One Love to Live

updated 11/28/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/28/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

AIN'T NOTHING, MARTHA BYRNE CAN tell you, like the real thing. As the capricious Lily on As the World Turns, the 24-year-old actress has walked down the aisle three times with three different men. But it wasn't until Nov. 12, when she headed for the altar at St. Luke's Roman Catholic Church in Hohokus, N.J., to wed real-life groom Michael McMahon, 27, a New York City policeman, that Byrne would have sworn she was living a fantasy. "I feel," she said, radiant in an ivory silk gown, "like Cinderella."

A fairy tale, maybe, but these nuptials were no daytime drama. For one thing, never on a soap would anyone under-dress for a wedding. But among the parishioners and 300 invited guests in the pews were a smattering of denim-clad fans. They were there to glimpse both the Emmy-winning actress's offscreen happiness and her cast mates, including Lisa Brown and Elizabeth Hubbard, who play, respectively, Lily's birth and adoptive mothers. "They're going to be wonderful," says Hubbard of the newlyweds. "And, naturally, as Martha's mother, I've had talks with her." On hand for the reception at a nearby hotel was Jon Hensley, who as Holden has played Lily's major love (and second husband) since Byrne joined ATWT at 15. "Over the years," he says, "we've developed a wonderful relationship."

Byrne and McMahon met at a Mahwah, N.J., nightclub in February 1993, just weeks before she rejoined the ATWT cast following a four-year stint living in L.A. and appearing on such TV dramas as Murder, She Wrote and In the Heat of the Night. "I said, 'Wow, he's cute!' " she recalls. "And when he didn't come up to me, I went right up to him and started talking. We talked for hours." McMahon told her that within the previous two months he had lost his father to leukemia and an older sister to neuroendocrine cancer. "Martha honestly cared about how I was feeling," he says. "And that meant a lot to me."

Unlike Lily, Byrne plans on playing this marriage for keeps. "I just want us to keep laughing," she says. "We are meant to be together for life, and I am blessed."

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