I met Anthony in Bedlam, one of the rooms in the famous Liverpool gay club Garlands, so it wasn’t the most auspicious of starts for our relationship! I hadn’t even planned to go out that night. I’d recently lost my beloved dad, Alan, and I was still grieving but my friend Laura convinced me so I suppose we have her to thank for bringing us together.
Anthony’s friend was playing Cilla Black and trying to get him set up and so we got talking. He moved pretty quickly and invited me on a date the following night. I knew he was a good catch when he insisted on coming to pick me up from home, which is a 20-mile round trip, we enjoyed a lovely meal together. He was so chilled and laid back, we really clicked.
We’d only been together a year when Anthony proposed and I just didn’t see it coming at all. It was the last night of our holiday in Dubai and we went for a fabulous meal in Ossiano, the seafood restaurant in the Atlantis Hotel.
He’d been acting a bit odd earlier in the day popping out of the hotel room but I thought it was just last-minute stuff before we went home. He was actually trying to get my mum, Joan, on the phone to ask her permission to propose. Luckily, she was delighted to say yes.
We were waiting for our meal when the waitress approached us with a domed platter. When she lifted it, there was nothing there and she just pointed to the giant aquarium surrounding the restaurant. I looked around and there was a diver in the water with a sign saying, “Melissa will you marry me?” I looked back and there was Anthony on one knee with this fabulous diamond ring I’d been trying on in the shops earlier in the week. It was magical. Anthony said he knew we were meant to be together forever so why wait?
We looked at a few venues for the big day but Hurlston Hall really blew us away. It’s one of the few venues in the area that could accommodate a wedding of our size (there were 250 in the evening) but it’s also the best. The room is gorgeous and the panoramic views across the course are amazing.
Our wedding planner Amy was marvellous and looked after us every step of the way. Nothing was too much trouble and I feel like we’re friends which is a good job because the run up to the day was pretty stressful!
I’d found out I was pregnant just as we came back from Dubai which was lovely but our beautiful baby boy was stillborn and we were plunged into this terrible grief. Not long later I fell pregnant again but we were so scared of the same thing happening twice.
Then Anthony was seriously injured in a car crash on the motorway. His car skidded and he careered down the embankment. The helicopter was scrambled and he had to be cut out of the car. He was seriously ill in hospital but kept telling the doctors not to worry me. That’s the kind of man he is, so thoughtful. He was ok but ended in a back brace for weeks and still struggles a little with the pain.
Months later I also ended up in hospital too, as I needed surgery to have my gall bladder removed.
Throughout all of this, Anthony has been my rock and has always been there for me and we were so excited about our big day.
A week before the wedding I got a call to say my bridesmaids’ car was unavailable. I’d gone through a broker by mistake and they just said they couldn’t deliver it but offered me a minibus instead – which was less than ideal. Luckily Magnolia Cars stood in for us at the last minute with a lovely Daimler, they were so helpful.
Even on the morning of the wedding there were more dramas. My brother, Tony, turned up and started writing his speech just half an hour before we were due to leave, it was pouring with rain, the belts of the bridesmaid dresses wouldn’t stay fastened and the broker let us down again saying my car was stuck in traffic. Worst of all though was when the priest phoned and said if I wasn’t there in twenty minutes he was leaving. I wasn’t even late at that point!
Magnolia Cars were amazing and tried their best to find me another car and their driver was even offering to do a shuttle service in the bridesmaids’ car.
In the end, my sister had to drive to the church in her fitted bridesmaid dress and she could barely get in and out of the car. My brother forgot his bow tie and the priest was giving Anthony a hard time at the church because we were delayed.
But we all pulled together and got to the church, if not on time, at least before the priest left!
Everybody looked amazing, my bridesmaids were just beautiful and my girls Fearne and little Eleanor looked so cute in their beautiful dresses from Kirsty Doyle. Eleanor carried a balloon down the aisle saying, “Daddy, mummy is on her way” and the wedding was finally happening.
We were both nervous and it didn’t help that the priest made us face the congregation and read our own vows, which was tricky for me as I’m dyslexic, but we just concentrated on each other and it was really moving, after everything we had been through, to finally be Mr and Mrs.
We all had to pile back into various cars to drive to Hurlston Hall for the reception but we couldn’t stop smiling. Dad would have been so proud of his lovely family that day.
As soon as we arrived at Hurlston we relaxed. When we walked into the room it actually took my breath away, it was so stunning. The clouds were clearing to give us the most marvellous view across the course and the room layout with the flowers and centrepieces by Flowerstyle by Laurie were amazing.
We had Abba songs instead of table numbers and used old vinyl records decorated in the colour scheme because my dad was a big Abba fan.
Flower Drops had done us a flower wall in all the creams, rose gold and blush, our colour theme. Prop Me Pretty had done another for our photobooth. Impress room supplied a lovely welcome mirror and cage for the cards as well as other extra bits around the room and all together it looked wonderful.
We both knew we were in good hands so we started to relax and just enjoy ourselves. Of all of the truly beautiful pictures that Matthew Rycraft took for us on the day, there isn’t one in Hurlston Hall where we are not laughing with the sheer joy of it all.
The food was brilliant too and we had 11 vegans in the party who all said it was one of the best meals they’ve ever had in a restaurant. We had the Singing Waiters perform during the meal and we were all up dancing and having fun before we’d even had dessert.
Against the odds, Tony’s speech was really good and there were lots of laughs and only a few tears for lost loved ones, which is just what dad would have wanted.
There were around 250 people there to help us celebrate so it was a brilliant party and I remember talking, laughing and dancing all night long. It was so good to see everybody wearing the charity pins for baby loss, which we’d used as favours, all pinned onto their best gear. I even had one on my wedding dress.
I just wanted people to come and have a really good time and when loads of guests told us it was the best wedding they had ever been to, we were really pleased.
By 1am some of the guests were looking to extend the party so Anthony and I sloped off to the beautiful Keeper’s Cottage in the grounds of Hurlston Hall for our first night as Mrs and Mrs Gore.
I still go to Hurlston a lot for meals in the lovely restaurant or to the spa and whenever I’m there I wish we could do it all again.
Maybe we could renew our vows!
Venue – Hurlston Hall – www.hurlstonhall.co.uk – www.IDoAtHurlstonHall.co.uk
Photographer – Matthew Rycraft Photography – www.matthewrycraft.co.uk
Transport – Magnolia Cars – www.magnoliaclassics.co.uk
Entertainment – A1 entertainment – www.a1entertainments.co.uk
Dress – Philip Armstrong dressmakers – www.philiparmstrong.com