Let’s preface this story with the fact that I’m a bit of a wedding scrooge. I worked for a bar and catering team in my hometown doing a lot of weddings over the years and it made me never want to have one of my own, I just couldn’t see the sense in spending all my time and money organising one day (even accounting for my love of spreadsheets and organisation in general).
In the last month, my attitude has shifted slightly, I’m maintaining my personal anti-wedding stance but when the message came in that a friend’s marriage proposal was in the offing and it needed planning I was all over it like a rash. It encompassed all my favourite things, surprises, two people I loved, and spreadsheets!
The proposal was to take place in Belfast, Northern Ireland on the penultimate day of the couple’s road trip around the Emerald Isle. The only instructions were: make it a surprise and make it musical. From here I called around all the bars I could find but frustratingly none of them had any events on that evening that we could commandeer for a proposal. At a dead end there, we came at it from another angle, asking the Belfast Ukulele Orchestra if they wanted to get involved. Their answer was a resounding ‘YES’.
So we had the music part of it, now we needed the venue…busking laws in Belfast are very strict so we weren’t going to able to do this on the street without getting a permit from the council. Luckily the Orchestra were friendly with the Bullitt Hotel and after a quick phone call they were also on-board! So on April 11th I jumped on a quick 30-minute plane ride from Edinburgh to Belfast and raced into town to meet up with the Uke team. Side note: There are two airports in Belfast, make a note of which one you’re flying into as International is a lot further out of town.
I was amazed, I had thought we might have 10 players show up to help out, instead, we had about 30! We got a practice under our belt while my co-conspirators guided the fiance-to-be towards the bar and as they drew closer the band dispersed to hide in plain sight around the room. Once our targets were settled with drinks, my faithful helper Damien went to turn the music down and cue the band, I popped out of my hiding place behind the coffee machine and Rosa got the surprise of her life. At this point the penny dropped and she realised what was happening, it was proposal time! I’m happy to report that she said yes, the crowd went wild and after hugs, cheers and a rendition of Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, we headed out into Belfast to celebrate the occasion with the appropriate number of drinks, which in this case was many.
For those of you who are more into pictures than words…here is a video of the whole thing!
Now obviously we had a lot to celebrate so we went out big stylie, and if you’re looking for somewhere to go out big stylie, then Belfast is as good a spot as you’ll find anywhere. There are so many great pubs (all playing live music) that you could go out every night of the week and see something different for, well, a…substantial period of time. It’s a great night out.
Our night was so good that I was the only functioning adult the following day. I woke up to a house full of actual slugs who were too busy trying not to be sick again to do any more celebrating. After I catered a full cooked breakfast to try and cure the hangovers most of the party were feeling fit to go and do some sight-seeing. Luckily we had our own guide in the form of Amy, a Belfast local who was very useful in helping us navigate the Irish countryside. She also saved us about £20 each because as it turns out you don’t need to pay to visit Carrick a Rede or The Giant’s Causeway, you can just walk right in. Both are a reasonable stroll and I would recommend sensible footwear if you’re planning to visit.
After we sent the lovebirds off to London to continue their trip I decided to visit another friend who had recently moved back to Belfast from New Zealand. Accompanied by her fluffy friend Riley we took a black taxi tour around the city. Word to the wise here: bring your sunglasses if you don’t want people to see you cry. Halfway around I was hiding behind mine with puffy sad eyes – it’s hard to describe the impact of the tour on me and it’s almost unimaginable that it was/is the reality for the people of Northern Ireland. If you do one thing then make it this.
At the end of our tour, we went out to the Titanic quarter to the shipyard where poor old Jack and Rose did themselves a mischief. Here we strolled and went for a whizz around on a small train driven by the surliest man I’ve ever seen. Narrated by a friendly dude who was clearly getting on the tits of the driver, this was £5 well spent (but I do LOVE a tour so I might be biased).
Now the only thing left to do in Belfast was to go on a proper ladies night out in the Cathedral Quarter fuelled by ‘Potion’ also known as vodka mixed with blue WKD (for those who don’t know, don’t bother investigating). We bar hopped around and went to: Harp Bar, The Dirty Onion & Yardbird, The Sunflower, The Tipsy Bird, Babel Bar, The Duke of York and others which escape me right now. Some were hits, some were misses but I had a great night so do what you will with that information. The evening was topped off by discovering an unresponsive girl in a toilet cubicle and rousing her so that two of us could pull her trousers up while avoiding her vomit all over the floor. Look after each other out there ladies!
So that was my second trip to the emerald isle and I managed to escape without throwing up all over a Travelodge! I think they might just have me back…