PJ and Tone met through friends and proposed near the Eiffel Tower, but their big day was all about family. Tone shares their story. Photography by Matt Heath
It’s no secret how PJ and I met. I reconnected with Phil, an old friend who lives in Manchester, and he’d asked me to come to Pride on August Bank Holiday. He said we’d be meeting up with his best friend Mark, and Mark’s friend PJ. ‘You’ll have an amazing weekend!’ he told me. Well, he was right… even though it wasn’t exactly how we planned it.
When I arrived at Phil’s flat on Friday night, he was ready to get the weekend started. Just as I was being introduced to Mark, PJ came out of the bathroom just wearing a towel! I’m not sure if it was his nonchalant attitude towards me when we were introduced or the fact that I had to work hard to get his attention – but I was hooked.
We had a great Friday night of flirting and dancing, but when I woke up on Saturday morning PJ had left as he’d had an argument with someone he knew. I told his friend Mark, ‘call PJ and tell him if he doesn’t come back I’m going home!’ That did it – he came back.
I think we were instantly attracted to each other – even though PJ will say he found me to be loud and annoying, which I do my best to live up to after five and a half years together!
At the start of 2015, after four or so years, I had started thinking of making our future together more official. In April I had a short holiday in Antigua, visiting my parents. I was sitting outside with my dad just watching the world go by, when he said, ‘I like that PJ. He’s alright.’ I discussed it a little more with my parents, and by the time the week was over, I had made my decision. I think when you realise that he thought of being with the person you love forever outweighs the thought of never seeing them again, the next step is clear.
So with a plan in my head and his birthday fast approaching in June, I set about making plans to ensure my proposal to PJ would be as special as it possibly could be. It wasn’t easy, though at first I was quite blasé about the whole thing. Thankfully a few people, especially our friend Olivia, really put me on the right track and focused my mind on the road ahead. She was always calling and emailing for updates.
I booked us a hotel in Paris, overlooking the Eiffel Tower, and maintaining the illusion it was a birthday weekend away, I looked for the perfect place to pop the question. I wanted to take PJ for dinner in the Eiffel Tower, but couldn’t get a table. Thankfully Olivia was on hand and recommended I call her friend Tracey, a travel agent, who booked us a river cruise with dinner on the Seine and a table at the Moulin Rouge.
With the weight off my mind and the planning going well, I went to see PJ’s mum and dad to discuss my plans and see what they thought. With their blessing (his dad told me he thought it ‘a great idea’), travel arrangements sorted and a ring burning a hole in my pocket, the weekend arrived with PJ having no idea of what I had planned for him. His orders were to keep out of my bag as I had ‘the full travel arrangements’ in it. Not only was this true, but I also had the ring stashed in there!
He was totally blown away with the hotel and the view and then I gave him his next set of instructions – be ready at 5.30pm in reception! By the time the car picked us up, the pesky ring was burning a hole in my pocket and for the next five hours I was checking it in a constant state of paranoia.
After an amazing dinner, we spent two hours dancing with the ladies and gentlemen of the Moulin Rouge (a lot of fun, a lot of skin!) and were dropped back at the Eiffel Tower, where I had planned to propose. I had hoped it would have quietened down by that point, but it was still so busy at 11.30pm – which made it all the more scary. I was running out of time and places! Luckily there was a beautiful café near our hotel, so I suggested we had a couple of drinks and some food.
To say I was freaked out by this point would be an understatement – everything I had planned to say vanished from my head instantly. We sat for a while reflecting on the amazing evening we’d just had, and I knew I had to make my move. I felt like I must have been stuttering for a good five minutes (I was told afterwards that I moved like a ninja) before, getting down one knee, whipping out the ring and asking PJ to marry me.
Although I probably knelt down for about ten seconds, it felt like an eternity. Everyone around us was moving in slow motion and I was relieved when a very shocked PJ said yes!
Planning our big day was about bringing our families together and making sure it was fun for them. We wanted the whole day to be in one beautiful location, without needing to move people between different venues. We chose Down Hall, a stunning country house hotel on the Hertfordshire and Essex border.
I flew my mum over from Antigua and wanted to make sure she felt special, as my dad couldn’t make it. When she landed I took her to PJ’s cousin Andrew, who owns a couple of hair salons, and he gave her a total makeover, making her look ten years younger.
