Real Weddings: Bob and Leon


Bob Johnston and Leon McAleenan tied the knot at Smock Alley in August, exactly 15 years to the day since they first met on a night out at The George.


Bob Johnston, owner of the Gutter Bookshop in Temple Bar and Dalkey, and Leon McAleenan, an Educate Together teacher at Balbriggan ETNS, were married on Thursday, August 18 at the Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin, 15 years to the day since they first met on a night out at The George.

Their ceremony was officiated by humanist minister Susie Kennedy and they were joined by over 150 friends and family as they exchanged their wedding vows.

Photos by Ivana Patarcic

The couple won a competition organised by Smock Alley Theatre to celebrate the passing of the Marriage Equality referendum in May 2015 by making a short video based around the theme of ‘An Ode To Love’. The competition was independently judged by Colm O’Gorman of Amnesty International and Betty Stuart from Lullabelle Wedding Design.

“In fairness I think our dog Sasha and our cat Molly won the wedding for us!” says Bob. “They both had starring roles in the video which was based around the life we’d built together over the past 15 years and that can now be formally recognised through the marriage equality legislation.

“Leon and I both worked hard around the time of the referendum, knocking on doors and talking to people, and it’s wonderful that we are now finally able to share this special occasion with everyone who supported us along the way.”

The pair won Smock Alley as the wedding venue for the day, styling and stationery from Lullabelle Wedding Design, and wedding photography by Ivana Patarcic. In addition, they had rings handmade by Barry Doyle Design in George’s Street Arcade and their friend, milliner John Shevlin of Cow’s Lane Design Studio made them custom-designed hats to match their outfits for the day.

Leon and Bob were walked down the aisle by their respective nieces and nephews to Chet Baker’s ‘This Is Always You’ and they signed the marriage register alongside Bob’s brother and one of Leon’s sisters to Michael Kiwanuka’s song, ‘Rest’. Their exit as a married couple was to the aptly titled ‘At Last’ by Etta James.

Photos by Ivana Patarcic

Following the ceremony, the couple had a small family lunch at The Morrison Grill followed by a large evening party in the Morrison Hotel. They surprised everyone with an energetic first dance to Chvrches ‘Clearest Blue’ which they had help in choreographing by Back Street Dance Studios at Airside, Swords, as Leon had previously worked with them on a ‘Strictly Dancing’ charity event.

“We thought it would be a bit of fun,” says Bob. “I was dreading the slow first dance shuffle, given that we met dancing our socks off in The George to Destiny’s Child, so we decided we’d do something a bit different. Everyone seemed to enjoy it and it’s probably the only chance I’ll ever get to pretend to be Baby from Dirty Dancing!”

The night was rounded off with wind-down drinks at The Liquor Rooms under The Clarence Hotel for anyone still standing after a wonderful wedding day.

This piece first appeared in GCN 233, October 2016. Read it online here

© 2016 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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