No love lost as couples vie to win dream winter wedding

Balmer Lawn Hotel
The Balmer Lawn Hotel in Brockenhurst

TWO New Forest couples are vying to win a dream winter wedding at Balmer Lawn Hotel in a competition to celebrate holding its 1,000th marriage ceremony.


The challenge for couples to reveal their most meaningful love song and why has been taken up by Emma Louise Keyworth and Duncan Broomfield, from Milford, and Rachel Bailey and Bernard Hoe, from Hordle.

The prize is a wedding worth £5,000 at the Brockenhurst hotel. The contest will see the public deciding the top three of 10 couples who have been selected as finalists.

Emma and Duncan, from Milford, shared their first kiss aged five in the school playground and fell in love years later after finding each other again on Facebook.

They said they would love to tie the knot at what they call “one of the iconic landmarks we were born and raised around”.

Emma and Duncan had their first kiss at age five

Their favourite song is Bless the Broken Road by Rascall Flatts, which contains the lyrics “Every long-lost dream led me to where you are”, that they feel sums up their relationship perfectly.

Emma says she feels Duncan was “always in the background” but both had other relationships which resulted in four children between them before they finally realised – as they had as children – they were perfect for each other.

Rachael Bailey and Beonard Hoe, from Hordle, say the Balmer Lawn has been a “focal point” throughout their lives and they would “jump” at the chance to marry there.

They have overcome tough times to get to being able to plan their wedding.

Their son spent six months in hospital recovering from meningitis which was a traumatic time for the couple, but he is now doing well.

Their favourite song is Photograph by Ed Sheeran with the words “When it gets hard, you know it can get hard sometimes” as well as “You won’t ever be alone, wait for me to come home” in it. They say the lyrics helped them through the difficult time their son was in hospital.

Rachel and Bernard

Rachel and Bernard say they hope that they will be able to have their wedding photographs taken in the grounds of Balmer Lawn if they win the competition.

Michael Clitheroes, general manager at Balmer Lawn Hotel, said: “Winter in the New Forest is a spectacular time of year. With ice-encrusted trees and swathes of frost-covered grass, it turns into a magical winter wonderland – the perfect setting for a winter wedding.”

“We wanted to offer up a free wedding to celebrate our 1,000th, but we also wanted to ensure whoever won it was suitably deserving. Having heard a little bit about each couple, we’re now sharing the best entries with the public to help us make a final decision.”

To vote, visit

Voting closes at midnight on 24th January. The winners will be announced on 27th January.

The couples placed second and third will be awarded a £1,000 discount off their wedding at Balmer Lawn if they book the venue this year.