Arlene Hunsdale, 30, took two years planning her wedding – without her groom David, 29, even knowing!
Beaming with happiness I stared back at my reflection in the mirror. I was finally wearing the beautiful wedding dress I’d always dreamed of.
It was Wednesday 6th October, the day of my final dress fitting and four days before my wedding. I was a bundle of nerves.
But it wasn’t whether my fiance, David, would like the dress that bothered me. It was whether he would be all right marrying me!
For two years I’d been planning my wedding, but unlike other brides-to-be, my fiance had no idea we were getting married.
Ten years ago on Christmas Eve 2000 David, a gymnastics coach, proposed to me.
We never discussed when we would get married. We were too busy to plan a wedding because of work commitments.
Then in 2002 a miracle happened and, after being told at 18 I couldn’t have children, I fell pregnant with my daughter Bailee, now 8.
It was such a great surprise but the last thing we wanted was the stress of planning a wedding.
But in July 2008 our close friends Ryan and Julie tied the knot in a beautiful ceremony in Belfast. They’d only been together for five years and it got me dreaming about my own perfect day that hadn’t happened after eight years of being engaged!
Plus my sister Deborah, 26, got engaged to her boyfriend Alex around the same time and she was already planning her wedding.
Everyone was getting married except me!
In September I went to see some of my best friends in Glasgow and told them I was thinking about taking matters into my own hands, and surprising David with a wedding,
They loved the idea some much and even egged me on!
So as soon as I got back to Ireland I spoke to David’s Mum, Margaret, 47, about it.
“He’ll kill you, but it’s genius!” she giggled.
And so, with her help, I began planning – unbeknown to David.
Luckily, Deborah was planning her wedding for April 2010 so I was able to attend wedding fayres without raising any suspicion.
Whenever I had to be out arranging wedding-related things, I fobbed David off by telling him I was at an after-work meeting.
When Deborah went for her final bridal fitting, I went for my first dress fitting and my mother-in-law, Margaret, told David she was visiting her daughter Jess, 20, in Belfast and came with me.
But as the wedding drew closer, things got trickier.
A month before our wedding I was absolutely mortified when the wedding ring I’d chosen got delivered to our house and was even addressed to David.
I’d ordered it online and forgotten to change the name and address.
Fortunately, I’d mentioned at the start of the year about replacing his grubby silver engagement ring as his birthday present.
So when he opened the parcel and asked me about it I managed to string together a plausible explanation.
The secret came closest to being revealed just days before the wedding.
We both went to Bailee’s parents evening on the Wednesday before the wedding.
As we were leaving, one of the teachers said: “I wish you all the luck with your weekend plans and soon I’ll be able to call you Mrs Hunsdale.”
I froze in horror as two years’ worth of hard work looked set to blow up in front of me.
Luckily, my quick-thinking saved me yet again.
“It’ll be another ten years before that happens!” I replied, seemingly unflustered.
After we’d left, David told me he was embarrassed that I’d said it would be another ten years before we got married – little did he know it would be less than ten days!
Finally the day came to tell him, October 7th 2010 – David’s birthday.
I was so nervous – I’d arranged for everyone to come around in the evening for a surprise party.
After opening all his presents, Bailee handed him his birthday card, which had a recorded message from her in it.
“I’ve arranged for you and Mummy to get married on Sunday, 3.30 pm at the Ulster Museum, see you there!”
As the truth hit him his face was a picture.
He broke into the biggest smile I’d ever seen.
“Seriously, we’re getting married!?”
The next day David stood waiting for me to walk down the aisle. When I did, and I saw his face, it made it all worthwhile.
He was really emotional and kept saying how beautiful I looked.
All my hard work paid off.
Although it was stressful and there were times when I didn’t think it would come together, I wouldn’t change a thing.
After all, if I hadn’t have done what I did, I don’t believe I would ever have been able to call myself Mrs Hunsdale!