Following her recovery from cancer, Gill Mee and her now-husband Brian Jones began their new chapter surrounded by family and friends on their wedding day in Essex
Where did you meet?
A well-known dating website.
Tell us about the proposal.
Brian initially moved in to care for me (temporarily) while I was undergoing my treatment for cancer. We’d only been seeing each other for four months, so it hadn’t been the intention at that stage. After a while, it was obvious to us both that we didn’t want to be apart again. As we’d been living together for about five years, both having been married before – getting married again hadn’t really been on my radar. Brian suddenly, and unexpectedly, proposed one morning over breakfast, simply by asking if I’d like to be Mrs Jones. He said he’d been thinking about it for some time.
What look did you choose for your wedding make-up?
My make-up on the day was a gift from Boots No.7 as part of the work they do with Macmillan. They paired me up with the lovely Charlotte, who travelled a long way to be with me on the day to make me look like a better version of me.
Charlotte Goodacre, Boots No7 regional business manager in Devon, Cornwall and Dorset, says: "I met Gill as I am trained as a Boots Macmillan Beauty Advisor, a role which enables me to help people living with cancer cope with the visible side effects of treatment. I have done people’s wedding make-up before (I'll be doing my own in 2020) and love being part of someone's special day, helping them feel the most beautiful they've ever felt. I created a feminine look for Gill, emphasising her features and ensuring her look reflected her personality. The eyes became a focal point. Warm bronze tones smoked out, defined liquid eyeliner liner with fluttering lashes and radiant flawless skin."
What did you choose for the colour scheme?
My wedding outfit had a slightly '50s/60s vibe (that being the era in which I was born), but the colour scheme running throughout the day was orange. Orange is a favourite colour of mine as it is bright, warm and cheerful. However, added to that is the fact that my dear dad (who died five years ago) used to buy my mum (who died in 1993) orange roses, as they were her favourite. After she passed away, my dad used to look out for them for me and bring them round to my house. We also used to take some over to the crematorium on special dates. So, orange roses were in honour of my mum and dad – and we echoed the colour throughout the day wherever we could.
Tell us about your venue.
We knew we wanted a venue where we could be married and have the reception in one place. We also knew we wanted somewhere people could stay over, as we would have guests from abroad. We considered parking issues and transport links as well. We didn’t look at many venues at all, as The Rochford Hotel (suggested by a friend who lives nearby) was absolutely perfect in every aspect. Jane Martin, the on-site wedding co-ordinator, was friendly and approachable, professional and knowledgeable with a ‘can-do' attitude which I appreciated, and the hotel was just lovely. The marquee for the actual ceremony had old reclaimed church pews as seating, which we loved.
When did you know you'd found 'the dress'?
I hadn’t planned on wedding dress shopping the day I found the dress. I had been to lunch with a friend and we were walking past a reasonably new ‘budget’ wedding dress shop, tucked at the back of our local high street. I said to my friend that I’d previously considered going in, but hadn’t wanted to do so on my own. She offered to come in with me. I certainly wasn’t prepared, nor dressed for the occasion – in jeans and flats.
When I had announced my engagement to Brian’s daughter (Laura, aged 30) she was so excited and thrilled – having just got married the year before, where I had been her wedding planner. She had immediately started looking on Pinterest for dresses for me. I had said I’d fancied a ballerina-length dress with sleeves, which I’d thought more suitable for my age. She sent me a photo of one, which I absolutely loved and had saved on to my phone. I showed this to my friend before we went in. It was a quiet time in the shop and the young assistant was kind and patient.
My friend and I trawled through the racks and racks of dresses. I tried on one dress, but it was strapless so not suitable for me due to my surgery. My friend searched the rails and had found a full-length dress which was almost identical to the dress that Brian’s daughter had seen. We compared it to the photo and even the shop assistant was surprised. She advised that the dress could be shortened, although it would be a huge task for any dressmaker, so I tried it on and loved it. She pinned it up for me to get an idea of how it might look.
I didn’t have suitable shoes on to get an idea of the true effect, so the assistant ran over to the display and brought me a pair of beautiful 1950s-style ivory satin ankle strap shoes (which happened to be in my size). I loved the dress and I loved the shoes. Brian’s daughter worked near the shop – so I rang her and asked if she could pop round to see me in the outfit. She ran round, saw me in the pinned-up dress and couldn’t believe how alike it was to the original photo she had found.
I couldn’t take the chance of leaving the dress as it was the only one in the shop. I doubted I’d ever find another dress I’d like as much – so, even though we didn’t have a date set at that time, I took a leap of faith and bought it. Coincidentally, the friend I’d taken with me knew a dressmaker who specialised in wedding and prom dress alterations and she was sure she would be able to take on the job of altering my dress. I can honestly say that the dressmaker did a wonderful job and I am sure it was a much bigger job than I had appreciated it would be. Everyone loved it.
Where did you get your suits?
Brian got his suit from a local, long-established family business, the same place where my dear dad used to get all of his suits.
