I couldn’t wait to say I do to Mat, and we had a big party planned to celebrate. But after hitting the dance floor, our perfect day turned into a disaster…
By Sam Pewsey, 38, from Worthing in West Sussex
I slicked on some lippy, took a deep breath, and walked into the Sofa bar opposite Worthing Pier.
Catching the eye of a sexy stranger, I gave my best dazzling smile.
“You must be Mat,” I grinned, taking a seat beside him.
“That’s me,” he smiled back.
I was on another awkward first date.
I had signed up for six months on Match.com, but I’d vowed to pack it in when the subscription ran out.
It had been let down after let down.
Mat was going to be my last date. As we swapped messages online he had seemed perfect.
Funny, interesting and kind…
But he wouldn’t be the first one to create a deceiving first impression.
However, as we chatted that night over a glass of wine, I found myself falling for Mat.
“I’ve got a daughter, Lilly,” he said, showing me a photo stashed in his wallet. “She’s four.”
I liked that he was honest about his relationship background.
“That’s the same age I was when my parents split up,” I confided.
By the end of the evening I was sure I wanted a second date. Soon we were seeing each other nightly. Before long, we moved in together too. Life was bliss.
Then, we jetted off for a break in New York for Valentine’s Day 2014. We’d both always wanted to see the sights. So, on our first day we took in as much as we could.
By the evening we were knackered, so I booked us a romantic meal in a beautiful restaurant by the Hudson River.
“This has been the best day ever,” I signed happily to Mat.
“Well tomorrow could be even better, I brought some extra spending money,” he said, coyly.
I was confused. Mat’s a huge mountain bike fan, so maybe he was planning to drag me round the shops for some new gear.
Not on our holiday… I thought.
I was wrong though.
“I thought we could get a real diamond to replace this,” he said. That’s when he reached across the table with a ring in his hand.
It was made from a Love Heart sweet, with ‘Marry Me?’ written across it.
I gasped with shock.
“Yes,” I managed to utter, before giving Mat a big kiss.
By the time we flew back to Heathrow Airport I had a proper diamond on my finger.
We didn’t rush into planning the wedding though. We wanted to spend some time dreaming up our perfect day.
“I want a big cheesy disco, but we’ll have something for you too,” I laughed, knowing that the hits of the 80s weren’t really Mat’s cup of tea.
“I’m going to need a blokes’ corner,” he said, teasing me.
Then, in June we went to look around Worthing Pier as a possible venue.
Located right opposite where we had our first date, it seemed like fate that we’d tie the knot there.
We were blown away by the gorgeous original art deco features, and the stunning views along the Sussex coast.
“It’s not too flashy, and I like that,” Mat mused, taking in the spacious function room.
“I think we could make it really ‘us’,” I encouraged.
So we signed on the dotted line to hire the pier for £3,300. Then we started working out the details.
We hired a casino area for Mat, and found a company that supplied retro arcade games. Meanwhile I booked a DJ to play all my favourite tunes.
Then we sorted out an evening buffet with tasty treats including Cumberland sausage sarnies and pulled pork.
Before we knew it, our big day had arrived.
So, in the afternoon of June 13, I found myself being laced into my stunning black and white gown before parading down the aisle.
Forty of our family and friends applauded as we said ‘I do’. As Mat gave me my first kiss as husband and wife, I felt on top of the world.
We tucked into Mexican sharing platters with our guests, and laughed through Mat’s speech. Then, by 7.30pm our 60 evening guests started to arrive.
“Now we can start the party,” I grinned to Mat.
I couldn’t wait to get on the dancefloor.
But Mat just had one job before he could sneak off to spend time with his mates… our first dance.
We’d chosen Captivate You by the Marmozets, as it always seemed to be on the radio when we’d started planning the wedding.
So, Mat took me into his arms and we started swaying together to the pop-rock beat. We were on cloud nine.
But, as we stepped off the dancefloor, I wrinkled my nose in disgust.
“Can you smell burning?” I asked Mat.
Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted smoke billowing across the dance floor.
But I didn’t order a smoke machine… I thought.
That’s when our event manager, Andrea, came dashing into the room.
“You need to evacuate, there’s a fire,” she shouted.
We all spilled out onto the pier through the nearest fire escape. Staff ushered us up to the street at the end.
We gathered in the setting sun, speculating about what had gone wrong.
“Maybe someone had an accident in the kitchen,” I guessed.
“At least this will be a funny story to tell everyone who couldn’t make it,” my friend Sharon laughed.
“I want to get back to the disco though,” I moaned.
Then, one by one, six fire engines pulled up at the pier entrance. For the next 45 minutes we were left in the cold. We were still in high spirits though.
“Let’s get our photo taken with the fire engine,” I said, dragging Mat in front of the vehicle.
“You can sit in it if you like,” one of the firefighters joked.
My guests giggled as I clambered up into the seat, posing and pouting.
Then I saw Andrea making her way through the crowd towards us.
“Can I have a word?” she asked, taking Mat and I to one side.
She looked serious. I glanced at Mat nervously.
“I’m afraid the wedding’s off,” she said, gravely. “It’s not safe for you to go back inside tonight.”
I burst into tears, and Mat clasped my hand tightly.
“What are we supposed to do now?” Mat asked. Andrea had no answers though. She was as taken aback as we were.
I’m usually a really positive and proactive person, but for the first time in my life I had no idea what to do.
Eventually, the snooker club opposite the pier agreed to take us in.
I blinked away tears, and started the humiliating task of telling my guests that the wedding was over.
Some agreed to stick around for a drink, so we all trudged into the snooker hall, dressed in our wedding finery.
I looked around with dismay. The floor was sticky, and the regular customers had all turned around to gawk at us.
There were even some lads messing around with a punch bag in the corner. It was a million miles from the fun-filled wedding night we’d had in mind.
“Don’t worry, I’ve got a plan B,” Sharon reassured me, giving me a squeeze.
She phoned ahead to the Burlington Hotel, where Mat and I were staying that night. They agreed to open a function room at the last minute, and even found us a DJ.
I appreciated the effort but it wasn’t the same. One glance at Mat told me he was as gutted as I was. So, at around 10.30pm we crept off to bed.
We couldn’t even bring ourselves to say goodbye to the guests who’d joined us there. I was too embarrassed.
Snuggling up in bed with my new hubby, the tears started flowing again.
“Our wedding was ruined,” I sobbed.
“At least you’re my Mrs now,” Mat replied, stroking my hair.
He was right, of course. But I couldn’t help but think about what we’d missed out on. All our lovely buffet went uneaten, and no-one got to try the cake.
I’d spent hours agonising over the DJ’s setlist, but that was wasted too.
As a small mercy, one of my mates had thought to grab our presents and cards as we were being evacuated.
But everything else had been abandoned. My phone and spare clothes were locked up at the venue too.
The next morning the pier was reopened so I went back down there in my wedding dress to pick up my bags.
How embarrassing, I thought, as I scurried past the customers enjoying a coffee and a donut in the cafe.
It turned out that the fire was started when a discarded cigarette rolled into a wall cavity.
The fire service ruled it was accidental. It could have been anyone who dropped the butt as the pier had been open to the public that night.
It was thanks to our DJ that the pier was still standing. Before the fire engines arrived, he’d bashed open the wall and used five fire extinguishers to quell the flames.
Thankfully no-one was hurt.
I’m trying to look on the bright side, and I just hope that our marriage runs smoother than our big day.
I still can’t believe our wedding day went up in flames.
As told to Helen O’Brien Google