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Boat lovers forget past wedding disaster to exchange vows on the waves

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Bernie and Janie Wilkins on their special day
Bernie and Janie Wilkins on their special day

A COUPLE tied the knot on the bridge of a luxury motor yacht at Lymington in a spectacular ceremony – 23 years after their first attempt to marry went disastrously wrong.

Bernie and Janie Wilkins, from Lyndhurst, were set to have a dream wedding at sunset on a beach in Mexico. But the plan went awry when he decided to play volleyball on the big day.

Janie revealed: “Bernie went off to play volleyball which unfortunately turned into tequila volleyball.

“At the appointed hour of our ceremony I went down to the beach in my wedding dress and he didn’t turn up! Bernie had had too much tequila, got carried away and lost track of time.

“Luckily we had taken no guests with us as we wanted a really simple do, so it was just me and the person who was going to marry us stood waiting and waiting on the beach. It was excruciatingly embarrassing.

"Eventually I gave up, went to the swim-up bar and jumped in fully clothed holding my wedding bouquet.

“Guests were congratulating me but I told them ‘I haven’t got married!’

“Bernie turned up shame faced in his wedding suit and asked if we could go through the ceremony but I told him ‘No you’ve had your chance!’”

“I think we were the talk of the hotel for the rest of our holiday.”

Bernie and Janie Wilkins arrive in the harbour master's launch
Bernie and Janie Wilkins arrive in the harbour master's launch

Most women would have given their partner the push after such a drastic fail but Janie says she eventually saw the funny side and decided to forgive Bernie, saying: “It had been his idea in the first place to get married, I wasn’t as keen as we had both been married before.

"That made the whole thing even more stupid when he didn’t even make it to the ceremony.”

Manager of Westcliff Hall care home in Hythe, Janie said that ever since the Mexico debacle Bernie, a builder, has asked her to marry him every year. But she has always turned him down until now telling him: “You didn’t turn up last time!”

Janie said: “After 25 years I finally said yes, I thought it would be the perfect way to mark our anniversary. The joke on the day from our guests was whether he would turn up!”

This time around there was no chance of Bernie doing a disappearing act as he was picked up in a Lymington Harbour Commissioners launch with Janie to take them to the yacht.

The couple were one of the first to take advantage of a new service being offered by Hampshire registrars which allows people to get married nearly anywhere.

They are legally married at a register office, then have a celebratory ceremony accompanied by marriage registrars on the same day in their chosen venue.

According to Hampshire County Council that can be almost any venue, which is why Bernie (59) and Janie (61) chose the flybridge of a Princess yacht.

Bernie and Janie Wilkins' on-board ceremony
Bernie and Janie Wilkins' on-board ceremony

Janie said: “We both love boats, in fact it is the reason we moved down to this area from Norfolk 15 years ago.

“The yachting is so good round here, and Lymington harbour is just lovely. Our dream was to get married on a boat and, thanks to this new service, we managed it.

“We even got taken to our wedding yacht on the harbour commissioner’s boat which was just perfect. We went for a ride up Lymington River before the ceremony and everyone on nearby boats were cheering and waving.

“The IOW ferry went past just as we got married and the captain announced our wedding to the passengers, who all started cheering, and he tooted the ship’s horn about 10 times.

“Our wedding certificate says place of marriage ‘Uptown Girl’, the name of the boat, which I think is fantastic.”

Bernie and Janie have their own boat in the harbour but tied the knot on a bigger one borrowed from a friend. But even that plan nearly went horribly wrong when the vessel was stranded in Holland three weeks before the wedding.

She said: “I thought ‘Oh not again’ I couldn’t believe we had had this big dream of being married on a boat and now it was stuck miles away.”

Luckily another yacht owner stepped in and offered their Princess cruiser for the service.

Janie said: “We were so grateful. On the wedding morning we went to Ringwood register office and just had a very simple ceremony, we didn’t even exchange rings.

“Then in the afternoon two registrars came out to the harbour and got onto the boat. We had a full service with readings and they had even brought another register with them so we could sign it on the boat.

“The registrars said it was the first time they had conducted a service on a boat. They really enjoyed it.”

Both their mums –aged 92 and 87 – attended the ceremony with some guests watching from a yacht alongside.

Janie said: “Afterwards we had a reception at Lymington Town Sailing Club with a nautical theme – even down to the wedding cake. This time it was all perfect!”

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