Just like Meghan Markle, we married for the second time
When the US actress walks down the aisle at the weekend, it will be as a divorcee. Two Northern Ireland women tell Karen Ireland why a failed first marriage didn't deter them from getting hitched again - and why they think it can work out better next time round
When Prince Harry weds Meghan Markle at St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle this Saturday, it will be his first marriage but second time round for her.
The American actress was previously married to film producer Trevor Engelson. The couple first met in 2004 and after being together for six years, they got engaged in 2010.
They tied the knot on September 10, 2011, when she was 30 years old, at the Jamaica Inn in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. The wedding was an extravagant affair - and very different to the royal occasion set to take place this weekend. The ceremony took place in front of 102 guests, with celebrations lasting four days. Photos have since emerged showing drinking games on the beach in the run up to the big day.
Just two years after their wedding, Meghan (36) and Trevor were divorced in August 2013, citing "irreconcilable differences".
One source has claimed that Meghan's flourishing career as Rachel Zane on hit TV show Suits was to blame for the split: "Meghan landed her role in Suits just a few months before they married. And despite being together for six years before getting hitched, things started to fall apart not long after the wedding."
Another pal told reporters: "They really battled with long distances. Trevor was based in LA while Meghan was in Toronto, a five-hour flight away. It was a very difficult way to start married life."
But a new book, Meghan, A Hollywood Princess, by Andrew Morton, suggests that the end of the marriage came as something of a shock to Trevor. He also claims that Meghan posted her wedding and engagement rings back to Trevor.
Morton writes: "Whether she wanted to admit it to herself or not, Meghan, who once said she couldn't imagine life without Trevor by her side, was now building a new world for herself.
"As Toronto was becoming more her home than LA, the dynamics in their relationship subtly altered.
"She was her own woman now, earning a steady income, making new friends on set and off, no longer dependent on her husband's connections."
Engelson, who is perhaps best-known for producing Remember Me, a 2010 tearjerker starring Robert Pattinson and featuring Meghan in a cameo role, has not spoken about his ex-wife's new relationship, but Ms Markle's half-brother Thomas Markle Jnr blamed their divorce on "the pressure of Hollywood".
Will the fact she has been wed before proved a help or hindrance as she navigates the extremely tricky role of royal wife in the months to come?
'The main difference this time round is we were good friends beforehand'
Lynda Kher (58) is a pastry chef and lives in Lisburn with her husband Steven. She has one daughter, Charly (29), from her first marriage and Steven has a son, Gaurav (32), from his first marriage. Lynda says:
I married for the first time when I was 26. Looking back I think we were just young and naive. We worked together and worked long hours, and, in the end, it took its toll on the marriage and things just didn’t work out.
When I married the first time around I thought it was for life, but it wasn’t meant to be. We lasted 13 years before separating and later divorcing.
I wasn’t one of these people that said ‘I’ll never marry again’ or ‘once bitten, twice shy’. I always thought if I was lucky enough to find the right one I would marry again.
But never in a million years did I think I’d marry Steven. After all, we’d known each other as friends for years and our families knew each other.
We were used to hanging out as pals and enjoying each other’s company ... and then he asked me out.
My initial response was to laugh as we had been friends for so long. I even asked him if this was really a date. Yet all my friends told me that I was stupid and asked me whether I really hadn’t noticed the chemistry that had been between the two of us for a long time. We even got a round of applause when we turned up together on a night out. Everyone wondered what took us so long.
So, we started going on dates — and it just worked. I think the fact that we were such good friends beforehand stood us in good stead.
In 2012, Steven surprised the life out of me by proposing at Castle Leslie. I was in complete shock, but I didn’t hesitate as I knew it was what I wanted.
The one thing I didn’t want, though, was a big wedding. I had done all the traditional trimmings the first time round.
So, we agreed to get married at City Hall in Belfast with just the two of us and two good friends and then have a party afterwards.
I didn’t want all the fuss and hassle of a big wedding the second time round, nor did I see the point. I just wanted it to be an intimate occasion and all about Steven and me.
Since we got married, we really haven’t looked back. We are very happy together. I think the main difference this time round is that we were such good friends beforehand and we knew everything about each other.
We are true companions and enjoy spending time together and that really should be what a marriage is all about — friendship and love.
We have a lot of fun together and enjoy doing the same things. We want to just enjoy each other’s company and to grow old together.
I think it also works well as we are more mature and know what we want from a relationship. Steven was also married before and I think we both learnt from our mistakes the first time. We are careful to make sure that we love and support each other.
Indeed, I think that will be the key to a successful marriage for Meghan and Harry — they need to have the firm foundations of a strong friendship and be there to help and support each other through both the good and bad times.
Meghan seems mature and ready for the role and as long as he is by her side, loving her and supporting her, then I’m sure she will be fine.”
'Life is too short ... forget the past and do whatever makes you happy'
Amanda Wilson (52) lives in Dromore and is a watch commander with the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service. She is married to Geoff and has two sons Phillip (31) and Ross (24). She says:
I was first married when I was 19. It sounds young, but back then it wasn’t really regarded as all that unusual.
Living together was frowned upon then so getting married and moving out of your parents’ house was the next step and the obvious thing to do.
The marriage only lasted six years and didn’t work out for various reasons. Once we split up, I became a single mum to Phillip.
My son was my focus, but I never said I wouldn’t marry again. I knew that my experience hadn’t put me off marriage for life and that if I met the right person I would consider it again.
I had known Geoff through mutual friends and he was a fireman at the time. Phillip was crazy about fire stations and firemen, so he offered to show him around.
He took him to a fire station, gave him a great time and sent him home talking about everything to do with the fire service.
I thanked him and said that he should call over for coffee some time — he was there an hour later. After about a month I was in the kitchen one day and Geoff was in the living room with Phillip, who was six at the time.
I heard Phillip ask him if he could call him ‘dad’. I was mortified and held my breath, but Geoff never flinched. He said he thought that would be okay.
I remember thinking ‘Well, if that doesn’t put him off, nothing will’.
And it didn’t put him off, and we just became a very tight threesome.
I think the fact that Geoff was so good and so kind to Phillip was a huge draw for me and we became serious early on.
After a year-and-a-half Geoff asked me to marry him and I didn’t hesitate. I knew it was what I wanted.
Besides, we had talked about starting a family and I didn’t want to do that without being married first.
We were engaged for six months and got married in 1993. Initially we planned a very small wedding but it just kind of snowballed.
We got married in a church and had a big reception — wedding cars, cake and all the trimmings.
We didn’t make it smaller because it was second time around, but celebrated the day with friends and family. The only difference was that I didn’t wear a wedding dress, instead I opted for a two-piece suit.
Our son Ross was a honeymoon baby and was born later that year.
After that we were very busy raising our young family and concentrating on the boys and our careers. Our marriage just worked and we have always been a very close family.
Back when I remarried I think there was almost a stigma to being in a second marriage. My mum and dad had divorced when I was 11, in 1977, and there were school friends of mine who never knew my parents had separated because it was so frowned upon and such a taboo.
When I divorced I worked hard and stood on my own two feet. I was determined to show that I was alright and to make sure my son had everything he needed.
My advice to Meghan Markle or indeed to anyone marrying a second time round is that life is too short so let the past be in the past and do what makes you happy.
Everyone is entitled to a happy future and there is no point in sitting in the corner and feeling sorry for yourself if your first marriage hasn’t worked out.
There are always a lot of factors involved when a marriage ends and you just need to get back out there and get on with it.
Second time marriages can be wonderful, not least because you are more inclined to make it work as you know what you want.
The fact you have also been through a divorce makes you stronger as well.”