FORMER Miss Cork Étaoin Ó hAilpín has married her childhood sweetheart in a beautiful ceremony in Fiji. The couple, who met while attending Gaelcholáiste Mhuire AG, are together 14 years.
Étaoin, from Blarney, wore the Miss Cork crown back in 2009/2010. She is from a famous sporting family, her brother Sean Óg, is a renowned former Cork hurler, while her other brothers Setanta and Aisake played Aussie Rules football. She now lives in Melbourne Australia, where she works as a teacher.
“I absolutely love going in every day to my class and the people I work with,” she said. “Every day is different, I get so much out of working with kids.
“I teach in the secondary 7/8 section, ages 12 to 13 year olds. My name has gone from Miss Ó hAilpín to Mrs Waters. I’m still trying to get my head around it but loving it.”
Her husband Neil was also born in Cork and is the eldest of three, his mum Maeve is from Waterford and his father Con is from Cork.
Étaoin explained how they met.
“He went to the Gaelcholáiste Mhuire AG, that’s where I went and that’s how we met, we are childhood sweethearts. The best thing that happened to me was meeting my best friend, my husband and just my everything. We are together 14 years this year, it really doesn’t feel that long at all.
“After school, he became a mechanic and is in Melbourne working as head mechanic/supervisor in Jaxx Tyres in Essendon.”
The couple’s engagement sounds like it came right off the script of a Hollywood movie. They were engaged on November 11, 2016 — when they had been dating 12 years.
Étaoin said: “It still was the biggest shock of my life, I was not expecting it to happen. We always knew we would be married eventually but always said there’s heaps of time for all that.”
Every chance the couple got, during school holidays, they travelled around Australia.
“We had been to Sydney, Brisbane, Noosa, Perth and this time Neil said he had planned a little trip for us to Cairns, which is up North of Queensland. I’ve said I always wanted to go there to swim in the Great Barrier Reef and see the beautiful corals since they are dying — being polluted and due to global warming.”
They arrived at their destination on November 10 and Neil told her they had to be up early the next morning as he had a surprise activity planned.
“He wasn’t giving anything else away, only that information and to wear swimwear. In my head I was one million percent sure that it was snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef.
“So next morning we were outside waiting to be picked up and this Jeep pulled up with (Great Barrier Reef) GBR Helicopters. Now, Neil is afraid of heights and always said he would never get into a helicopter or small plane so at this stage I’m like ‘is this a joke? Is this for us?’
“The lady pops out and greets us and I’m like ‘You are actually going on a helicopter?’”
The couple made their way to the helipad, filled out waiver forms and watched safety clips.
“I felt Neil was way too quiet and tense. I then said ‘Look, it’s actually OK, we don’t have to do this at all we can just do a boat trip’ and he was like ‘No, it’s fine, the view from the helicopter is the best looking down on the Reef’.
“So off we went, us two and the pilot. I’m still in shock that he is doing this and loving the views. Then the pilot is pointing to this little island in the middle of ocean, saying we are going to land here.”
The island was remote, it was just the two of them and the pilot.
“When we landed, the pilot showed us our snorkeling gear and said he was going to set up down the beach. I’m in my bikini holding my selfie stick, snapping, and Neil is in front of the helicopter setting up his tripod and I’m like, fab idea, we’ll take a picture of the two of us in front of the helicopter. I go up to Neil getting ready to pose when he goes down on one knee! All I kept saying was ‘OMG, are you serious, are you serious right now!’
“Of course I said ‘YES’ but was not expecting any of this. We walked down the beach where the pilot had set up a picnic, beach chairs and champagne for us. Neil said he wasn’t nervous about the helicopter ride but the proposal. He recorded it all and it was my fairytale proposal on Turtle Beach. He had picked out the diamond and got a temporary band for it so I chose my own band design — so the ring has both of our touches added to it which is so special. I loved that idea.”
Étaoin said it took a few months for it all to sink in.
“Our friends and family were so happy for us and so many sent us beautiful gifts, cards and well wishes all the way across the world. Even in my school assembly any teacher announcements “Étaoin’s engaged” went on for a year.”
So where did the special day take place?
“We got married on April 3, 2018 in the magical tropical island of Fiji in the Sheraton resort. We picked Fiji for a number of reasons but the main one is because it is where my mum Emeli is from, so this place is very close to my heart. Neil and I were here this exact time two years ago with my brother Aisake and girlfriend Natalie and we just fell in love with the place, the people, the scenery, the weather, the activities are wonderful.”
