Craig Williams and Kirsty Ward had been saving up for two years for their luxury £10,000 ceremony, and were almost ready to welcome their 25 guests. It was set to take place in Cyprus on October 23, with tickets booked through tour operator Thomas Cook. The pair had met 15 years earlier when they were introduced through a mutual friend, and they went from strength from strength, even having three children together. Craig, a car valeter, popped the question in Whitby in May 2017 and they immediately set about planning their dream day in the sun. They picked out the King Evelthon Beach Hotel and Resort in Cyprus and had booked hair and makeup packages and a bouncy castle for the children to play on after the service. Kirsty, 41, said: ‘We wanted to get married abroad. As soon as I saw the King Evelthon hotel in the brochure I fell in love with it.
‘We did a full two years’ planning and had paid deposits to businesses for things like hair and make up. The package for the wedding was £5,500 but we paid at least £10,000 for everything.’ When the couple, from Sheffield, saw the news that Thomas Cook had collapsed, they were just three weeks away from heading to Cypriot shores for the big day. Customer service adviser Kirsty, said: ‘I felt sick when I heard the news about Thomas Cook. It was such a sinking feeling. We were just gutted.’
The devastated pair looked to see how they could be refunded for the flights and hotel, but knew that they’d lost the money they’d spent on the rest of the wedding extras. It also transpired that it’d be a while before they got any sort of refund at all from Thomas Cook. The next day, they got an incredible offer that turned everything around. The White Hart Hotel in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, offered them a free package worth over £3,000 including a three-course wedding breakfast and drinks, room hire, accommodation and a DJ.
Hotel owner Simon Cotton also rallied other firms around, and the couple were offered catering, hair and make-up, flowers and entertainment for their big day worth £7,000 – all free of charge. ‘Simon contacted us the next day and offered to put the wedding on for us and I was taken aback,’ said Kirsty. ‘It has been completely manic, it has all happened so fast.’
They managed to get a date just a week after they’d originally planned, and tied the knot in the Grade II listed hotel. Craig and Kirsty were welcomed by the Mayor and Mayoress of Harrogate, councillor Stuart Martin and his wife April, who presented the couple with a magnum of Champagne to help kick off their party in style. Bride Kirsty also had her hair and makeup done for free and arrived at the venue in a 1930’s style vintage Beauford Tourer.
Kirsty added: ‘One minute we’re counting the cost of losing our wedding day and the next thing, we’re in the middle of organising something bigger and better than it was originally going to be. ‘It’s just amazing and Craig and I can’t believe how lucky we are. We will be forever grateful to all the people who’ve been so thoughtful and kind-hearted.’ Craig, 36, said: ‘I guess sometimes things happen for a reason, but we had no idea upon hearing the bad news that we’d end up a few weeks later with more than we had originally planned.’
The man with the plan, Simon Cotton, managing director for HRH Group, which owns the White Hart, said that the story tugged at his heartstrings and he had to step in. He said: ‘I’m also in the middle of planning my own wedding for next year and I really felt for this couple who’d spent all this time planning and saving up to then have it all taken away at the last minute and I couldn’t help but think we must try to do something.