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Saturday, 20 December 2014

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Be a lady for a day

Jenny Casey’s walk up the grand staircase, past stained-glass windows and beautiful bouquets of flowers at Lady Gillford House was all a bit of a blur.

She was on her way to get married and her mind was very firmly focussed on her husband-to-be waiting for her in a room at the top.

Jenny married David Powell-Thompson (known as Ben) at Lady Gillford House in Carlisle, the new location of the city’s register office.

Not only were they the first couple to get married there but they also chose the most romantic day of the year to tie the knot – Valentine’s Day.

On her wedding day Jenny’s nine-year-old son Daniel gave her away and daughters Caitlin, four and Lily, two were bridesmaids.

“I didn’t look at the rooms when I walked in, I kept my eyes on Ben,” Jenny, 30, remembers. “Afterwards we had a good look and realised there were chandeliers and stained-glass windows.

“It felt like we were in an expensive country mansion.

“It was special to be the first couple to get married there.

“We made history.”

The service was conducted by Louise McKenna, area manager for north and west Cumbria’s registration service and the marriage was registered by Susan Slater, Carlisle’s senior registration officer.

It was important for the couple, from Carlisle, to have an intimate wedding, just the way they wanted it and so the only people who knew they were getting married were their close family and friends who attended.

This was the second time the couple had planned to get married as they’d originally started to plan their wedding after they got engaged in 2008 but when they felt it had all got too much they decided to put their plans on hold.

“We looked at a venue but it all got too stressful and we decided it wasn’t what we wanted,” says Jenny. “I didn’t want to get married in a register office as I thought they looked too much like an office.”

But at the start of this year they sat down and decided it was time to get married and thought again about a register office.

“We thought about what getting married actually means to us,” says Jenny. “We decided it was about us and our three children.

“Everything else is not important.

“We talked about February 14 but thought it would be busy but it wasn’t as more people were planning to get married on February 29 as it’s a Leap Year.”

They booked Carlisle Register Office and were asked if they wanted the old office on Portland Square where 3,000 couple have tied the knot since the registrars moved in in 1994, or the new one at Lady Gillford House. They chose the historic building off Petteril Bank Road next to Cumbria’s showpiece new county archives centre – despite having not even seen it.

Jenny, who is a part-time photographer, has just set up her own business, Sweet Treats, creating ‘trees’ of sweets by making a flower pot base with a stem and a ball covered in sweets. She saw the idea on the internet and decided to make her own and after setting up a Facebook page had 100 ‘likes’ within 10 days and has been inundated with orders.

So much so that Ben, 25, spent the morning of their wedding day delivering sweet trees to customers for Valentine’s Day.

After the ceremony they had photographs taken in the grounds of Lady Gillford House and then went to Derwentlea Guest House in Howard Place, Carlisle, with their 15 guests for a wedding breakfast provided by Mangetout catering where they all sat around a big round table.

“We wanted everything to be easy going,” says Jenny, who wore a strapless, pure white dress. “We wanted to spend as much time as possible with our guests and have time to speak to all of them.

“We didn’t want to be playing host to relatives we didn’t really know.”

It was then off to Walkabout, the location of the bride and groom’s first kiss, where a booth had been reserved for them. Jenny and Ben, a mechanical engineer, met online at plentyoffish.com in 2007 after Jenny had just moved to Carlisle from North Yorkshire.

“I wanted to make some friends,” she says. “I wasn’t looking for a relationship.

“I said I didn’t want to make contact with anyone under the age of 25.

“Ben was under 25 but still contacted me and we started talking on MSN.”

They chatted for about a month and then arranged to meet up – an occasion that saw Jenny going to three different hairdressers in preparation.

They met up for a drink and then went for a meal and Jenny will always remember the first thing she said to Ben.

“I hadn’t seen a picture of him standing up,” she remembers. “When I saw him the first thing I said was that he was short!”

In 2008 Jenny arranged for the couple to go on holiday to Ibiza for Ben’s birthday and it was during this holiday that he popped the question.

“We were walking back from a club and he blurted out; ‘will you marry me’,” she recalls. “I told him that if it was the first thing he asked me in the morning then I’d know he was being serious.

“When I woke up he was looking at me and he asked me again.”

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