No first dance. No speeches. No night in a honeymoon suite.
Instead, Australians Mike and Bec Brennan spent the first night of their marriage being violently ill in hospital on a drip, while the rest of their bridal party succumbed to the same virus.
The Brisbane couple, now London based, flew home last month full of excitement at the prospect of their dream Valentine’s Day wedding, 18 months in the making.
When Mike’s sister Monica – also bridesmaid and wedding planner – got sick at the church, they put it down to heatstroke.
“Monica got sick first, but we made it through photos and I started to feel a bit unwell,” said Bec, a 25-year-old paediatric nurse.
“Basically from there it was just a domino effect.”
By the time they got to their reception at the city’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), they were succumbing to a gastro bug that would all but destroy their hopes for the night of their dreams.
“The look on your face when you saw the entrees,” Mike, 27, an accountant at the London Stock Exchange, said.
“It was when the food came out, that really tipped us over the edge,” Bec said.
“The creamy prawns were put in front of me, and I was like ‘get those prawns away from me … I’ve gotta go!’.”
Fifteen minutes later, the bride and groom, best man and one of the bridesmaids were all holed up in a makeshift nurse’s station in GOMA, buckets at the ready.
“It was a death room honestly. There were all these little couches and we were just spread out on the couches, I would not like to have seen the CCTV footage, it would not have been nice,” she said.
Wedding night with the parents
The couple managed to find a five-minute window where they were both well enough to cut the cake, but by then their wedding night was in ruins.
Dehydration from a day in the 30-degree sun, and an evening of being sick, meant the lovebirds were headed for hospital.
There were no speeches, there was no first dance – even though they’d rehearsed for hours in London – and the couple hadn’t even managed to say hello to most of their 100 guests.
“Oh, so we’re spending our wedding night in hospital and our parents are here.”Mike Brennan
“We’d just been vomiting too much, and just couldn’t stop it at that point,” Bec said.
“Bec kept having fever spikes, I was just on a drip. We were both sitting in a hospital bed at 2am, and we were like ‘Oh so we’re spending our wedding night in hospital and our parents are here’,” Mike said.
“But the Mater hospital were awesome and they gave us a little care package with ‘Just Married’ on it, it was full of drugs to stop us vomiting and everything.”
By the next morning, the virus had taken down the groomsmen, the best man, the parents of the newlyweds and all of the bridesmaids except one.
When GOMA’s wedding planner Kelsie Smith and her manager Sarah Thomas arrived at work on Monday, they couldn’t believe what had happened.
“We brainstormed and were like ‘Gosh how far can we go with this?’ knowing that the gallery would do anything to fix this day,” Ms Thomas said.
Dream wedding – take two
The newlyweds dragged themselves onto the plane for a honeymoon in Bora Bora, already giving the “in sickness and in health” part of their vows a real workout.
“I was still vomiting until two hours before the flight,” Bec said.
“We weren’t able to forfeit or postpone; we’d spoken to our travel agent and it wasn’t an option.
“So we made a deal between the two of us that if one person was feeling a bit better, they would look after the other one.
“I had to pack for both of us while feeling about 50 per cent – that was a challenge,” Mike said.
While Mike and Bec recuperated and tried to forget about their wedding disaster, a secret plan was hatched: Newlyweds, take two.
When they returned to Brisbane, they were told they were being treated to a tour of GOMA and a small family dinner to make up for missing their reception.
“We were greeted at the front entrance by the wedding planner and her manager and when they saw us they were pretty much crying, and they were hugging us,” Bec said.
“Then we saw the family, and then our reception music started playing, it was at that point we realised what they’d done.
“We were crying, and I looked at our wedding planners – these are people who don’t really know us – and they were bawling.”
The couple had walked into a surprise reception complete with replacement cake, flowers, photo booth, photographer and band.