Happy ever after TV cameras catch up with eight brides whose weddings were filmed back in 1999 to see what happened next
Back in 1999, eight blushing and tearful brides exchanged their vows in front of friends and family – and a TV audience of millions.
They’d agreed to take part in a unique TV experiment, a fly-on-the-wall documentary series that would follow the changing fortunes of their marriages with updates every few years.
The title of the series – For Better, For Worse – seemed apt as the two follow-up shows thus far, the last of which was in 2004, revealed all the couples still to be together. Now, eight years on, the cameras return to find out if the original brides are still living happily ever after.
Eight years on, the TV programme For Better, For Worse, catches up with the eight brides
Among them was career girl Denise Vince, who married a Turkish hotelier she met on a holiday. He’d already been turned down for a UK visa three times, and some of the guests at 34-year-old Denise’s wedding couldn’t hide their concern.
Her husband Ismail, known as Smiley and now 47, had been married briefly to a Turkish girl before proposing to Denise – and she accepted, despite the fact that the longest the couple had spent together at any one time was 11 days.
When I told the researcher that Tom was
going to be my sixth husband, she nearly fell off her chair. I knew the
TV company thought it wouldn’t last…
Even Denise, now 46, admits that on paper it didn’t look good. ‘I’d been single for five years when I met Smiley. When I came home, we started to fax each other in the evenings. Smiley would sit with an English dictionary, and we’d have wonderful conversations. Every few months I flew to Turkey, but it was just as a friend.
'Then, in October 1998, he asked me out and I finally agreed. Three months later, he proposed on a skiing trip. I didn’t doubt for a second that Smiley wanted me, not a passport. I could see why my friends might be sceptical, but I felt we had a stronger basis than most marriages through our letters, and I honestly couldn’t see ours failing.’
Happy memories: Denise with Ismail, known as Smiley, a former Turkish hotelier, on their wedding day
The couple wed in September 1999, and two days later Smiley’s UK visa was granted – the ultimate wedding present. ‘I flew back to the UK and Smiley followed,’ says Denise. ‘He adapted well, although he was shocked by Jerry Springer on TV and we had to teach him about pantomimes.’
The couple moved near Inverness. ‘Smiley works away a lot with his jewellery business but our entire relationship was based on distance, so it didn’t bother me. We agreed when we married that we’d never cheat, and we remain happy – proof holiday romances can last.’
Another bride who raised eyebrows at her
1999 wedding was Madeleine Brown from Yeadon, Yorkshire, who was not
only marrying her sixth husband, but her groom Tom was best man at her
fifth wedding. Madeleine, 69, was insisting that number six was for
keeps – but before long, this marriage too hit trouble.
Happy at last: Michaela and Steve
She says, ‘We were approached for the programme because they wanted an older couple. When I told the researcher that Tom was going to be my sixth husband, she nearly fell off her chair. I knew the TV company thought it wouldn’t last, but I knew my other husbands had been mistakes or part of growing up. My fifth marriage went wrong very quickly, and on a holiday with our partners, Tom and I fell in love. He left his wife for me, and when he proposed I didn’t hesitate. I was 52 and Tom was 60, and I knew I’d finally found the one.’
Madeleine’s happiness didn’t last, however. Seven years later Tom decided he wanted to be single again. Madeleine says, ‘When he told me he wanted to start dating again, I cried all night. Tom moved out and joined a singles website. But his dates were disastrous, and he realised he was an old man. We were both lonely and miserable apart. Finally, we had a day out in Whitby and we both realised we made each other laugh in a way no one else could. He moved back in and we haven’t looked back since.’
Then there was Michaela, who joined the show later in 2004 and became known as the bad-tempered bride, whose cursing on her big day turned the airwaves blue. She was 26 and groom Ben just 23, and the year of military-style planning for her country-house wedding caused her to snap on the big day.
Six months later, the newlyweds confessed they were ‘bored’, and a year after that the marriage was over. Does Michaela regret what happened ‘It’s ironic that Ben and I did the film so we had something to show our grandchildren. Our marriage didn’t last long enough to even have children. We were too young and grew apart, but it took me a long time to recover from the guilt.
‘My second wedding was the polar opposite to my first. Instead of having a huge fanfare, we invited 30 family and friends to our son’s christening on 25 November 2006, and at the end the vicar announced that Steve and I were getting married. My mum burst into tears. Instead of swearing with the stress, I couldn’t stop smiling. I thought my first wedding was for keeps – but it’s my second that has brought me true happiness.’
For Better, For Worse, Thursday, 10.35pm, ITV1