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Sunday 25th August 2002

A bower of flowers at the €3m wedding with a thousand guests

More helicopters than MASH as stars fly in to the Magnier marriage at the Coolmore Stud

By Patrice Harrington and Darren Boyle

  • IT WAS the most lavish wedding seen in Ireland. The bride wore a €250,000 dress, the drinks bill exceeded €500,000, five marquees accommodated 1,000 guests who tried to outdo each other in the only stakes that matter in the horsey world – the fashion stakes.
  • Coolmore stud owner John Magnier, worth an estimated €180m was believed to have spent €3m on making sure his daughter Katie, 24, had a fairy tale wedding to her beau, horse trainer David Wachman, 28.
  • The nearby village of Fethard, Co. Tipperary, braced itself for the arrival of politicians, Hollywood stars, business tycoons and the princes of the racing world.
  • Two teenagers with yard brushes were out from early morning to ensure the streets were spotlessly clean for the visiting tycoons and celebrities. “We’re doing it out of the goodness of our hearts,” one winked, while the other added: “Yes, we’re concerned citizens of Fethard.”
  • Many locals some of whom had been gifted €1,000 each to spruce up their homes – hung out pots filled with purple lobelia and electric red savina and put in place window boxes spilling over with colourful blooms.
  • Pulp Fiction star John Travolta piloted his own jet into Shannon Airport on Friday night for a two-day layover and was believed to be a guest at the black-tie wedding, while Elton John was also expected. Stars who joined in the celebrations included former James Bond Sean Connery, the present incumbent Pierce Brosnan, Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, composer Lord Lloyd Webber, who owns nearby Kiltinan Castle, and Michael Flatley, who drove from his nearby home, Castlehyde, in Fermoy, Co. Cork. Also attending were the most senior members of Dubai’s ruling family, close racing associates of Mr Magnier, 53.
  • Three tiers of invitations were sent out by Mr Magnier and his wife, Susan – the first for family and very close friends to attend the 6pm ceremony at Fethard’s 14th century Augustinian Abbey, the second for the dinner at 7.30, and the third for the remainder of the guests to join the party at 10pm.
  • A series of five interconnecting marquees has been constructed over the past month, and all the arrangements were coordinated by the same London firm which planned Pierce Brosnan’s wedding to Keely Shaye-Smith last year.
  • World-famous interior designer Lady Jane Churchill, an early arrival, was in no doubt about who the star of the day was. “I want to describe how beautiful Katie is,” she gushed. “She has long blonde hair and that sort of translucent skin we would all love to have. She has the flashing blue eyes of her father.”
  • Among those enjoying a prenuptial lunch at McCarthy’s Bar in Fethard were the late Princess Margaret’s Tipperary-born pal and most famous ‘walker’, Ned Ryan; London banker Richard Hambro; Ben Sangster, son of international media and racing mogul, Robert; Sir Anthony Bamford, chairman and managing director of construction equipment firm JCB; financier Lord Weinberg and his wife, former model, actress and hotelier, Anouska Hempel; and Miriam Francombe, former wife of champion jockey John. The lively group, casually dressed before changing for the wedding, were staying in Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary, and took the chance to enjoy plates of chips washed down with Guinness and champagne.
  • Expected later were legendary gambler J.P. McManus and Dermot Desmond, Mr Magnier’s partners in the Sandy Lane Hotel in Barbados; Mr Desmond’s son Brett; stud farm owners Diane and David Nagle; trainer Hubie de Burgh; property developer Ken Rohan and wife Brenda, and packaging tycoon Michael Smurfit.
  • Because of the huge numbers attending, hotels within a wide radius were booked out. Though staff at the Conrad Mount Juliet Hotel in Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, refused to confirm that any of their guests was attending, the estate was cordoned off and a steady stream of helicopters landed and took off from the grounds.
  • For those travelling by more mundane means, a sign at the end of the drive confirmed what staff would not. It read: ‘Coolmore – Turn Left.’ Like so many other visitors to Ireland, after that the rich were on their own. Shortly after 3.30pm, two blacked-out people carriers, followed by an S Class Mercedes and a black Lexus LS430, left the hotel and travelled to Fethard in convoy.
  • Other guests travelled from the luxurious five-star Adare Manor in Co. Limerick. The Dunraven Arms in the same village was also believed to be hosting visitors, as was the even closer Cashel Palace.
  • Bride Katie arrived in a stunning cream silk gown with train and lace trim, which was specially designed by Ralph Lauren. It was teamed with a chiffon veil.
  • Bridesmaids were dressed in matted gold by celebrity favourite Vera Wang, who designed Victoria Beckham’s wedding dress. Mother Susan was dressed by John Galliano, head of design at the legendary Dior fashion house.
  • At the Abbey, plush green velvet drapes were fitted to the main entrance as florists were laying out hundreds of cream and peach baby roses and white hydrangeas, with each posy bearing a handwritten note of its final destination – ‘pew’, ‘altar’, etc.
  • A jigsaw lighting effect bathed the choir in a magical hue, seen to great advantage during the twilight wedding Mass.


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