A young German couple had a true fairytale ending in Derry this week after enlisting the help of staff at a local book store to help them tie the knot.
Michelle Hofmann and David Heiss (both 25) had made the decision to get married last month, just ahead of their travels through Ireland, and chose Derry as the location to exchange their vows.
The couple had dreamed of an intimate ceremony with just themselves and a couple of local witnesses, and their wish came true at the Registry Office on Magazine Street last Tuesday afternoon.
In fact, the newlyweds have kept things so low key that they haven’t yet revealed to their families back home in the Heidelberg region of south west Germany that they are now officially man and wife, and plan to surprise them when they return home in a few weeks’ time.
Ken Thatcher from Foyle Books said they were taken aback to get messages via e-mail from book-lovers David and Michelle, asking for their help in securing witnesses for the ceremony and saying that they would love to visit the shop before they exchanged their vows. Unphased however, they replied that they would be happy to help and Ken Park, who works in the store in the Craft Village- which is just three doors up from the Registry Office- offered to bear witness along with his daughter Rachel (17).
Speaking about how it all came to pass, groom David said: “I really tried different things to get someone because I was in Germany and I thought, ‘OK, how do I reach somebody who could do this for us?’ I got on Facebook and asked people but nobody replied, I even used ‘Myhammer’ website, where you can post for jobs, and I asked there and nobody replied, and then I thought, ‘OK, maybe I just write to some shops around there and send requests and ask them if they may want to do it’, and some replied, but his reply was really the most loveliest one.”
Commenting after meeting the couple in person for the first time in the shop, Ken Park said: “It’s a charming request for a person to make, and Rachel and I just thought how unusual and how much fun it would be, so here we are!”
David and Michelle, who have known each other for around seven years and have been dating for the last four, said they had only decided to get married five weeks ago.
“We wanted to do it on our own because we want to enjoy our wedding for ourselves,” David said.
“We wanted an intimate wedding,” Michelle added, “and in four or five years, there will be a bigger wedding, a church wedding, with our families.”
And when asked why they picked Derry, David said: “I have been to Ireland two times before since I was a child, and we liked to travel to some places around here. We searched on the Internet for any Registrar who could do this in Ireland, we found the Derry Registrar. We will go back to Germany on September 11. The family don’t know yet so this will be a small surprise!”
Interviewed in Foyle Books minutes before they departed for the ceremony three doors down the street, the couple, dressed in their dark blue finery, said they were only slightly nervous, but very excited.
Ken Thatcher, founder of Foyle Books- Derry’s largest second hand and antiquarian book shop- said that as requests go, this was definitely one of the more unusual ones that they have received.
Ken, who presented the couple with a gift from his shop, said: “Initially they were looking just for witnesses and they had probably Googled the Registry Office and saw we were just a couple of yards along the road. They have just been travelling and they said they would like to call in and look at books, they said they liked books, and then they would get married.
“People come in here to get photos taken with the books, but we’ve never had anything like this. Although I have had a bride immediately after her wedding express a desire to spend the first night of her marriage in the shop. Her new husband didn’t look overly enamoured with the idea though!”
And in a plot twist to this particular love story, a ‘very kind’ well wisher purchased an ornate edition of ‘Treasure Island’ as a wedding gift for the couple, which David and Michelle got the staff and witnesses to sign.
“We’re going to have a baby,” Michelle said.
“It’s due on March 22, a Spring baby and we will read this book to the child,” she concluded.