Real-life couples on how they found it and the secret of making it last forever
Kate Speers (25) is opening the Ivory and Pearl Bridal Boutique in Comber and lives with husband Chris in Belfast. She says:
“Chris and I met when he was managing an event when we were both at the University of Ulster in Jordanstown. I started talking to him because I wanted to go to more events and soon I knew we were going to be more than just friends. I never had any doubts about marrying Chris. I wouldn’t say I knew it would happen straightaway but it didn’t take long for me to realise it — and I usually take a long time to reach a decision.
Chris has always gone all out for special occasions. For my 22nd birthday he told me four days before the event that he was taking me to London. We went out for dinner and saw a show — it was the perfect weekend.
For my 23rd birthday I thought Chris might take me surfing — I'd been hinting that I wanted to learn. Then one night he told me he was taking me away for the weekend. He’d even phoned my work and booked the time off. We called at my parents’ house so I could pick up some things. Mum had them ready for me and I should have realised something was up when I found all of the clothes had been ironed.
It turned out we were going for another magical weekend — this time to Dublin. We went out for dinner and the next day got up early and I assumed we were going for my surfing lesson. But after about 40 minutes drive, we arrived at a hot air balloon that was being inflated ... I still thought it was all about my birthday until halfway through the trip Chris pointed out a piece of red ribbon attached to the side of the basket. It turned out to be a string of cards, each one with a different thing that he loves about me on it. At the end of the string there was a chocolate bar engraved with ‘Will' and that was the beginning of the question, ‘Will you marry me?”. I accepted instantly and we wed last year.”
Billie Morrow (52), a nurse, originally from Donaghadee, now lives in Edinburgh with fiance Nigel Flynn. She has three grown-up children from a previous marriage. She says:
“When I was little we moved from Donaghadee to Ballymena and I met Nigel when I was at primary school there. I’d a crush on him, but just in the way you do as a child. We moved back to Donaghadee when I was 12 but then I ran into Nigel when we were both 15. It was at a production that was put on by the Lyric Theatre in Belfast for schools and both of our classes ended up there randomly. He hid in the toilets because he had a spot on his face but I remembered him and sought him out.
We didn't see each other again after that. We both got married to other people and got on with our lives. I would think of him every now and again, though — I could still picture his face.
I ended up in Edinburgh and my marriage ended. Then, one day I decided to try and get in touch with Nigel to find out what had happened to him. I went on to Friends Reunited and I couldn't believe it — his name was on there. He emailed me straight back . He said that of all the spam that dropped into his mail box on a daily basis mine was a name he recognised immediately.
He was still in Ballymena, working as a business consultant. We met up the next time I was home — and that was that. We couldn’t stop talking and laughing together. We spent four years going back and forth between Ballymena and Scotland and eventually he moved over here. It's very hard for nurses at my level to find jobs in Northern Ireland.
On my birthday in November last year Nigel suggested we walk up to Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh, then go out for lunch. We're big walkers so this wasn't unusual for us. When we got up to the top a man asked if we’d like him to take our photo and Nigel said yes. That should have raised my suspicions as he normally hates having his photo taken.
The next thing I knew Nigel put his arms around me and when he pulled them back he was holding a sweetie ring and had his iPhone playing Little Girl Will You Marry Me by Bruce Springsteen. Although he didn't get down on one knee, he did pop the question. I hadn't a clue that he was going to propose. We’d talked about getting married but as we had both done it before I wasn't in any kind of hurry.”
Gail Doak (34) owns Airy Fairy Cakes in Lisburn where she lives with fiance Peter Pendlow, a sales manager. She says:
“Peter and I have been together for about three years — we met online and there was major chemistry between us from the beginning. I’d never felt that spark with anyone else. During the ash cloud crisis we’d only been together three months and I ended up stranded in Switzerland. I made it as far home as Paris and Peter drove 40 hours to get me. We've often talked about getting married, but I started Airy Fairy Cakes a couple of years ago and that has made it tricky — launching a new business means there's not much money coming in.
We’ve a family caravan in Castlerock so when Peter told me last Saturday that we were going away for Sunday night I assumed we’d be staying up there and that this would be our Valentine's weekend as I'm working over the proper one. However, he wouldn’t tell me where we were going and I got more suspicious the further we went as he ended up putting a blindfold on me in the car! He took it off when he stopped and I knew we’d arrived at Downhill Demesne as we'd been there before. It was pouring with rain and Peter announced that we’d have a picnic. We bickered all the way down the hill to Mussenden Temple as I couldn't see the point of a picnic in the rain, particularly as the temple would be closed as it always is in the winter. I didn't even notice there was a National Trust jeep parked nearby ...
I first suspected something was going on when we got to the Temple and Peter produced keys. Then, when he opened the door the floor was covered in rose petals in the shape of a heart. I thought it was a Valentine's Day thing until he got down on knee and popped the question. He even had the ring — a square cut diamond with a smaller diamond on either side. It's antique and I love it.
The National Trust man had been standing discreetly round a corner but minutes later he popped up and took photos of us and Peter opened a bottle of Prosseco. We stayed the night at the Adelphi hotel in Portush and had dinner at the Ramore Inn. We barely spoke to each other as we were so busy on the phone telling our wonderful news to friends and family.”
Leah Clark (24) is a spa manager and lives in Bangor with husband Alexander, a technical sales engineer. She says:
“Alexander was the hunk of the school that everyone wanted to go out with. One day when we were 15 he started throwing paper at me in class. I tutted at him but secretly I was delighted. Even as teens we've always said we were going to get married. In fact, I found a card recently that Alexander had made back then, saying he wanted me to become his wife.
