Gift of a Wedding
Tuesday 10th June 2014 @ 13:55 by Becky Cahill
News Stalybridge

Gift of a wedding

A new and unique charity has been established in Tameside to gift wedding services to people with terminal or life-shortening illnesses.

Based in Stalybridge, Gift of a Wedding has been set up by founder and chair Patricia Harrison.

“The idea for Gift of a Wedding came to me in 2012 after I and several other wedding suppliers offered our services free of charge to a young man aged 27 who had discovered that he was terminally ill with brain cancer. He was given 18 months to live,” said Patricia.

“This experience led me to conduct some research, where I unfortunately discovered that there were couples all over the UK affected by terminal illness who were struggling unnecessarily to create their dream days.

“With such a short time to organise a wedding, the only choice for these couples was to fundraise, rely on the generosity of family and friends, or put an appeal out to the wedding industry.

“The problem with all these options is they are time-consuming and need a lot of organisation.”

 

Professionals

 

Patricia is herself an experienced wedding planner, and she explained: “Having worked in the wedding industry for many years, I am aware of how generous the wedding and hospitality industries can be.

“The solution immediately became clear to me.

“There needed to be a group of wedding and hospitality professionals on standby, ready to donate their products and services whenever the need arose.

“This spark of an idea led to the creation of Gift of a Wedding.

“Gift of a Wedding has actually been around for about a year, however, we have only started offering weddings to people in the North West within the last year.”

The charity currently has an office on Mottram Road but Patricia, who lives in Mossley, says the charity is hoping to move to Ashton in the near future.

Trustee Patricia continued: “We have five trustees; Doctor Victoria Galvis. She’s worked at Christies and she is an expert in oncology so she’s a cancer specialist.

“As you can imagine, quite a number of people who come to us are going to be terminally ill with cancer but there are lots and lots of things that can make you terminally ill or shorten your life.

“We have an accountant called Tony Spurling, who is the Treasurer. We also have two photographers on the boards – Jane Burkinshaw, who looks after all of our social media and a lady called Jude Gidney, who is responsible for all our volunteers.

“We have a patron Sue France. She became our patron because she, more than any of us, really knows what we are trying to achieve.”

Sue said: “Patricia told me about the charity she was setting up called Gift of a Wedding, not realising that I’d had experience planning a wedding for a terminally-ill person.

“My daughter, Rachel, had cancer and we were told that she only had a short time to live.

“We actually had three weeks to plan the wedding. So that’s why when I heard about this charity and what they were aiming to do, it was what I had experience of.

 

Sign

 

“Originally, Rachel’s wedding was booked for the summer and when we found out that she had only had three months to live, we got a cancellation at Chelsea Registration Office for February 14, which is also the day, I believe, this charity was set up.

“So I thought that was a sign that I should get involved.”

Patricia continued: “Because Sue had never organised a wedding before or any kind of event, she really didn’t know what to do, so it was really tough for her.

“Unfortunately, Rachel died quite soon after that. According to Sue, she was really, really brave.

“Sue is our cheerleader and tells everyone about us. We are fortunate too because she runs a ladies’ networking business so she does come into contact with quite a lot of business people – especially ladies.

“So she flies a flag for the charity and she is a fantastic patron.

 

Ethos

 

Patricia explained the ethos behind the charity.

“It’s about bringing two people together and making a union, bringing two families together who are going through a really horrible time in their lives.

“Then there’s a practical side too. I hate to say it but sometimes it’s really important for financial reasons, for the children so they have someone who is legally able to look after them.

“There are lots of practical reasons as well as emotional ones.

“We are always looking for people to help us in the office,” added Patricia.

“The great things about Gift of a Wedding is that I don’t think it’s like other voluntary positions because you actually become a mini wedding planner because we need you to do everything.

“When a wedding comes in, we need all hands to the pump so we need you to help us find all the wedding suppliers, people who do cakes, cars, dresses and things like that, so your role is quite extensive.

“Our volunteers love what they do, they get involved in all sorts.

“When a wedding comes in, we need to put them together quickly because a lot of the people we will be dealing with don’t really have a long time to live so if we can put things together for them really, really quickly from the items that have been donated, it just makes our job so much easier.

“A lot of the time, we are probably going to be organising our weddings within six to eight weeks and probably quicker than that.

“If there are any ladies out there who have been married and would really love to donate their wedding dress to help another person who may be terminally ill, we would love to hear from you.

“Just give us a call at the office, its 0845 474 0717. We’d love it if you could donate your dress because there are people who could really benefit from it.

“Men out there – if you have any suits that would be appropriate for a wedding, we’d love to have them and obviously bridesmaid dresses to.

“If anyone’s been married recently and they have any bridesmaid dresses or things they decorated their venue with, we would love to have them because this is going to help us put these weddings together.

“There are some elements that we aren’t going to be able to get donated so our fundraising will cover those elements.

“We really love the donations because every penny counts because weddings as we all know are expensive.

“We do all sorts of fund raising events. We are looking in September to do have a wedding dress ball so all you ladies out there who have got married and would love to wear their wedding dress again, we’re actually going to have a ball where you can do that.

“We are a Tameside charity. Even though the actual charity covers the whole of the North West, we will definitely be holding events in Tameside.

“Over the next few weeks we’ll be doing a wedding dress appeal and we’re hoping to be in the Ladysmith centre in Ashton, where you can actually bring your wedding dress to us, because every wedding dress means we can either sell it or give it to a bride.

“So if anyone has a wedding dress that they probably wouldn’t want to wear again, it would be really, really precious to us.”

For further information, visitwww.giftofawedding.org