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True Love Lasts Forever - Phil Surprises Gail on Their 35th Wedding Anniversary - at the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh

I LOVE love stories and this one will surely touch your heart.

Phil contacted me about helping him surprise his wife, Gail, on their 35th(!) wedding anniversary and I could hear in his words how much he loves her. They are both from England and Phil’s job, for the last few years, has required him to live here and travel back and forth to England, with Gail and their daughters sometimes coming here to visit him. It’s been a costly venture to live on two continents but they have made it work. Gail, an elementary school teacher, was close to retirement and did not want to forfeit her retirement benefits so far along in the game so she continued to work over there while Phil worked here. Their two daughters are grown up and making their own way in the world in England.

Phil’s plan was to have Gail come over for their anniversary and surprise her with a vow renewal ceremony with all the trimmings - and being an engineer, he had thought of every little detail! There are so many sweet, thoughtful things to share here and you will never forget this touching display of love from a husband to his wife.

The wedding took place on a Monday, April 2, the exact date they had married in 1977. The 35th anniversary gift is coral (Phil had looked it up) so everything he did was based around the idea and the color of coral. He wore a coral tie, he designed the programs with coral on the front and had purchased a silk bouquet and ring pillow made by a woman in Texas. Everything was beautiful.

He found this lovely guest book that he adapted for the day.

He even told Gail she should buy a fancy coral dress to wear.

Did you notice her tiara? That is the same one she wore at their first wedding. Phil had his daughters bring it with them so she could wear it again 35 years later.

Phil had arranged a morning of beauty pampering for Gail and his daughters and set them up to arrive at JC Raulston Arboretum for the ceremony in the lovely White Garden area. Nestled in the depths of the arboretum, it is a hidden oasis of beauty that is very popular with wedding couples and this day it also added to the build-up of the surprise for Gail. When she arrived at the arboretum she could not see anything that awaited her - and in fact, until she was right there at the White Garden, she had no idea of what was coming!

Phil had set it up for the girls to arrive in style. With the help of Vern Bullock of Classy Transportation, he had a really cool car bring them to the wedding and take them all away later for some quiet time together. Here is a photo of Vern, taken with him standing beside the classic auto Phil had chosen. Vern was as happy to be a part of such a special day as I was.

When Gail and her daughters arrived at the White Garden, I saw Gail’s face look puzzled to see all the people gathered there but as she walked closer toward us, it must have started to sink in what was happening because she got all choked up and was fighting back tears. Phil and I were standing in place and their daughters were escorting Gail to Phil, as in an aisle. He was so moved by watching Gail that I had to touch his arm to remind him to go forward to take her hand. Look at those expressions on his face. So sweet.

When he did take her hand, he handed her the bouquet and brought her over to me, going down on one knee to propose to her a second time.

(I must confess, that’s when almost lost it and it was all I could do to choke back my own tears!) When she said, “Yes,” their daughter, Emma, brought out the hidden tiara and placed it on her mother’s head, to Gail’s immense surprise and delight.

But the surprises were still not over. Phil had written the whole ceremony himself, had based the vows on their original vows - as best he could remember them - had included in the programs a photo of the Newtown Methodist church in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, UK where they had first been married and had even thought to showcase their marriage license within the program. During the ceremony he serenaded Gail with the Don McLean song, “And I Love You So,” accompanied on a Native American flute by his friend, Eddie S. Thomas.

Later in the ceremony, their other daughter, Victoria, read the Shakespeare Sonnet 116.

When it came time for the rings, they used their original rings. Phil had written this as their ring vows; “With this ring, I renew my pledge of love and commitment.”

It was one of the sweetest weddings I have ever attended and all of us in attendance were as touched as Gail. How could we not be, with such a beautiful expression of love surrounding us that day?

After the wedding, the photographers, Amy Rager, Jeannie Dent and Pamela Mullins of Serenity Photography (love that name!) took the family off among the greenery to take some photos. Here they are in action, photographing this loving family.

After enjoying all the healthy goodies that were set out by Phil’s friends, the cake was cut, conversations continued for a while and then it was time for Gail and Phil to depart in Mr. Bullock’s classy white car, waiting for them at the entrance of the Arboretum. These parting photos of the two of them together in the car speak volumes.

It is so easy to see why I always tell people I have the best job in the world! 

Phil and Gail met in high school, were engaged at 18, married at 20 and have built a family and a happy life together since 1977. Gail is to retire this summer (2012) and should be able to live here with Phil for the remainder of his job and they will be together again under the same roof at last.

Many more happy years to you both, Phil and Gail. It was an honor to help you commemorate your 35th wedding anniversary and I wish you another 35 more! I hope your daughters find kind and loving husbands who will love them every bit as much as their father loves their mother.


The photos used here are from Serenity Photo, Phil and Gail’s daughter, Victoria, guests Alma and Rosy, and myself. Thanks, everyone, for the use of your photos.

The delicious cake was provided by Edible Art.

Even more cuteness was provided by the adorable Ring Bearer, Carolina, shown here with her handsome, beaming parents.


UPDATE 3/11/13 - I just got the most joyous email from Gail and Phil. Their daughter, Emma, was married to Louis a couple of weeks ago in Paris and Gail and Phil flew over to be a part of the celebration and shared love. While they were there, their other daughter, Victoria, was proposed to by her fiancé, Jacob, for a wedding next year - and Jacob asked Phil for Victoria’s hand in marriage. Love is definitely in the air for this family!

Phil and Gail sent a link to the blog post of beautiful photos by Emma and Louis’ wedding photographer, Ian Holmes. He is quite the artist - and this is quite a special family with so much love to go around. You can see it on all their faces in these photos by Ian. What a special time that must have been for all of them.

Thanks for the update on your family, Gail and Phil. And congratulations to you, Emma, Louis, Victoria and Jacob. I can’t wait to see the photos from Victoria’s wedding!

UPDATE 5/28/15 - Phil and Gail recently contacted me with another happy family update. They became proud grandparents in December 2014 when their daughter, Emma, (in the update above about her wedding) and her husband, Louis, had their first baby. How exciting for everyone! And then this past weekend, their other daughter, Victoria, was married to her fiancé, Jacob, who had proposed to her at her sister’s wedding.

Phil also sent a photo of the commemorative brick that was placed in the grounds of the JC Raulston Arboretum. I did not know the Arboretum does this and will be sure to go find it the next time I am over there. Phil said he even wore his coral tie for the brick-laying ceremony. How perfect.

This family story makes my heart smile and I am so happy that Phil and Gail have kept me updated.


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Nikki said…
Gail and Phil are our very dear friends and we were so thrilled at all the effort Phil had gone to, to make this day so very special...I miss her terribly but I know she has to be with Phil as theres really is a match made in heaven...Thank you for making my best friends day so special....Nikki from North Wales
Dear Nikki

Thank you for taking the time to write. I know you must miss her so much - what a great soul she is!

It was an honor to be a part of something so special in their lives. Their love has touched me deeply - as I know it must be for all those who know them.