So says Cork Rose Stephanie McCarthy, who is getting married tomorrow, Thursday, August 20, in front of a small group of family and friends in the Maryborough House Hotel.
Mum of two Stephanie, said Covid-19 made herself and husband to be Jan realise what is really important to them, which is having the people they care about around them.
“We just said it would be crazy to wait as all the people we care about were already here. We know we have plenty of time for a bigger celebration in the future,” she said.
The 28-year-old from Frankfield said the past year had been an “absolute whirlwind”, when, apart from being crowned Cork Rose and fulfilling all the duties that involved, she completed her masters in Pharmaceutical Technology in early summer, and got engaged after a proposal that came completely out of the blue.
“Last October we went on a family holiday to Dubai where my mum’s family are from. I wanted to recreate a family photo that we used to take in the desert growing up, and when it was being taken I could feel Jan’s hand shaking on my back. I thought he was just feeling a bit dehydrated and then when he dropped down on one knee I thought he was after collapsing!”
German-born Jan grew up in Coachford and is the manager of a mechanics company in Ballincollig. The pair have been in a relationship since 2015, and Stephanie didn’t hesitate to accept the proposal and fully approved of the ring he had chosen.
“At that stage we really hadn’t talked about a date for the wedding as there was always so much going on. In November there was a trip to Germany with the Rose group, then it was Christmas. Our kids’ (Kayla and Logan) birthdays are a week apart the week after Christmas and next was a Rose trip to Chernobyl in February.
“It all exploded then in lockdown and that really made us evaluate what’s important to us and we wanted something positive to come out of 2020.”
She’s the first grandchild on both sides of her family to get married, which makes tomorrow extra special, and her maternal granny, and paternal grandparents will all be there to see her say ‘I do.’ Covid-19 has meant the couple had to make a few sacrifices along the way, but not when it came to the date.
“I have to admit to being a bit of a psycho about even numbers so am delighted to be getting married on the 20th of August, 2020! This weekend should also have been the Rose Festival, which makes it even more symbolic.”
They’re limited to an intimate guest list of 50, and the couple are coming in at around 48.
Stephanie said she always wanted ‘fun’ wedding photos which is why they’ve chosen five bridesmaids and five groomsmen. Her bridesmaids are her twin sister Shauna, two of her best friends, Jan’s sister, and this year’s Rose of Tralee, Sinead Flanagan who is a dear friend.
“I met Sinead last June shortly after I was selected and we clicked straight away. We’re a similar age and she was based in Cork and we really bonded over the summer even before we ever got to Tralee. The festival is such an intense experience that it’s like fast-forwarding a friendship and when she won my first thought was ‘fantastic, I’ll be able to share all her clothes!’
“She gets on really well with my sister Shauna as well and they moved in together in Sunday’s Well last October. In fact my mum calls us the triplets!”
Sinead’s partner David is also a really good friend of Jan’s.
For her big day, Stephanie is wearing a gown by designer Hayley Paige, from her aunt’s bridal boutique Cinderella’s Closet, where she’s also worked part time. She said her aunt Claire Dilworth was her real life fairy godmother, and that she tried to support as many local businesses and suppliers as possible when organising the event, which was very important to her. “My dress is full length, ivory, very summery and romantic. It’s backless with thin spaghetti straps and it’s really simple, but is very unique in the way it’s cut,” she said.
Stephanie was still undecided about the veil when we caught up with her with a few days to go, and admitted to being the “most unbridey bride ever”.
“I’m so laid back and chilled out. I haven’t had a make-up trial or anything! Although after lockdown I’m looking forward to getting glammed up,” she said.
Stephanie isn’t at all regretful that her year as Cork Rose was interrupted by the pandemic and said that all the Roses still managed to continue doing plenty of fundraising work online.
She says her trip to Chernobyl in February is something that will always stay with her.
“It was incredible, a really humbling and heart-breaking experience. I find it very difficult to talk about it as I’m a mother myself and find it really hard to compare my kids’ lives to theirs.
They have absolutely nothing but if you even did simple things like pick them up, play with them or make eye contact they were delighted. I felt a really strong connection to them,” she remembers.
After Stephanie and Jan’s wedding, they’ll hopefully get a few days away in Kerry, but Stephanie says they’ve plenty of time for a honeymoon.
“But we’ve only a small window of time to enjoy people who are important to us,” she said, adding that for the next while it will all be about unwinding from such a huge year.
She’s at a bit of a crossroads in her life in that she’s unsure if she’ll progress to a Phd, or “take the scary plunge into the real world” and get a job.
“If that was the choice, I could definitely see myself going into pharmaceutical vaccine production,” she said.
It’s an area that’s always interested her, but even more so since Covid.
In the meantime, as this year’s Rose of Tralee festival has been cancelled, she joked she’ll be the first ever married Rose to hand over the sash in 2021!
THIS year’s Rose of Tralee Sinead Flanagan spent most of her reign based in Cork working as a junior doctor.
When the 28-year-old from Adare in County Limerick was announced as the winner of the world famous competition, she was actually working in Mallow General Hospital.
“I was based in Cork city for most of the year as I completed a Masters in Public Health at UCC alongside my duties as the Rose. In the last few months I moved to Dublin and I am now working in a hospital there as a junior doctor in pathology, which focuses on cancer and tissue diagnostics and I am really enjoying this role,” she said.
Despite it being an unusual year to be the Rose of Tralee, Sinead said she still feels really fortunate to have been part of it.
“I think this year was very different for everyone and so many plans were delayed.
“I had many fantastic experiences early in the year so I feel very lucky to have been in this position in the first place.”
And of course, because there isn’t a festival this year, she’ll continue in her role for another year, which she says “is a great honour”.
First up though, she’s really looking forward to being Cork Rose Stephanie McCarthy’s bridesmaid.
“We definitely clicked from the beginning. We were great pals from the start of the festival. We then grew closer as we were both living in Cork and Stephanie’ss twin sister Shauna actually moved in with me. I am so delighted to be her bridesmaid!”
This year’s Rose of Tralee Festival, which traditionally takes place in August, was cancelled. It will now go ahead in 2021 It was the first time in the festival’s 61-year history that it was called off.