Jonny and Laura have one last training session before big day
Published 12/07/2013 | 05:00
He was preparing for the biggest day of his life, but Lions' hero Jonathan Sexton was calm and collected as he arrived for his wedding rehearsal.
Celebrating his 28th birthday, the out-half and his bride-to-be, teacher Laura Priestley, touched down in Adare, Co Limerick, yesterday afternoon.
The couple, who will say their 'I dos' at Holy Trinity Abbey Church, met Fr Paul Lavelle at 4pm for a run-through.
"I'm a bit nervous, but I'm looking forward to it," the rugby star confessed.
Laura, who had remarked earlier in the day that she was apprehensive about all the media attention, looked more relaxed after the pair went through their practice nuptials.
Dressed down in jeans and a T-shirt, Sexton drove his future wife to the church in his 4x4 for the 60-minute rehearsal – a journey they will both make separately today.
Preparations have been under way all week, with dozens of local fans expected to line out to congratulate the newlyweds.
The wedding ceremony will take place at 2pm, with guests expected to arrive up to two hours before the main event.
Sexton's brother Mark has taken on the duties of best man, while brother Jerry and cousin Rory are to be groomsmen.
The Ireland international's sister Gillian is a bridesmaid, along with Cathy Priestley and Emma Richardson.
Several of Sexton's Leinster and Ireland team mates will be in attendance, including Brian O'Driscoll and wife Amy Huberman, as well as prop Cian Healy and girlfriend Holly Carpenter.
The former girlfriend of winger Luke Fitzgerald, model Nadia Forde, has also been invited, with a source telling the Irish Independent that she and Laura became close during Forde's two-year relationship with Fitzgerald.
A lavish reception for 200 people will take place in The Minstrel's Gallery at the five-star Adare Manor.
Inspired by the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles, it is second longest function room in the country and boasts three 5ft chandeliers and 17th Century choir stalls framing a custom-made bar.
The newlyweds will take centre stage and be seated on two throne-like, red velvet-covered chairs.
There were a number of tourists residing at the exclusive hotel last night, but it is believed the bride and groom have rented out all 62 rooms.
A friend close to the Sexton family revealed that the occasion is particularly special as it the last time the family will all be together until Christmas.
Sexton is due to begin training with his new club Racing Metro in Paris in the next 10 days and his 19-year-old brother Jerry will fly out on Sunday to start with French team, Auch.
Adare has always been close to the out-half's heart.
"Two generations of my family got married here and we pass through it going to Kerry going to see my family and we just fell in love with it when we first arrived to have a look," explained Sexton last night.
Laura is rumoured to walk down the aisle in a gown by Myrtle Ivory boutique, while her bridesmaids will wear designs by Bastyan.
Sexton's mother Clare told the Irish Independent that she already considers Laura part of the family, but that everyone is "thrilled" to toast their big day with them.
"Of course, the series win seals it too. I got a lovely text from a friend after the Lions won in Sydney.
"They said that Jonathan's biggest game on the field had just been played, but that his biggest game in life was just about to begin."