Surrounded by forest trees, trailing green foliage and floral arrangements bathed in soft candlelight, paramedic Sarah Bevan and A&E nurse John Husband said "I do" in an enchanted garden themed wedding at the Rosewood London hotel.
This lavish occasion, which was attended by 132 of the couple’s friends and family, was the sensational result of 16 months of meticulous planning after HELLO! teamed up with the world’s finest wedding specialists Bridelux and 33 luxury wedding suppliers to offer a bespoke wedding that cost over £100,000 to front-line key workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Competition winners Sarah and John still can’t believe their luck after experiencing the day of their dreams on 19 August.
WATCH: Sarah & John's Wedding, the winners of our NHS competition
"It was more than we could ever have imagined," Sarah, 34, a paramedic for the East of England Ambulance Service, tells HELLO!. "Every detail, from our monogrammed invitations to the dress, the reception, the cake, flowers and venue, was perfect and we couldn’t be more grateful."
"We’re still on a high," says John, also 34, an emergency senior charge nurse at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. "It was the best day of my life."
The paramedic and A&E nurse got married at the Rosewood London. Copyright of all pictures: David Christopher
In collaboration with 32 other luxury suppliers, Cranberry Blue wedding planner Melanie Helen tailored every aspect of the nuptials, which began in a sumptuous suite at the Rosewood London where bride-to-be Sarah spent the night before the big day, and ended with a picture-perfect venue decorated by Farima Perry and accented beautifully with production andlighting by Luminaire Events.
"It was phenomenal," she recalls. "There was champagne on ice and rose petals scattered all over the room. I’ve never stayed anywhere like it."
The next morning, her ten-year-old son Charley left a tender note on her pillow.
"It said: 'I love you, Mummy; you look very beautiful. PS Don’t have any second thoughts about John,'" says Sarah. "That made me well up as I know how much they mean to each other."
It was Charley who was instrumental in his mum and John winning their dream wedding. The thoughtful young man was staying with his maternal grandparents while Sarah and John were combating Covid on the front line, when he saw the competition in a copy of granny Marilyn’s HELLO! and secretly entered them for the prize.
"We were flabbergasted when we found out, and that we’d won," says Sarah. "He’s such a kind, caring boy."
Charley played a major role on their wedding day, not only acting as ring bearer but also helping grandad John walk his mum down the aisle for the civil ceremony at the regal Rosewood. Sarah recalls how she felt every inch the fairytale bride in her exquisite gown, a bespoke corseted creation in Chantilly lace, which she teamed with a veil over a stunning pearl headpiece, and ivory shoes embellished with crystals and pearls.
The beautiful bride wore a SS Couture wedding dress and pearl headpiece
"I always thought I’d wear a simple dress on my wedding day, but the moment I tried on this gown, I was blown away by how beautiful it looked," she says. "When I saw the expression on my mum’s face, I knew it was the one.
"The shoes made me feel like a princess. As a paramedic, I never wear heels, but these sparkly Cinderella shoes were so comfortable that I didn’t want to take them off."
Sarah and her five bridesmaids
Accompanied by four flower girls, her maid of honour and five bridesmaids – including her sister, Katie, who participated on Zoom from Australia – wearing champagne-coloured dresses sparkling with sequins, Sarah carried a hand-tied bouquet of white roses, her late grandmother Edna’s favourite flower.
As she made her entrance, a singer accompanied by an acoustic pianist performed Tori Kelly’s I Was Made for Loving You.
"When I saw her walking down the aisle towards me, she looked so beautiful that she literally took my breath away," says John, who was dapper in a dark blue suit and double-breasted waistcoat, paired with a dusky pink tie and white rose buttonhole. "I felt so lucky to be marrying her."
The families posed for photos outside the beautiful venue
In a ceremony conducted by celebrant Jennifer Patrice – which was witnessed by legal signatory and Sarah’s life-long friend Victoria Eady, and included three readings, by Sarah’s ambulance crewmate Sophie Roscow, childhood friend Danielle Pettiford and John’s father Richard – the couple exchanged vows, promising to be faithful and love one another in sickness and in health.
"Sarah said she’d continue to love me, even if I fell off my bike again," smiles John, who Sarah nursed in between ambulance shifts when he broke his femur after an accident.
The NHS has certainly played a huge part in the couple’s lives.
It was the tragedy of losing her brother Charlie in a car accident shortly before his 21st birthday in 2006 that prompted Sarah to become a paramedic.
"There was nothing I could do for Charlie, but I wanted to help others in emergencies so that no family would have to go through what we did," she says.
Then, in 2014, she met the man of her dreams – with the apt name Husband – when he joined Addenbrooke’s A&E department.
"We were attracted to each other from the start," she recalls. "After I damaged my car, I asked John – who used to be a mechanic – to mend it. Not long after that he asked me out."
When they knew
The couple were on holiday in Egypt five months later when they realised they wanted to be together forever.
"I was feeling poorly but John looked after me so well," Sarah recalls. "That’s when I knew."
Sarah and John struggled to plan their wedding around their work shifts and the pandemic
"I remember thinking: 'This is the girl I’m going to marry,'" says John, who has formed such a close bond with Sarah’s son Charley that he now calls him "Daddy".
During a spa weekend to celebrate her birthday in March 2019, John asked Sarah to marry him.
However, as they worked opposite shifts and had a global pandemic to contend with, planning a wedding became an impossible task.
For Charley’s safety while they came into contact with Covid-19 patients, they arranged for him to stay with Sarah’s parents for six weeks.
