inch Island, in County Donegal, Ireland.
Kearney said: "Francis knows how much I love Beauty and the Beast, and the lodge looked like something straight out of the film.
"We spent an amazing few days wandering around Inch Island, and on New Year's Eve we walked around and watched the fireworks.
"Little did I know, Francis had been making plans with the owners of the lodge – I walked through the door to find it transformed.
"It had been set up like a scene from Beauty and the Beast – complete with the rose in the glass case. Then Francis asked me to marry him."
Kearney, who accepted straight away, said: "We knew that things were going to be hectic as I was due to start my master's degree in September 2018 – so we decided to arrange the wedding for after I graduated.
"We picked the date two months later – 16 October, 2020 – and then we started arranging.
"I bought my dress in September 2018, and arranged our band, picked our guests, everything. I'm a bit of a control freak, so I took charge with most things."
Kearney and Donald were thankful for the wait until their big day, as in May 2019 she was diagnosed with Crohn's disease – which causes parts of the digestive system to become inflamed.
Speaking about her condition, Kearney said: "We were really nervous because we had plans to go on holiday the next month. Thankfully we were allowed to go."
The duo were joined by their friends Bethany Corbett, 23, and Owen Nolan, 25, on holiday to Icmeler, Turkey, in June 2019.
Kearney said: "We had an amazing holiday, and on the last day we did something crazy.
"Our checkout time was about 9am, and we had lots of time to kill before our flight home that evening.
"So, we all decided to go on a little bar crawl. We got suitably tipsy, and then we walked past a tattoo parlour.
"Francis and I often make spur-of-the-moment decisions – we're quite spontaneous – so we decided to go for it and get matching tattoos.
"We walked into the shop without even knowing what we wanted, until I had the idea of getting our wedding date."
Donald, who now works as a software developer, said: "I had the idea to get the date in Roman numerals, and we were extra careful to make sure that we got them exactly right – we didn't want to make any mistakes!
"The staff in the shop kept teasing us and saying things like 'are you sure that date is right?' and we all laughed it off."
In April 2020, with the lockdown measures in full force, Kearney decided to contact the wedding venue to find out what was going to happen to their big day.
She said: "We were supposed to have our six-month review before the wedding, to make sure that everything was going to plan.
"Of course, I had considered the virus and the effects it might have, but with our wedding being quite far away in October, I didn't think we would be affected."
Kearney was told that their wedding day would have to be postponed.
"I was devastated," she said.
"We were given a spreadsheet with a list of dates to pick from, and originally considered postponing it until October 2021.
"That seemed so far away, so luckily we were able to move the date to April 2021.
"It was a nightmare trying to reorganise a date which worked for our band, guests, the hotel, everything.
"I eventually had to pick a weekday, which wasn't ideal but there was no other choice."
With Donald working full-time, and having just graduated from her master's degree, making her a qualified social worker, Kearney was juggling a lot at once.
She said: "I was on the phone to my family all the time, seeing if they agreed with all the changes.
"It was so stressful, but I was glad to finally set our date and have everything arranged."
With their wedding rescheduled for 22 April, 2021, the couple could relax – until they looked at their arms.
Kearney said: "We looked down at our arms one day and realised – they said the wrong date.
"I have a few small funny tattoos that I've got on drunken holidays, so I wasn't too fussed, but it was the cherry on top of the cake.
"All you can do is laugh at situations like this!"
The couple saw the humour in the situation, and have been asking their family and friends for ideas about what they can do on the original date of the wedding.
Kearney said: "Somebody suggested that we do a skydive, other people have said we should lie and tell people the tattoos say the right date.
"I love the skydive idea and would like to use it to raise money for the Crohn's disease charity, as they have really helped me.
"Whatever we do, we're going to make it memorable."