Written by Louise Holt Last updated: September 12, 2006
Gill bumped into her childhood friend Mike in a snooker hall, which she admits was not very glamorous! They thought they would ‘take things slowly’ ‐ now they’re getting married! Gill Banks is 23 and lives in High Wycombe. She works for a Communications company that sells video conferencing equipment and travels round the country training customers who have bought the equipment. Gill got engaged to Mike Dover, who is 24, just over a year ago, on her 22nd birthday. Mike and Gill originally met over 10 years ago when they were growing up in neighbouring villages near High Wycombe. Throughout the years their paths kept crossing and they are now busy planning their wedding for next year: the big day being 31st July 2004! Read Gill’s story and pick up some useful tips along the way.
I first spied Mike when I was about thirteen, but as he was one of the popular boys I never plucked up the courage to speak to him! As we lived very close to each other, inevitably throughout the years our paths crossed many times and we found that we knew many people in common. It took me until I was eighteen (with a bit of Dutch courage from an alcopop or two) to actually speak to Mike. When we arranged to go out on a date soon after, I was walking on air. Unfortunately this wasn’t to last (I tease him now about him dumping me and breaking my heart!) and we agreed to stay friends. I was needless to say, gutted, but vowed to never let Mike know!
It started in a snooker hall…
We both continued enjoying life, Mike went travelling to Australia and I went to work in Spain. I wasn’t long back from Spain, heading for my 21st birthday and proclaiming to anyone that would listen that I was so happy being single and wanted to stay that way for the foreseeable future. One evening I went along to the local snooker hall (not the most romantic setting) to watch a couple of friends play. As I didn’t expect to see anyone other than these two friends that I was meeting, I had made absolutely no effort with hair, clothes or make‐up. I wandered into the snooker hall and started watching, not really noticing anyone else, when my friend Jamie pointed out Mike playing on the table next to where I was sitting. Not understanding the importance of hair and make‐up to a woman, Jamie was incredibly amused at how mortified I was to see Mike when I looked so bad. I figured there was nothing I could do except brazen it out, pretending to be only mildly interested in Mike, when really I was over the moon to see him!
The next day I had two text messages on my mobile, one from my Mum, worried that she had done the wrong thing by giving my mobile number to ‘a lovely sounding man who phoned the house’ and a text from Mike. I was needless to say extremely grateful to my Mum, much to her relief. We decided that after our previous attempt, we would just take it slowly and see how things went. One date soon turned into seeing each other as often as humanly possibly!
A surprise on holiday
Just over 15 months later, we went on our first holiday together to Tunisia, we were both really excited, but Mike seemed a bit nervous. We had booked to be away over my birthday too, so even more to look forward to. When I phoned my parents to say that we had arrived, I said that I would phone again on my birthday and I remember saying to Mike it was strange the way that they both practically jumped down the phone in agreement when I suggested the birthday call. Little did I know that by this point, they were in on Mike’s surprise too.
The first half of the holiday was relatively uneventful and very relaxing. On the night before my birthday, we had been out for a meal and I couldn’t help noticing that Mike was really knocking back his drinks (now I know that it was his turn for Dutch courage!) We returned to our room with a few drinks and watched the evening entertainment from our balcony, Mike still seeming really nervous.
At about one minute past midnight, Mike asked if I would like my birthday present. When I said ‘Yes’, he banished me to wait in the bathroom, ‘until he was ready!’ This was the first time that I started to seriously consider that he might ‘pop the question,’ but so as not to be disappointed in case it wasn’t that, I totally convinced myself that it was something else. Anyway, he came and got me from the bathroom and I noticed (much to his annoyance when I told him afterwards) that he had his hand in his pocket – what was he hiding?!
I had to wear a towel around my eyes and Mike took me back out to the balcony – letting me walk into everything on the way! He sat me down and when I opened my eyes, he was there, down on one knee. He asked, ‘Will you marry me?’ I then proceeded to burst into tears and give him a huge hug. A few seconds later, he was still looking worried and said ‘Well? Will you?’ I nodded furiously and although I’m sure he would deny it now, I swear I saw a tear in Mike’s eye. He had already picked a ring, with no help or hints from me and apart from it being a little big, it was perfect.
Much to my disappointment, because it was too big for me, I couldn’t wear it and run around showing everybody, but as soon as we could the next morning, I called my parents. Mike revealed he had asked my Dad for his permission and as soon as Dad knew we were safely out of the country he told my Mum. They were over the moon, but as we wanted to tell Mike’s parents and our friends in person, they had to keep it to themselves. When Mike called his parents, without meaning to, he gave the game away. He’s not good at lying (which, of course, is a fantastic quality in a man!) but when his Mum asked what he had bought me for my birthday, he just said that he would tell them when we got home – how obvious?!
In the Sahara Desert
The next few days were fantastic and I kept getting him to ask me again – we were both so chuffed. Unfortunately three days after we got engaged, I slipped when we were walking in the Sahara Desert and I broke my foot. This meant that when we got home, obviously everyone was pleased to hear we had got engaged, but the first thing people saw was the plaster cast! This wasn’t exactly the grand announcement that I had planned, but never mind.
Once we had told friends and family, we did the usual things by placing announcements in the paper, but we decided to postpone having an engagement party until I was off crutches. If only we had realised that this would be over 6 months away! By the time I was walking properly again, it seemed a little late to throw a party, so we never actually had an engagement party.
By March 2003, I was free of crutches and raring to get going on wedding plans…….
Read Gill’s diary next month to see how her wedding planning is going and to pick up some handy tips along the way.