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Jo's fairytale love story as her beau proposes on a mountain in Brazil... and they then win a dream wedding

By Sara Neill

Published 04/02/2016

Jo and Gareth Martin on their wedding day
Jo and Gareth Martin on their wedding day

It's a modern day fairytale, more Tinderella than Cinderella, after a Carrickfergus woman met her Prince Charming online, said 'yes' on a mountain in Brazil, then won her wedding in a whirlwind love story.

Jo and Gareth Martin caught each other's eyes on dating app Tinder, which matches potential love interests with the simple swipe of a touchscreen.

The week after Valentine's Day 2014, the Carrickfergus woman spotted Gareth online. They instantly sensed a connection and swiftly went on their first date.

"Gareth was even nicer in real life," said Jo. "We were in the coffee shop for hours, until closing time, and when he suggested dinner, I knew then he must like me."

A flurry of dates ensued, and soon Jo and Gareth were inseparable. But there was one problem.

Primary school teacher Jo was preparing for a new job in Sao Paolo, 6,000 miles away.

The 29-year-old explained: "In the early stages I kept telling Gareth I was going to Brazil, so he could back out. He told me he'd come visit.

"Three weeks in, he said he'd wait. It was very soon, but I'd fallen for him after four weeks."

As Jo prepared to leave, Gareth (27) quit his job and followed his girlfriend of under six months to a tiny apartment across the globe.

But the pair became homesick and decided to return to Belfast at Christmas for good.

As they counted down the weeks to go home, Gareth revealed the big secret he'd kept since August, on a trip up Rio de Janeiro's Sugarloaf Mountain in November.

Jo said: "Gareth was acting really weird and he was so impatient to get to the top. Then he called me over and was on one knee. He said: 'Fancy getting married, Jo?'

"The ring was perfect. He bought it before he came to Brazil."

Back in NI, they began planning their wedding for summer 2016. They picked the venue and paid the deposit but tried their luck at a competition which would pay for their big day.

They made it through the heats to the final on stage at the Wedding Journal Show, along with five other couples.

"We got down to the last two, and were gutted when we didn't win," said Jo. "We got over it and back to planning our wedding."

However, their plans changed again with a phone call one afternoon. "They told me the winning couple had pulled out, so Gareth and I got the prize. I was in shock."

"All of a sudden we were cancelling plans for next summer, and getting married on December 20."

Instead of splashing out on a wedding, the bride and groom-to-be used their saved money to buy their first home together.

Days before Christmas, they celebrated their union at Cabra Castle in Co Cavan.

"It was the best day of my life," said Jo. "The ceremony was just amazing, and the minister was my best friend's husband. Saying our vows was so emotional."

Jo's dad had died before he could see his only daughter get married. But she was determined to include all of the traditional father-of-the-bride roles.

Jo explained: "My mum walked me down the aisle, and my brother Paul did a speech on dad's behalf. He made everyone cry.

"My other brother Dave did the dance that's usually between the bride and her dad."

The new Mrs Martin said: "The whole thing has been a massive whirlwind, with lots to learn. I wouldn't change one bit of it."

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