During that visit they stayed at the Sheraton Denarau when they spotted a chapel on the edge of the beach and Neil said this is where he would love to get married some day — a dream that came true last month, when they tied the knot.
“The name of the church is Paradise Chapel, very fitting. We had a Catholic church wedding. When we booked our package we were dealing with this amazing lady, Miriama Komailevuka, a wedding supervisor in Paradise Bride, Fiji. She helped planned our special day.
“She advised us on all our documents needed from the priest, from picking our flowers for the chapel, our witnesses, my bouquet, to my head flowers, and she planned our first private five course meal as husband and wife, in the Flying Fish restaurant on the beach, watching the sunset... all so very romantic. The flowers in my hair were white and yellow Frangipani and my bouquet was a mix of pink gingers with white seasonal flowers.
“She even organised my hair and make up for me, by the very talented stylist Manshita from Totoka Hair & Make Up, Fiji.”
No stranger to modelling wedding dresses, from her days with Lockdown models in Cork, Étaoin picked her dream dress from LookBookBride custom-made gowns in Melbourne.
On most wedding days, couples are surrounded by family and friends, but for Étaoin and Neil, they wed just by themselves.
“After many chats and disagreements on where to have our wedding, we decided to just have us two for this part and in December have a little celebration with both families and our friends. It’s hard when all his family is back in Cork and half my siblings are in Australia and the other half in Cork. We didn’t want to put any stress on anyone financially to make it out to Fiji, plus keeping costs down for ourselves too. I know my two brothers, Aisake and Setanta, would have been there in a shot but it wouldn’t have been fair on the other family members who weren’t there. So it was either have everyone or no-one there.
“We told all our immediate family that this was going to happen, that we would do our own ceremony part of it and then celebrate with everyone. Maeve, Neil’s mum, helped us gather all the certificates we needed. We figured that this was the best for everyone.
“We get the best of both, having what we wanted in Fiji and celebrating with our loved ones in Cork in December. We have the Blarney Woolen Mills booked. I will wear my dress again, how lucky am I?
“Even though it was just us two, I felt my family were with me. I made up some pictures of both our families to have with us getting ready. I had a picture for around my bouquet of flowers of my four brothers and my bulldog Bunty walking me down the aisle.”
A cyclone did cause a blimp ahead of the big day, but the couple made it to Fiji safe and sound in the end, albeit delayed.
Étaoin recalls how the priest marrying them, Fr John Crispin, lived with two priests who served on her mum’s island, Rotuma — they were best friends.
“My mum’s priests often talked about my mum Emeli to Fr John and talked about that she had a famous sporting son, Seán Óg, so it was so special, even though they physically weren’t there, I definitely felt them around!”
Étaoin said the ceremony was just perfect.
“We had a lot of little hurdles along the way with the cyclone and flights being delayed. It rained all night the night before, it was even cloudy and spitting rain the morning of our wedding and I was just feeling so anxious, but when my make up and hair stylist, Manshita, came, and started dolling me up I began to settle down. The photographer Ana Raravuso and her assistant photographer John from Oceanstudio Fiji came to my room and started taking photos — this eased me more, the skies opened up and sun came out, so it was all falling into place.
“It’s so hard to pick a favorite moment of our wedding day as all of it was perfect and I just want to do it all over again. They dropped me off to the chapel in a golf cart, I would have to pick when I walked down the aisle to my marry my best friend, as my favourite moment. I thought I would be a slobbering mess but we were all giddy and smiling and laughing at each other as I walked down. I had two Fijian warriors escorting me down along with my pictures of the lads and Bunty in my bouquet.
“We had written our own vows and I loved listening to Neil’s. Funny, we had similar wordings and phrases in both our vows, the first time we heard each others were during the ceremony. Another thing I loved was our photo shooting time, the photographer, Ana, and John were great to work with. They did an exceptional job of capturing magical moments of our special day.”
The couple stayed on in Fiji for 12 days and enjoyed their honeymoon: “We did a trip to Malamala Beach Club island, which was paradise. We had some really nice sunny days after our wedding and to finish our trip we had another tropical cyclone so we were delayed a day coming back. It didn’t matter as we were so lucky with the stunning day we had on our wedding day.”
And there is more to come.
“We look forward to celebrating our part 2 with our loved ones in December.”