Tell us about your floral arrangements.
My amazing and talented florist was the one that I had found for Brian’s daughter’s wedding the previous year. I knew I wanted to have her and I knew I wanted the flowers to be the main ‘showstopper’ item for the venue and for the day. However, because she is so good and popular, she is booked up many months/years in advance. I rang her as soon as we had a date sorted and as luck would have it, she had kept that day free as it was her granddaughter’s birthday.
As we had met before and established a good rapport, and the family birthday happened to be near the wedding venue too – she kindly agreed to squeeze me in. I was thrilled and grateful. When we met up to discuss the flowers, I knew what I wanted and she knew she could make it look amazing. Orange roses in memory of my late parents, white freesias (also a favourite of mum’s, but absolutely my favourite) and lily of the valley being the flower for my birth month and also our wedding month (May).
Tell us about the details of the day.
I wanted some big bold arrangements to transform the marquee, and matching table decorations. The other key factor I wanted was butterflies wherever possible, so she incorporated two little diamante butterflies into my bouquet (one for my mum and one for my dad), and on every table setting arrangement too. Butterflies are a special symbol for me to signify a memory of those departed loved ones. We had orange ribbons with the flowers on the tables to carry on the theme. I also arranged for a local balloon shop to custom-make some butterfly decorated balloons, filled with mini balloons in orange, to decorate the hotel reception.
The friend with whom I had been to the wedding dress shop, is a keen ‘crafter’ and kindly offered to make my wedding favours. She suggested butterfly shaped cookies, hand decorated in silver piping with our names and wrapped in individual cellophane bags tied with orange ribbon. She also made our wedding card box, decorated in the same way.
I also wanted Macmillan to feature in our wedding, as I’d benefited so much for their organisation during my cancer treatment. Our wedding invitations and thank you cards were from the Macmillan range on their website. I had a friend offer to make some little angels out of orange and pearl beads and Macmillan provided a donation box. I asked people to take an angel and make a donation if they wished. I raised £60 at the reception this way.
How did you personalise the ceremony?
I walked down the aisle to a 1950’s tune (Going to the Chapel by the Dixie Cups), a song that Brian and I had chosen. I had asked my cousin to give me away; there are just five months between us and, as only children, we grew up together and he is like a brother to me. He was thrilled to be asked and I was thrilled to have him hold my arm on the walk down the aisle.
I felt elated. I could not believe how many friends and family were there waiting to see us get married (after all the challenges we had faced) and to celebrate our love with us. Every face was turned towards me, smiling. I honestly never expected to be getting married again and I was grateful to still be around to see this day.
We wanted the ceremony to be personal; we had chosen our own vows, and another very dear friend had offered to read a poem that she had at her own wedding some years before. It was lighthearted, but the message was apt. The poem was O Tell Me the Truth about Love by W H Auden and having her read it at the ceremony was just perfect.
What was your most memorable moment?
My most memorable moment was seeing Brian’s face as I walked down the aisle, but especially as I got to him in front of the registrar. He had tears in his eyes and looked so proud and full of love for me - it was uplifting. It is a look I have captured in my mind and shall treasure forever.
What was the biggest investment for you?
Flowers - and catering to ensure our guests got a really good meal.
What song did you choose for your first dance?
Originally, I had wanted Nat King Cole. Both of our (departed) dads had been huge fans, but hearing him sing makes me sad and sometimes tearful. So we opted for the next best thing in our opinion; his daughter Natalie Cole, and her fabulous song 'Inseparable'.
What did you have for your evening entertainment?
We had a DJ, the same one I had found for Brian’s daugter’s wedding and a man of a similar age to ourselves. We had specific music we wanted played and we knew he’d get it just right. We wanted plenty of Motown – and a reggae section, as I am a huge fan and it gets everyone dancing.
Tell us about your wedding cake.
My friend who offered to make the cake is a lady I met whie travelling on the train to work more than 30 years ago. She makes cakes as a hobby and I have seen many examples of her wonderful skill over the years. I found a simple three-tier modern design as I wanted the fresh flowers to be the main focus. Penny did us proud and the cake was fabulous. It meant so much more as it was made with love.
Where did you go on honeymoon?
A few days after the wedding, we went to a fabulous hotel in Lanzarote.
What advice would you give to couples currently planning their wedding?
Cherish every moment. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Steal their style:
Photography: Rachel Armes Photography
Venue: The Rochford Hotel
DJ: Paul Hooper at Midnight Star Entertainments
Chair covers: Occasions Covered
Floristry: Caroline Price at The Orchid Room
Make-up: Boots No 7, stores nationwide
Insurance and gift list: John Lewis
Balloons: The Big Bang Balloon & Party Shop
Boots UK and Macmillan Cancer Support are working together to provide cancer information and support on the high street. For more information visit www.boots.com/macmillan.
For more Essex wedding inspiration, pick up the latest edition of Essex Bride magazine.