Julie and Owen McLoughlin from Wicklow's Jando Design. Photo: David Conachy

The Vow

The Irish couple who turned their passion for designing wedding invitations into a business

Julie and Owen McLoughlin loved designing their own wedding invitations so much that it kick-started a business

In the past week, Julie and Owen McLoughlin have experienced some pretty dramatic changes. The Wicklow couple have moved into an apartment they bought together in Smithfield, after 12 years of renting on Bachelors Walk.

Owen has also given up his job in finance to concentrate on their growing design business, so they clearly don't do things by half-measures.

Julie (34) and Owen (38) met 15 years ago through friends, and their friendship developed through a mutual interest in music and turned into attraction. "Julie is a beautiful-looking girl with a bubbly personality and a really quirky sense of humour," says Owen. "I didn't have to be anybody else with her because she got me for who I was."

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Julie says that Owen is one of the best-dressed people she has ever met, and she loves his passion for music, movies and art. "He's a mine of information," she says. "And sure he's a good-looking hunk too."

Julie and Owen both grew up in Wicklow - she on a dairy farm in Kiltegan and he in Baltinglass. Julie is the eldest of Charlie and Theresa O'Brien's five children, and she did hotel and catering management at DIT, Cathal Brugha Street. While she was a student, she worked part-time in market research and has been working in that industry ever since.

Owen is the eldest of two and his mum, Mary, still lives in Baltinglass. He studied computer applications at Dundalk Institute of Technology, and pursued a career in music for a while and released an album. He then went to work in finance for 10 years and left it behind to focus on the design business last week.

Owen proposed to Julie in 2009 on Brooklyn Heights Promenade in New York, and they were married in the US city in 2012. They were joined at the New York wedding by 44 close family and friends. "In the lead up to the ceremony, we were looking for stationery and wedding vendors to fit us and our personality but we couldn't find anything," says Julie. "Owen was really hands-on with the wedding and when we couldn't find the invitations we wanted, we decided to do them ourselves."

The pair created their wedding invitation in the form of a 40-page, hard-back book, which contained their story and individual picture profiles of all of the guests. "We put silly, quirky things in about people that we knew would be good conversation-starters at the wedding," says Owen. "We chiselled out a secret compartment by hand in each book, and put in things like luggage tags, confetti and little button pins, which took us ages. At the end, we put Jando Design on it, which stands for Julie and Owen. We didn't realise it at the time, but that was when our business was born."

Julie and Owen's wedding invitations received great acclaim, and they began getting messages from all over about it from friends of their friends. They also designed the setting charts for the wedding, and when they returned from their wedding, they set up their own Etsy store. It went brilliantly and they were getting orders from all over the world. They have since moved away from doing wedding-related designs.

"I had been working on these screen prints of landmarks all around Dublin as a kind of secret little project," says Owen. "When I showed Julie, she said that they should go into a shop. We approached the Jam Art Factory which is one of the biggest art shops in Dublin. They took our stuff straight away and have been an amazing support for us."

Jando now does illustrations and screen prints of Irish landmarks, and also did a London series for their recent launch into the UK market. Their fantastic prints are available online and in shops like Kilkenny around the country. They were also commissioned by Cork City Hall to do an illustration that was used on all of their tickets and brochures.

Julie and Owen are very much looking forward to taking part in Showcase - Ireland's creative expo - next weekend at the RDS. The trade-only event explores the best of Ireland's creativity from over 450 exhibitors, including leading Irish designers and manufacturers and the very best emerging home-grown creative talent.

Owen is the principal designer of Jando and now that they have moved into their new apartment, they have a home studio for him to work from. Julie still has a day job in market research and she works on the business in her free time. Their spare time has become very limited, but they try to watch movies and go to gigs, where possible.

Having a family is not on the radar at present, they say, because Jando is very much their baby. "We're putting every ounce of ourselves into it at the moment and we're really loving it," says Julie.

www.jandodesign.com 'Showcase' takes place at the RDS, Dublin, from January 22-25. www.showcaseireland.com