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Bride: Elizabeth Castle, 29 Groom: Corporal Craig Simpson, 30 Home: Colchester and Germany Venue: Gosfield Hall, Essex Date: 19th March 2010

At the Double! It was a cold evening in October 2008 when I met Craig. My friends and I had popped into a local pub in Colchester where I lived, Craig was based at barracks in the town. I’d never met a soldier before and I don’t know what I expected, but Craig was warm, gentlemanly and made me laugh. He’d just got back from a six-month tour of duty and was due to go to Afghanistan in February 2009. We really hit if off that night and luckily had five months to get to know each other better, before he left the country again. From the start I realised that this relationship would be very different to any I’d had before. Craig and I saw each other only when he could get away, which was sporadic. It was tough, but I’d fallen madly in love and soon came to the conclusion that it was pointless moaning. We just had to cherish every moment together and, unlike many Army girlfriends, at least I got to spend Christmas with my man, which was wonderful.

A bittersweet romance

As the time drew near for Craig to leave for Afghanistan, I began to feel very scared and anxious, but I knew I’d make matters worse if I fell apart. I smiled and wished him well and had to be content with a relationship that consisted of letters, emails and the occasional phone

When Elizabeth and her soldier fiancé decided to get married they knew they would have to plan their celebrations around his leave time, but even Liz was amazed that she managed to pull off such a glorious day with just eight weeks to plan it!

call. Thank goodness I had close friends and family around to keep me going as I counted down the days until his return in May 2009.

A heartfelt re-union

The months without Craig seemed to drag, and it was especially hard being alone on my birthday in March. It was wonderful when he did come back and, as it was unseasonably warm, Craig decided to throw me a ‘surprise’ belated birthday party. I was given orders to stay away until the allotted time and then I was allowed into the garden. All my family and friends were there and as I walked towards Craig, the music suddenly changed and on came ‘our song’, At Last, by Etta James. As he is such a joker, I imagined Craig would suddenly break into a silly dance routine or something, but he didn’t. Instead he got down on one knee, handed me a stunning diamond ring and asked me to marry him. I was in such shock that I burst into tears – along with most of the guests! I couldn’t believe he’d managed to arrange a proposal while in Afghanistan. He and mum had been in cahoots all along and he’d even sent her out to scout for the ring before rushing out and buying it!


A life apart

I knew my life as an army wife would be hard. There would be long periods of separation and as for living together before marriage, that was out of the question as the army are very traditional. Then, to make things worse, our happiness was shattered when Craig was posted to Bury St Edmunds, so while we were in the same country we could only see each other at weekends and sometimes not even then.

Our gorgeous little boy Harry was born at St John’s hospital, in Chelmsford, weighing six pounds eight ounces and there couldn’t have been a prouder daddy.

Wedding plans

In the summer of 2010, Craig had become a Corporal and as part of his promotion we knew he would be re-posted at some point. Neither of us expected it to be to Germany! That news and the fact that I had now fully recovered from Harry’s birth, spurred us onto re-organising our wedding. Of course we had to fit A surprise discovery the ceremony in around Craig’s leave and that left me Because I couldn’t live on base with Craig until we’d precisely eight weeks to do everything! We decided tied the knot, we decided to plan our wedding as to marry in Essex and as luck would have it Gosfield quickly as possible and aimed for summer 2009. We Hall, the venue I’d fallen in love with while looking hadn’t even started planning when I began to feel very on the internet, had a cancellation eight weeks later ill. At first a pregnancy didn’t cross my mind because on August 10th. I paid a visit I suffered from endometriosis and booked it on the spot. and Craig knew we may need “I knew we would have to delay That same day my mum Lynne extra help to start a family, an and I went to a dress shop in the wedding!” issue he was totally supportive Chelmsford. I knew my dress about. It was only when the would have to be ‘off the peg’ sickness persisted that I took a as I didn’t have time to have lots of alterations made. test on May 23rd with Craig by my side and was in There it hung, on the hanger looking well, just ok, total shock to see the blue line! We were going to be but when I tried it on – wow! It was the dress of my parents, and while we were both thrilled and excited, dreams! Two huge decisions made in the space of a I knew we would have to delay the wedding. This baby few hours. I was on a roll! was just too precious and I didn’t want to put myself under any undue pressure.

