How did you meet?
We met by chance in a chat room on the Internet. I had gone online to show a friend how chat rooms and instant messages worked. She couldn’t quite grasp it, so I clicked on a random name and sent an instant message. This person kept us chatting for a while and then we logged off. The next day, I logged on again and there he was and he sent me another instant message. We chatted for weeks, spoke on the phone then plucked up the courage to meet. Neither of us have ever looked back. We both agree that fate had a hand in our meeting.
Describe the marriage proposal.
The marriage proposal was quite strange. We were having a general chat about lots of things and Stuart dropped the question in amongst all the daily stuff. I answered him by saying that if I thought he was serious I’d answer him (romantic I know!!). He said he was. I stared into his eyes to make sure he wasn’t joking, then said yes!
How long did you spend preparing for the day and how was it?
We started looking for a venue in April 1999, three months after he proposed. We found our choice in August and announced it at Stu’s 30th birthday party to family and friends. From then on, every spare hour and minute was spent organising our ideas and pulling them all together. We chose to do it all ourselves so we had a lot of hard work to do. It was very stressful at times, lots of fun at others. Most of the information we gathered came from the Internet. My aunty made my dress, the bridesmaids’ dresses, the men’s cravats and waistcoats. It saved us a fortune and they were all perfect. My mum made our cake and that was perfect too. One of my friends made our bridal favours,another made some candle and dried-flower table decorations and another friend from America brought bubbles over to use instead of confetti.
What type of wedding ceremony did you have and where?
As it wasn’t my first marriage, we had a civil ceremony in an old colonial-style building in Penkridge in Staffordshire. I had four bridesmaids, my daughter Holly, my niece Briony, my new sister-in-law Alison and a friend’s daughter Jenny. Stu had four ushers, his father, my two sons, Matthew and James, and my nephew Ben. As my father is no longer alive, my mum gave me away. We kept the tradition of not seeing each other from the previous evening until the time we were married. We chose our vows from a selection offered and adapted the bits we liked best to suit ourselves. One of my best friends read a poem, ‘I will be here’ by Stephen Curtis Chapman. This is something else we found online. The registrar was a wonderful man, very adaptable and willing to accommodate our wishes throughout. It was a huge success, very moving, very personal.
Where did you hold your reception and what was it like?
Our reception was held at the same place as the ceremony. We had outside caterers to serve a five-course dinner. It was interesting for us that we didn’t chose the most expensive caterer, yet, on the day, we were absolutely delighted with the standard of the food and the service. We did splash out on a toastmaster who acted like our own policeman…we had lots of children at the wedding and even with them there, he managed to keep a good running order and help us to enjoy our day to the full. Stu had two best men who did a ‘Laurel and Hardy’ style act for the speeches, which again was a great success. In the evening, we had a disco and a buffet, our first dance was ‘She’ by Elvis Costello – taken from the film ‘Notting Hill’. Then we all ate, drank and became very merry! We left at 11pm – long before our guests – and stayed in a hotel in Acton Trussell near Stafford. The following morning we met some friends who had travelled from all over the country and abroad for brunch and a chat – something we knew we wouldn’t have time to do on the day. We flew to Kenya on Valentine’s Day, a perfect end to a perfect weekend.
Thinking back to the ‘big day’ what things did you especially enjoy?
To be honest, we enjoyed the whole day. It was a really good day all round. Considering it was February, it was sunny, although it was cold. If I had to chose one part of the day that was particularly special, I would say the ceremony itself. I could hardly look at Stuart because I was so full of love and emotion that I just thought I would cry. He was calm and composed and looked at me throughout with love and pride like I have never seen before. Every word he said was said with utmost sincerity. It was one of the most emotive moments of my entire life.
Is there anything you’d change, with hindsight?
There was nothing I would change as it all went so well. However, although they weren’t too bad, I was a little disappointed that the DJs for the evening disco weren’t a little more vocal. They seemed content to stand playing music, regardless of whether or not anyone was dancing to their selections.
What advice would you give to couples currently planning their wedding?
Do what YOU want. Don’t let anyone pressurise you into doing anything but that. Some mums can be really determined to organise everything. Our mums stood back and helped only when help was asked for and that worked really well for us. If what you want seems out of your budget, find a cheaper alternative, there is always a cheaper option if you look hard enough. The only other thing I would say is look at your reception venue closely. We had two rooms, a bar and the room with the disco in. This meant that our guests were split up, those who wanted music and those who didn’t. While it is nice for some of the older relatives to avoid the noise, it was quite difficult for us to circulate round two rooms! If you want to avoid this, go for a larger single room where there should be a quieter corner where granny and grandad can sit out the party music!