Planning a wedding is a lot of work and we spent hours on end looking at invites, flowers and favours. PJ’s sister Suzanne was our maid of honour, and is really creative, so she had some great ideas for colours and styling. We also found some vintage wedding invites and a matching seating plan.
We wanted to find wedding favours that our guests could easily take home with them and that would remind them of our day. Our close friend Sarah from House of BlueBelle made us our own wedding jar candles with labels, and baby blue ribbon flown in from Germany.
For our flowers we picked roses, as my mum’s name is Rose. Meanwhile PJ had his eyes set on his perfect wedding cake – one of the few things he insisted on! – one that looked like Lego. My barber’s mum makes cakes and conjured up a showstopper.
We decided we wanted our wedding attire to be a casual style and chose matching maroon boots from M&S, rainbow coloured socks and boxers from Diesel, blue trousers and waistcoasts from Next and shirts from M&S. Simple, but effective!
We wrote our own vows for the ceremony. Down Hall provided us with our toastmaster, Andrew, who kept the day flowing and made sure everyone was in the right place at the right time. We wanted to stay hidden on Saturday morning, and then our family saw us briefly, before we walked down the aisle.
As maid of honour Suzanne’s job was to pass us the rings, and our parents were witnesses. So we decided to have Suzanne walking down the aisle with our rings, followed by my mum and eldest brother, then PJ and his parents.
As a surprise for PJ I arranged for my friend and dance diva, Angie Brown to sing her own version of the Roberta Flack song First Time I Ever Saw Your Face – which is all about our first meeting – as we walked down the aisle.
Ceremony video clip:
The best man situation went a bit crazy… he fell sick and texted us on the morning of the wedding to say he couldn’t make it. As PJ was sitting at breakfast, deep in thought about how we could get a last minute best man, our friend Paul (who had just flown in from China) asked him what was troubling him. Before he could finish explaining the situation, Paul said that he would be honoured to be our best man, and we jumped at the chance. He turned out to be the best best man anyone could have asked for! After his speech – which had our guests in stitches and us feeling slightly embarrassed – PJ and I could see how truly blessed we are to have such great friends.
We had a formal wedding breakfast for 60 guests, which was amazing. The room was decorated in blues and white, and our wedding favours looked stunning on the tables. Needless to say, seeing our family and friends together around a table for the first time was priceless. It was the first time I had seen and talked to one of my brothers for more than 15 years, and having a picture with my brothers and my mum all together again meant the world.
Video clip of the breakfast entrance:
After dinner and speeches we took our guests out to the lounge for drinks, so the room could be prepared for our evening guest.
Lovelight Entertainment provided a beautiful light dance floor, with a catchy playlist of music from the ’80s and ’90s and just before our evening event, we had a surprise firework display. We had to get our 90 guests outside in the cold by telling them that we just wanted a quick photo with everyone – they were pleasantly surprised by the unexpected show!
The toastmaster then took everyone back into the suite. Downhall had put our cake in the middle of the dancefloor and gathered our friends and family around it.
We had all the wedding party outside the doors with Dean and The Lovelight team getting everyone energised and ready for our big entrance. We had Rihanna We Found Love as our entrance song, and with music pumping and us waiting outside, each person was introduced. We came in to loud applause and bounced our way to the dancefloor like crazy people!
We cut our cake and had our first dance – to Angie Brown singing the Gladys Knight song You’re The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me, which she followed with a 40-minute live set.
Video clip of the wedding entrance and cake cutting:
While there were a lot of stressful moments over nine months of planning, we can honestly say that we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day. Seeing it all come together was everything we could have ever of hoped for and more – it really was the best day of our lives.
Our advice to all of you arranging your weddings is firstly to plan, plan and plan again! Keep a list of what your tasks are, keep sub tasks and cross them off.
Secondly, make sure you pick an amazing photographer. We looked at three photographers and chose Matt Heath, because after meeting him he totally got our vision for the day and the style of photos we wanted. He also offered a pre-wedding photo shoot, which I would recommend to anyone, as it gives you time to get to know your photographer. It also makes sure you have chance to get some great advice on how to stand, pose, and perfect those facial expressions! By the time the wedding day came around, we knew him and he understood us, which took a lot of stress off us and made the photos look amazing.
Thirdly, weddings can be expensive. We booked a winter wedding, which was slightly cheaper, but the weather turned out great. (We went to a summer wedding and it rained!)
Lastly, do what you want to do. Make it fun and personal. It was all about family for us, so having our parents in the centre of wedding plans was exactly what we wanted.