In this Diversity Edition of Fyne Times, we hear from a couple who – despite health scares and a pandemic – chose 2020 to finally tie the knot after 44 years together. Glyn and Gareth tell us their 1,2,3 story and all about their wedding and beyond. First meeting back in 1977 in a Notting Hill gay pub called The Champion, Glyn had recently moved to London from Wales for a job at the BBC. He was living in the area, visited the pub, and overheard Gareth’s Welsh accent…

“The rest is history and we’ve been together ever since. After retiring, we decided to spend time travelling the world. In November 2019 we visited Australia and New Zealand travelling back to the UK via Bali where after 42 years, Gareth proposed over a rooftop cocktail overlooking the sea at sunset. 

The wedding was planned for Autumn 2020. No theme, but generally when we have parties, we try to make it the best we can and we wanted to mix family and friends for the first time in our lives. We considered venues in London, Wheathampstead (where we live), Wales (where we both originate from) etc. We didn’t know whether we’d have a church, registry office or a blessing to officiate the wedding. We considered castles, caves, restaurants and fields. Then Gareth had a serious health scare at the beginning of 2020 and the Covid virus struck the world in February with all its restrictions.

Gareth managed to get hospital care early in 2020 and was given the all clear. However, this made us determined to get married as soon as we could be allowed. Masks would be worn, only limited numbers could be invited, and venues for the service and for any reception were all being changed on a regular basis (rightly) by the Government. So, at the first opportunity we booked St Albans Registry Office for 26 August 2020 with only nine guests and a photographer.

The registrars were thoughtful and caring as to what we wanted to say, how the ceremony was to proceed and the actual structure of the service. Everyone had to wear ‘the’ mask and to be seated according to Government guidelines. Gareth made a tape of our favourite tunes to play on entering and leaving the registry. Gareth’s Grandson Lucas was the ring bearer. Rhys and Brandon (the twins) Gareth’s other grandchildren were witnesses as were Glyn’s brother Alan and Sarah, Gareth’s daughter.

We were so keen to have a ‘big’ wedding pulling together family and friends near and far. So, despite the fact that the actual wedding was a small affair we always knew we would have a big celebration party for our first anniversary. We booked White City House (part of Soho House) back in February 2021 even though we still weren’t 100% sure if we’d have go ahead from the Government as everything was so piecemeal. Each announcement through the year was a step in the right direction. We didn’t know whether to book certain things for the celebration in case we’d have to cancel or re-arrange but when we booked the Cabaret, Ooh La La, we were certain that was what we wanted, and they were stupendous in arranging a night for everyone to remember!

Our plan for the future is to have a belated honeymoon. We’ve booked for the Greek Islands (Amber alert at time of writing). Then we want to catch up with everyone who was at our celebration that we didn’t get a chance to spend much time with on the night. We also want to catch up with those guests who couldn’t make the party for one reason or another. Our friends, Jenny and Jill, couldn’t travel from Hong Kong as Jenny had been seriously ill. Elderly relatives couldn’t make the journey from Wales. Friends like Robert who had just travelled back from Guatemala with his partner and had a Covid positive test. 

We watch documentaries and films and can’t believe how far we have come: something that the younger generation who have grown up in a more open atmosphere might take for granted. Speaking of which, we took for granted something that we have said to each other almost since we met each other in the dark days of prejudice: if we were in a situation where we couldn’t outwardly be open we would say 1, 2, 3 which meant ‘I love you’. The compere at our anniversary party shared this with our guests – none of whom knew this – and they all chanted 1, 2, 3 back at us. We broke down with the support.

Growing up in Wales in the 1960’s, there was so much prejudice with name-calling and even physical violence in certain cases, and even now in the UK there can still be cultural and religious differences leading to insults or mistreatment. Maybe we still have some distance to go but the fact that is, we now have the law behind us which is magnificent. We can now decide what happens if one of us gets ill or passes away. Before this time, we would have to be in the shadows, leaving arrangements to other family members to decide. We know of cases where someone has had to sell the home they shared so that the partners’ family could have their share of the house sale.

LGBTQ+ has come a long way in our lifetime but we live in the UK and elsewhere the life we have earned is still not available. We have a friend from Iran who would be in fear of his life if he returned and was ‘out’. Another Polish friend who is not ‘out’ to his family because the Catholic Church is so prominent in his country, and they despise the LGBTQ+ community – which influences his family and friends back home. Each one of our gay friends probably have similar stories to tell so the fight must go on so that every LGBTQ+ person in the world can one day have a wedding with family and friends like ours.”

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