Now he's the lord of Romance
My invite to a wedding that was too classy for 'Hello' magazine
Irish Independent 16th October 2006
AFTER so many years at the edge of the red carpet of celebrity events as a reporter, it was strange for me to find myself suddenly on the inside.
When Michael Flatley announced earlier this year that he was to wed his longtime dance colleague, Niamh O'Brien, I reckoned that if the October wedding wasun Castlehyde House in north Cork, I'd be standing outside those famous wrought iron gates, struggling to catch a glimpse of the guests.
So when the beautiful, gold-embossed wedding invitation scroll arrived at my north Cork home last month, I paused to wonder if there might have been a mistake.
But, then again, I shouldn't have been surprised - knowing the type of guy Michael Flatley is.
Over the past five years I've covered a variety of stories involving the Lord of the Dance. They ranged from his €50m renovation of Castle hyde House to the discovery of a Bronze Age burial site on his lands, from the trauma of a hurtful US extortion attempt against him to the success of his new show, 'Celtic Tiger'.
I had an immediate advantage in dealing with the Chicago dancer in that I live only one mile from his 18th Century mansion.
What immediately struck me about Michael Flatley was that, when I met him for the second time, he had remembered my name from our initial meeting.
Trust me, after years of hard-won experience in rain and snow - it is far better to be on the inside looking out than on the outside looking in.
I don't think I will forget last Saturday's jaw-dropping wedding. It was a remarkable experience, as much for the wonderful programme of entertainment as for the relaxed atmosphere of the entire day.
But 111 remember Saturday for the simple reason that I had a great time sharing in the wedding of two people who were starting out to make a life together.
As Fr Aidan Troy said, being asked to share in a wedding celebration is perhaps the ultimate honour, irrespective of whether the person who invites you is a superstar dancer or a humble PAYE worker.
Last month, when I interviewed the dancer, he said he wanted a traditional Irish wedding and for the day to be perfect for Niamh.
Defying the stereotype that some tabloids would have you believe, Michael Flatley refused to sell the photo rights of the wedding to any magazine such as 'Hello!' -because, as he explained, he wanted his guests to relax and not be worried about where a photographer would appear from next.
Niamh O'Brien - splendid in her Badgley Mischka gown flown in from Los Angeles - looked as if her 32 years had been building up to this one moment of exquisite happiness.
And Flatley - the man who has it all - looked as if he had found the most important piece of the jigsaw of life: a partner, a soul-mate and a new Lady of the Dance.
As for the wedding celebration itself, all I can say is that my next wedding will have a lot to live up to.
Arriving guests were greeted by valets who parked their vehicles. After ascending a red carpet into the house, each guest was individually welcomed by the bride and groom.
The house which looked value for money at every cent of its €50m overhaul - was filled by an army of waiters offering champagne, cocktails, canapes and fresh oysters served on individual ice-blocks. For some local people, it was a case of not knowing whether to look at the food or the celebrities present.
There was racing tycoon JP McManus, former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, former Tanaiste Mary Harney, UTV star Gerry Kelly, author Douglas Thompson, Dublin vintner Dave Egan, singer Paul Harrington, the various members of The Chieftains and former GAA president Sean Kelly.
But there were also all Flatleys Castlehyde neighbours and those who worked on the restoration of his house.
As well, almost all his US and Sligo-based families attended, plus numerous dancers he'd worked with from 'Riverdance' to 'Lord of the Dance' and 'Celtic Tiger'.
Guests were encouraged to wander around the house and enjoy its facilities to the full - from the music room to the traditional Irish bar and from the whiskey sampling room "to the grand dining salon.
At 7pm, Limerick firm Masterchef began to serve the food, and lived up to its title.
A buffet was provided in the conservatory gym to the rear of the house. The offerings ranged from Parma-ham-wrapped scallops, quail, baked lobster and north Cork goat's cheese wrapped in spinach.
There were also prime sliced beef and wild mushsmoked salmon and champ. But the dessert station left guests astounded.
The centrepiece was choux-pastry swans floating on a lake of white chocolate - surrounded by chocolate carvings of dancers, animals and dancing shoes.
There were also miniature Italian-style cakes and pastries as well as a creme brulee station - complete with blow-torch for glazing.
At 9pm, The Chieftains got into full swing and guests were treated to an incredible session by more than 30 musicians, including Michael Flatley on flute.
At midnight, a spit-roasted boar, cooking since early afternoon, was carved and served on bread-rolls.
Guests were also offered Castlehyde made fish and chips and tray-loads of miniature beef Wellington fillets.
At 1am the cake was formally cut and served with hot drinks or cocktails.
The music continued until the early hours and, as each guest left Castlehyde, they were handed a present from the bride and groom - a beautiful wedding picture.