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on, 27 Bride: Gemma Hods 27 Groom: Jon Bradford, Home: Brentwood Martyr Church, Venue: St Lawrence the Godmersham 10 Date: August 7th 20

Gemma and Jon were best friends at school but lost touch when they went to University. Still, Gemma never forgot the boy who had always made her smile and when a school reunion was on the cards, it seemed that Cupid was about to take their friendship one step further

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I remember my school days in Tenterden, Kent with a warm glow, but I never dreamt that I would end up marrying one of my best friends. Isn’t it funny how fate turns out? Jon was one of a group of us who used to hang around together. There were times when I fancied him and he fancied me, but never at the same time. What we always had, though, was a really solid friendship. When we moved to sixth form together I remember getting a shiver of excitement when Jonny started riding a motorbike and took me offroading. Being a sensible girl I insisted on a crash helmet, he didn’t, and every time he braked I head butted him. Not very romantic! When school ended the old gang broke up. I went to university in Birmingham and Jon went to study for a sports degree in Plymouth. We both found other partners and drifted away, although luckily I did stay in touch with Chris Coghlan, Jon’s best mate. Re-union In 2005 when we were 22, I got a call out of the blue. Jon had tracked me down via Chris to invite me to a school reunion. I had butterflies when I received that invite and seeing Jon again took my breath away. He was so good looking! It was a brilliant party and we laughed all night about our old antics. There was definitely a spark between us, but as we were both attached we left it at that, keeping in touch with the odd phone call. Fate takes control A year later I was back in Kent, single and living with my parents while job hunting. Happily for me, Jon was working nearby and was single too. One day I went out and my car developed a flat tyre. Jon seemed the obvious person to ring and he didn’t bat an eyelid at my distress call. He took my car to the garage and I was so thrilled he’d helped me out that I suggested we go for a drink.

Our first date On 4th September 2005 Jon and I went up to Wye Crown, the top of a hill that overlooked the Kent countryside. As night fell we saw a shooting star. Call it crazy, but at that moment I knew Jon was the one for me. He was still the same boy I’d known; fun, spontaneous, but kind, caring and sensitive too. We began dating and the more I grew to know him again the more I realised that this was meant to be. The next step After two years together Jon and I set up home. I had a job in London and Jon was doing a year’s teacher training in the Capital, so it made sense to rent a flat in east London. That was a really exciting time, learning about each other and furnishing our own place. One year down the line though, we really had outgrown the tiny flat. Jon had got a placement at a school in Chelmsford and so we moved to Brentwood where we rented a house. A surprise proposal After four years together Jon and I had so much going on in our lives. We’d talked about marriage, but a proposal seemed a long way off. Still, Jon wanted to make our anniversary special and insisted that we go back to Wye Crown. With a picnic, champagne and chocolates, off we went. I was admiring the view when I realised Jon had gone very quiet and was fishing around in the picnic bag. ‘There it is’’ he said as he got onto one knee and presented me with a Princess cut diamond ring on a platinum band. I burst into tears and sat, mouth open, as he explained how he’d been to Hatton Garden and actually made the ring himself. I was stunned. Though it was a little big, I wasn’t going to take the ring off, and so we found some cellotape and wrapped it around the band to keep it secure until it

