11:57am Thursday 5th September 2013
LAST year the Guardian ran a Win A Dream Wedding competition in conjunction with Cottons Hotel – with the prize being a £5,000 wedding reception.
The winners were Liz Smith, a retired nurse from Pickmere and Phil Walker, an ICI worker from Wincham.
The couple won over the judges with their romantic tale of how they met on a gondola in Venice – and realised they lived only a mile apart in Northwich.
As Liz prepares to tie the knot this weekend, here is her diary of a Dream Wedding winner...
ON a cold October afternoon in 2012, I was finishing some ironing when my phone rang.
The lady on the other end said ‘Congratulations, you have won the wedding at Cottons Hotel, please be there in a few days for a champagne reception and a photo shoot for the Guardian please....”
I was in shock.
We had entered on the off chance. Cottons is lovely and it certainly would be our dream wedding. We found out later that more than 200 couples had applied and we were the oldest by a mile.
Both widowed and both over 60, a magical meeting, an amazing two years, a perfect commitment to each other and now a dream wedding.
We invited family round for tea and started to talk wedding plans.
Originally we thought a noon wedding but, as most of our guests are over 60, we were not sure they could stay the pace so we changed to 4pm.
My friends were very excited to be bridesmaids, as were my seven granddaughters and three grandsons, obviously too cool to be page boys but they agreed to do it. Outfits were sourced on the internet and are now on hangers with names on.
A trip to Cheshire Oaks for Phil’s suit – with two sizes in trousers in case the diet doesn’t work.
I ventured into a wedding shop and the assistant asked me when my daughter was getting married.
I told her it was me getting married and she said she got lots of ‘second hand brides’ and would be happy to customise a dress for me. I left.
I made an appointment at a boutique, ensuring they had samples of size 16. The tea in a China cup was delicious, but after a size 12 dress was thrown over my head, with just one arm in and one arm out in front of a 10ft mirror, to ‘get an idea what it will look like in your size’ I left.
Time for a rethink –how about second hand bride’s dresses from Ebay? Surely they would be lovely. ‘Worn once’ was always the quote.
‘A little bit of scuffing where it has rubbed against the grass’ but no mention of champagne which had been spilt.
A satin number with beautiful diamante came from Middlewich. I went to try it first. ‘Is it for your daughter?’ It fitted like a glove, looked amazing and I went straight to the laundrette and paid £7.50 for a wash.
Perfect. It looked stunning. But sadly the ‘grass stains’ were actually oil, so another no go.
You are wondering, with only 14 days to go... have I got a dress?
Absolutely and it’s gorgeous and it’s a secret, and I feel a million dollars, or should that be pounds shillings and pence in it.
While planning this wedding, I found that the Internet is king.
Only downside is that you have to be in when things arrive, or traipse down to the post office or have them delivered to your work.
More than 250 parcels later and people at work are taking bets, how many parcels today?
Then the excitement of the wedding fairs. We are, after all celebrities – we won our wedding.
Beautiful tables all set out with covered chairs and crisp white linen. Gorgeous flowers and cakes.
The music. The wonders of an iPhone. Hear it once, download it, add it to your wedding playlist.
Processional, recessional and of course ‘the first dance’. I think our choice is perfect, so perfect I can’t listen to it without starting to blub.
This could be a big problem.
A glass of champagne will make me even more emotional and it will not be a good look.
A glass of wine will make me relaxed but extremely chatty – also not the best at your wedding.
I am a retired nurse and we used to have a bottle of brandy in the cupboard for breaking bad news. Brandy must be the answer!
My Maid of Honour, Debbie, is a seamstress so when she came round for us to try our dresses and pin each others up, she was happy to try the brandy experiment. We add babycham as that is how it was done when we were 16.
The music played and we even practiced our walk by pretending the flagstones in the garden were rows of chairs. The shoes were tried on and the dresses got pinned.
Then I looked down and Debbie was full-length on the floor, leaning up on her elbows trying to focus on which end of the pin to stick in! Brandy is not the answer!
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