We got together on November 12, 2003, and as you do when you're kids we would wish each other happy anniversary on the 12th of every month. It's one of those silly traditions that we’ve always kept — just a little text or something like that on the day.
Three years ago we went on holiday to the Dominican Republic with a couple of friends. One of the nights was the 12th of July so Ali said we should go to the a la carte restaurant to celebrate. That whole day he was so nervous he nearly made himself ill. I’d no idea what he’d planned, I thought he was actually sick and suggested we go to the ordinary buffet but he insisted. When we got to the restaurant, he directed us to the beach where there was an amazing table draped with white linen and candles for us. Ali told me that this was the only time it would be the 12th and we would be in the Carribean so he wanted to make it really special.
We had dinner and just as we finished it began to lash with rain. I got ready to make a run for it but one of the waiters brought a table cloth down from the restaurant to create a shelter for us so we could stay on the beach. And that is when Ali proposed. He got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife. He even had a toy ring with him so that I could pick one of my own later. We got married last November at the Galgorm estate in Ballymena, the day before our nine year anniversary.”
Geri Scott (37), a district nurse, lives in Belfast with husband Jonathan, a marketing manager with Coca Cola and children Tana (6) and Libby (3). She says:
“Jonathan and I met when our best friends started going out with each other. We’d end up chatting when we were all out and friendship grew into romance. We married on July 26, 2002, and were so happy. Then, when our daughter, Libby, was just five months old I found a lump in my breast. I ignored it for a while then went to the doctor who diagnosed breast cancer.
I started five months of chemotherapy, then had a mastecomy and finished with a course of radiotherapy. When my treatment ended in July 2010 I was very down. I was very tired and I had two young children. My hair had started to grow back, but my skin wasn’t in good condition and I didn’t feel like wearing any of the clothes I had.
For our wedding anniversary Jonathan took me into Belfast to meet someone, but wouldn't tell me who. He dropped me off at a cafe and gave me an envelope filled with money that he told me to spend on myself. Inside the cafe was Noleen Adair from the breast cancer charity Pretty In Pink. I knew Noleen through the charity and she's become a friend. She took me shopping and told me to try on things I wouldn't normally have gone for. It was a real confidence booster as lots of the clothes I wouldn't have looked at really suited me. I then had my make up done. Later, Richard took me out for dinner. The whole thing really lifted my spirits.
There's certainly romance left in our marriage. We go on trips to Paris and New York and always do cards and flowers on Valentine's day. Things are a little more tricky with young children but we make a point of having a meal or getting a babysitter and going for a date night. Richard has always been my rock. My breast cancer has recurred and I am undergoing treatment again, yet Richard is the one who keeps me grounded and tells me not to get ahead of myself, to focus on what's going on now.”
Lee (25) and Peter Allen (24), who both word for Asda, found romance at work. Lee says:
“I work in the store’s fashion department, George at Asda, and Peter was in the warehouse or cash office. We would sometimes bump into each other and I knew I wanted to get to know Peter better.
I finally got my chance when a group of friends, all colleagues at the store in Bangor, went to watch a Manchester United football match in 2009. I think they won, to be honest, I’m not sure. I’m not a fan although Peter is, but that trip made me realise I wanted to be more than friends. What attracted me was his charming personality and the fact he’s such a laidback person. He’s one in a million. Plus, Peter has a big heart and volunteers at the Clifton special school as a relief worker, helping students with special needs. He always say that he fell for my big green eyes. After dating for a couple of years we got engaged in June 2011 and were married in October last year.. We had 100 guests at the Crawfordsburn Inn and a lot of friends came from work. After the wedding, we had two weeks’ holiday and then were allowed one week unpaid leave. We went to the Galgorm for a couple of nights and were meant to get away in the New Year but had our little surprise — I found out I was pregnant — but we will definitely do something later.
Why do we get on so well? I think the fact we were colleagues as well as friends meant that when we started going out, there was definitely more to talk about. There were no awkward silences on our first date — and there haven’t been any since.”
Amanda Calvert (25) also works in the same Asda branch as husband David (25). The couple jokily call 11-month-old son Tyler ‘the Asda baby’. She says:
“David worked here for several years and when a vacancy came up in the store he suggested I apply for it. I got the job and am the person who takes goods heading past their sell-by date and reduces the price.
“What’s great about working together is just being together. I enjoy my job and dealing with customers, but if I do have a tough day David knows exactly what I’m talking about, which is great.
When we worked in separate places, I didn’t like going to his work parties, as I didn’t know the people. Now when we go out to work events, we’re out with friends.
He really is my Prince Charming. I love the way he’s lackadaisical. I also like his blue eyes which our son’s also got. He’s romantic too and will randomly bring me flowers. Opposites attract and while I can be highly strung, David’s sense of humour pulls me through.
His approach to life was invaluable when our baby son Tyler developed whooping cough plus a high white blood cell count at six weeks.
He had to spend over a fortnight in the Ulster Hospital and it was very tough, watching him struggle to breathe while the antibiotics began their healing work.
Our bond really deepened during that period. I was still off work on maternity leave and the store was very good at giving David time off, too.
David would probably tell you that what attracted him to me was my cheerfulness. He likes the fact that I’m energetic and full of beans and interested in lots of things.
On Valentine’s Day, we always do something special. Usually we like to go away for a night together somewhere, just the two of us, and we also try to have a nice meal out. My parents are great at helping, but when we’re out we’ll still miss Tyler terribly.”