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could be resized. If I thought I’d had enough of a shock for one day, I would be underestimating Jon! Unknown to me he had spoken to my mum Geraldine about proposing and she was in on the secret. Jon had even made sure my dad Tim, who was separated from my mum and worked in Croatia, flew back so we could have a family party with his parents Tim and Dawn, his brother Jeremy and my sister Katie. Planning the Big Day Our wedding and honeymoon had to be planned around Jon’s school holidays, but that was fine as I’d always dreamed of a relaxed, summer wedding. We booked a church near my parents in the little village of Godmersham near Canterbury for August 7th 2010 and were thrilled when my Aunt and Uncle, Tony and Cyd, suggested we have the reception in a marquee at their home in Sittinghurst. Jon asked Chris and his brother Jeremy to be his best men and I asked my sister Katie, my best friends Emily and Nerys and Jon’s cousin Florence, 15 to be my bridesmaids. I also asked his younger cousins Beatrice, 10 and Constance, 12 to be my flower girls. Next up was the dress. Mum, Katie and I looked everywhere for what seemed like months to find the one. The very last shop we went to was a small boutique called Jodi in Maidstone. The dress I fell in love with looked awful on the hanger. It was strapless, covered in pearls and in a light gold silk. I wasn’t even going to try it on but when I did I didn’t want to take it off! Mum burst into tears and I knew it was the gown for me. With the dress sorted the rest of the plans went smoothly. For the bridesmaids I chose maxi style ruched strapless dresses from Tiara & Tails in Ashford. The boys chose tails from the same shop with navy checked waistcoats. Jon’s mum is a florist and made an amazing job of the flowers, she also decorated the church, venue and our Marks and Spencer three tier cake with flowers. Jon’s dad worked tirelessly to help Jon put up the marquee and build a stage for our band The Dollars. They even built a bar with a perspex top filled with photos of Jon and I. For the catering we decided on a hog roast with salads and potatoes. We also hired a Mr Whippy ice cream van from Hythe seafront. Jon and I loved the ice cream from this particular van and couldn’t think of a better way of having desert on a (hopefully!) hot summer day. Goodbye to single life Before the wedding Katie arranged an amazing hen night. She hired a house called The Duchy in Bath and 15 of us girls took over the whole building. Katie had decorated inside with balloons and banners, arranged for beauty therapists to visit and even hired two Butlers in the Buff to serve us champagne. Jon and his stags went to Nottingham where they were

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RECREATE GEMMA AND JONS WEDDING Dress – Jodi, Maidstone Bridesmaid dresses– Tiara & Tails, Ashford Flowers – Sophie Leathart 07796 773 720 Hair – Sarah from The Forum in Ashford Make Up – Ria Sands ria.sands@gmail.com Photography– Paul Webb Catering– 3 Cooks Enter tainment –

The Dollars Professional Singer Rebecca Hodson thelit tlebirdies@hotmail.co.uk Grooms suit– Tiara and Tails, Ashford Marquee Hire, Toilets & Chiller– Four Jays, MaidstoneSmart Group Event Support

joined by a midget dressed as Batman to Jon’s Robin. Not very PC perhaps, but the little man was paid and loved every minute! The great day dawns The morning of the wedding was grey and drizzly. I was gutted because I’d hired an open top Sunbeam to take me to the church. Luckily by 11.30am the sun broke through. All went well for me with my friend Ria doing my make-up and Sarah from The Forum in Ashford doing my hair, but I had no idea that while I was enjoying my pampering, Jon had only taken one shoe to his hotel and had to rush out and buy a new pair before the midday ceremony! Such a perfect day To say my wedding ceremony was perfect is an understatement. From walking down the aisle on my dads arm to the sounds of Ave Maria, my Nan’s favourite song, to the jolly vicar who made our vows so personal and beautiful, to my cousin Becky singing Alicia Keys If I Aint Got You and Jon’s mum and sisters reciting The Owl and the Pussycat complete with silly hats, it was a time full of love, joy and laughter. The 100 guests in the little church were all special to Jon and I and it was just incredible.

A great big convoy Following the ceremony, Jon and I in the Sunbeam followed by our guests in their cars made a convoy, tooting horns and cheering the half hour drive through country lanes back to the reception. We arrived to the strains of The Dollars and then tucked into our delicious hog roast. Later we laughed and cried as Jeremy and Chris made fantastic best man speeches and my Mum read out an incredible poem which talked about how Jon and I had met and which really captured everything about us as a couple. Just as the speeches were ending we heard the tinkle of an ice cream van and Mr Whippy arrived to serve deserts. Then it was onto our first dance as man and wife to Better Together by Jack Johnson. I don’t think I’d ever felt so close to Jon as I did at that moment. A new life begins Later that night Jon and I said goodnight and headed back to the Hotel du Vin in Tunbridge Wells before flying off for two weeks in California and Arizona, followed by a week on a honeymoon island in Hawaii. It was the perfect end to a perfect day and the best ever start to our new life together.

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jon&gemma