Baby makes three

The decision to reschedule the wedding was a good one because I had problems with my pelvis, I was laid up in bed for the first three months of my pregnancy and had just two months of feeling okay before I had to go back on bed rest! All through this period I had to cope practically alone. Craig only managed to get back for one scan, but at least he’d be there for my elective c-section on January 11th 2010 and then with me for a whole two weeks of paternity leave. Bliss!

Falling into place

A few days later mum and I were in Moss Bros organising Craig’s Best Man, Gavin Harrop, and my dad’s suits. Later that day we met our photographer, Paul Webb. Paul really ‘got’ me and I loved his work. Once again I booked him immediately. After that everything fell into place. My maid of honour was my sister Jo. I got her dress from the Mary Rose Boutique in Chelmsford, and my flower girls – nieces Chelsea, Rosie and Olivia looked gorgeous in their Monsoon dresses. My friend Ella offered to do my hair and the rest of the organisation was done in the evening over


the Internet, when Harry was asleep. It was a mad whirlwind and I didn’t even get time for a hen night, although Craig managed a stag do in Germany which I ribbed him about!

Goodbye single life

The night before the wedding was spent at home with my ‘Best Man’, my gay friend Dickie. Dickie and I had known each other since we were 20. He’d been so supportive over the years, and I couldn’t think of anyone better to have a laugh, and a few (but just a few!) drinks with. Craig had arrived two days before the ceremony and was staying with my parents and his best man in Essex. I went to bed feeling happy but nervous and hoping that the rain, which had come down solidly all week, would hold off for us.

The late Ms Castle

The next morning, Dickie and I were up bright and early and amazingly the sun was shining! I did my make-up, then we headed to Gosfield Hall to get ready for the 12 O’Clock ceremony. Harry was safe with a nanny we’d hired and I was free to get dressed with mum and my girls. All was going well until it was time to get into my dress. For some reason we just couldn’t get it to sit right. It took three attempts, and I was half an hour late!

Recreate Elizabeth and Craig’s Wedding Venue

Gosfield Hall, Essex

Photography

Paul Webb, Webb Weddings www.webbweddings.co.uk

Videographer

Premier Wedding Video

Hair

Ella at Blow Creative, Chelmsford

Dress

Sophia Toli from Pronuptia in Chelmsford

Flowergirls’ dresses Monsoon

Maid of Honour dresses

Mary Rose Boutique, Chelmsford

Grooms and Ushers’ suits

Groom wore his army number 1 dress uniform and the ushers and father of the bride wore Moss Bros hire.

We did it!

Finally, I was ready for action. Dickie had gone on ahead to act as an usher and my dad Jim took my arm. Dad isn’t an emotional man, but his eyes looked glassy with unshed tears as he walked me down the aisle to the strains of Celine Dion’s The Colour of My Love. As an ex-stage school pupil I was taught to ‘get on and do it’ and not to blub, but to be honest all I could feel was overwhelming happiness, not tearful at all. The same couldn’t be said for Craig. As he stood at the altar in his gorgeous dress uniform looking so handsome, I saw he was extremely emotional. It was so touching. Thankfully, we made it through the ceremony and were both wreathed in huge smiles, as we were finally pronounced husband and wife and walked back up the aisle to Just the Way You Are by Bruno Mars.

I have my say

when, at 11pm, our Army friends had to go back to their base in Bury. Thankfully, many other people stayed overnight at Gosfield Hall and we were all able to enjoy a wonderful breakfast the next morning. Craig and I got just two nights together as man and wife, which we spent in a hotel in Colchester, then it was back to reality as he had to return to Germany. This time though Harry and I were able to join him for good two months later.

Dance off

The future for Craig and I will always be uncertain, that’s the life of an army couple. Being in Germany means I really miss my family and friends, but at least I have my husband by my side. Craig flies out to Afghanistan in September and after that who knows where he will be posted. But we take every day as it comes and make each moment count.

As we posed for wedding pictures, and our guests enjoyed canapés and champagne, I realised just how much Craig and I had to look forward to. We’d never lived together, and while that sounds old-fashioned it was incredibly exciting. At that moment I knew I wanted to make a speech about just how much Craig meant to me, so after the wedding breakfast and speeches from Dad and Gavin, I had my say, a rare thing for an army wife! The biggest surprise of our wedding – for our guests anyway – was the ‘dance off’ that Craig and I performed. It started off like any other first dance with Etta James ‘At Last’, but then went into a medley of music from the film American Pie. Everyone screamed with laughter! Sadly the festivities ended all too soon

Taking each day as it comes

Craig&Elizabeth