"It was a tough, exhausting time, and I missed him so much," remembers Sarah. "He’d ask: 'Mummy, when can I come home?' I just wanted to cuddle him but couldn’t." However, Charley was showered with affection at the wedding he helped to create, reaping praise all-round as he joyfully played a key role on the special day.
Scene from a fairytale
The ceremony and reception was designed and decorated to create an enchanted forest theme by Farima Perry
At the spellbinding post-ceremony party, there were bespoke cocktails crafted by Azure Bar Events and canapes, as well as a magician, singers, dancers, a love poet, portrait artist and perfume bar concocting fragrances, sketches and poems for guests.
Then, when Sarah and John made their entrance into the ballroom for the reception, they were stunned by the magnificent scene before them. There were forest themed floral displays bathed in subtle lighting, foliage cascading from balloons on the ceiling, and tables and arches adorned with white roses and candles, with accents of gold, soft pink, and champagne.
"It was the most beautiful sight we’d ever seen," says Sarah. "John and I love forests and the florists Farima Perry and Cranberry Blue had captured that perfectly. It looked like a scene from a fairy tale and I wanted to live in that room forever."
Seated at the regal top table, the newlyweds and their guests tucked into a feast prepared by Jimmy Garcia consisting of a salad starter of brightly coloured heritage tomatoes, followed by chicken cooked three ways, while Sarah and her fellow vegans enjoyed a celeriac risotto with rocket and vegan cheese.
"Each dish looked like a work of art," says Sarah.
The wedding followed an enchanted garden theme
After the main course it was time for the speeches. "I thanked Sarah’s parents for allowing me to marry her," says John. "I told everyone that she looked so beautiful and was the most amazing, caring person who always puts 100% into life."
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Charley stood up to make his speech, too.
"He’d spent his school holidays writing it and totally stole the show," says Sarah. "He made everyone laugh with his opening line: 'Hello everyone, my name is Charley. If you don’t know me, you should because I’m the reason you’re all here.'
"It was so moving to hear him say how happy he was that I was settling down, that John had treated him like a son since he was two years old, and had taught him how to do silly dances, eat millionaire’s shortbread and ride a bike. I’m so proud of him."
After the speeches, a cornucopia of desserts – including an "Edible Garden" of a chocolate terracotta pot containing flowers and a watering can of salted caramel sauce – were served.
For vegan Sarah, the pièce de résistance was an Eton Tidy, a delicious combination of coconut meringue with champagne jelly and strawberries.
The couple enjoyed a seven-tiered wedding cake
"It’s difficult to find a good vegan dessert, but this is now my favourite," she says.
There were more sweet treats in store, with delectable French macaron favours, and the cutting of the spectacular seven-tiered wedding cake – which featured white roses, a gold S and J monogram, sponge layers in lemon and elderflower and vanilla flavours, plus John’s favourite millionaire’s shortbread and a chocolate tier especially for Charley. "The cake was fabulous, and almost as tall as me," says Sarah.
Later, she slipped into a floor-length white sequined gown and, as the band struck up You Are the Reason by Calum Scott, she and John took to the floor for their first dance – a waltz worthy of Strictly Come Dancing that even featured a few lifts.
"We’d been practising before the wedding and surprised everyone," she recalls.
The bride and groom pictured during their first dance
Their fancy footwork inspired family, friends, and fellow A&E workers to fill the dancefloor and trip the light fantastic until midnight.
"We all let our hair down," says Sarah. "Our colleagues partied as hard as they’d worked throughout the pandemic, and all the female nurses and paramedics danced with Charley, who was the star of the night."
Dancers wearing flamboyant costumes came on too, and in another glittering surprise, a cannon showered revellers with gold confetti.
"Our entire wedding day was absolutely amazing," says Sarah. "John and I are still asking ourselves: 'Did that really happen?' We’ll treasure it forever."
"I’m still on cloud nine," says John. "I married my best friend and the most beautiful girl in the world, and it was the best day of my life."
After their dream wedding, the newlyweds and Charley enjoyed a surfing mini-break in Cornwall and are planning a honeymoon in the Maldives.
Congratulating the couple, James Lord, chief executive of Bridelux, said: "It was such a wonderful experience collaborating with some of the best wedding suppliers in the industry to give back and create the ultimate dream wedding for such a deserving couple.
"The look on their faces spoke 1,000 words! Sarah and John, we wish you a lifetime of love and happiness."
Bar Azure Bar Events Performers and dancers Black Rabbit Projects Musical entertainment Boujee Music Partner Bridelux Balloons Bubblegum Balloons Hair stylist Cassandra Rizzuto Event planner and stylist Cranberry Blue Chandeliers Crescent Moon Magician Dan Brazier Photography David Christopher Cake Elizabeth’s Cake Emporium Bridal shoes Emmy London Pyrotechnics Exciting Fireworks Floral design and décor Farima Perry Florals & Events Furniture Furniture 4 Events Accessories Gillian Million Celebrant Jennifer Patrice Caterer Jimmy Garcia Videography John Nassari Linen Just 4 Linen Favours Ladurée Stationery Leeming Brothers Illustrator Live Event Artist Lighting, sound and production Luminaire Make-up artist Mariam Jensen Bridesmaids’ dresses Needle & Thread Photobooth Phototheatre Logistics and crew Pollencrew Venue Rosewood London Childcare Safe & Sound Events Menswear Saran Kohli Mother of the bride dress, veil and bridal dress alterations Shimmering Ivory Bride dress SS Couture Trees Twilight Trees Tableware Whitehouse Event Crockery