Hilli Fletcher, 49, from Great Barr in Birmingham didn't want just any old car!
The first message was just two words long. Beautiful smile.
It was July 2013, and I’d just joined the Internet dating site Plenty Of Fish.I replied to Paul Fletcher, and we were soon chatting. Both from Birmingham, he was a binman and I was a pub manager. I often get into bed at 4am, I messaged. I’m just going to work then, he joked.
Paul was twice-divorced, had three kids. I’d never made it down the aisle, had no children.
But opposites attract. We started speaking on the phone, and then, one day, a bloke came in to my pub in a high-vis jacket. Paul!
‘I’ve come from work – sorry, I haven’t showered,’ he said. I didn’t care. My heart was doing somersaults! We arranged our first date for a week later.
Sitting in the Indian restaurant, conversation flowed. ‘What’s the weirdest thing someone’s thrown out?’ I quizzed. ‘A blow-up doll!’ he laughed. I spluttered into my lager. We just clicked.
In December 2014, Paul proposed. I was thrilled, but it wasn’t until April this year that we decided to organise the wedding. I booked Birmingham Register Office, the reception at a local bar, sent out the invitations. All Paul had to do was organise the cars. Typical man, he never got around to it.
A few weeks before, I went for a drink with some mates. ‘You’ll be turning up in a dust cart at this rate,’ one joked. We laughed, but then we stared at each other.‘You might be on to something,’ I grinned. Turning up to the wedding in a bin lorry would be a funny surprise for Paul. And certainly memorable!
‘Why not?’ one of his bosses, Wayne, said when I rang his work next day. I fibbed to Paul and said a friend was driving me in his Bentley.
I stayed at the pub the night before and, the following morning, I put my off-the-shoulder, ivory dress on, took my bouquet of pink roses and headed outside. ‘Wow!’ I gasped.
The 28-tonne truck was gleaming – and my florist had decorated it with pink ribbons. ‘Hop in,’ Paul’s other boss Reece smiled. He was doing the driving! The lads from Paul’s work had done a good job sprucing it up. No whiffs at all!
Motorists beeped and people cheered and took photos. Before the register office, Reece put the flashing lights on, tooted the horn. Paul was outside, looking handsome in his black trousers, braces and dicky bow. He burst into tears!
‘It’s amazing,’ he wept. ‘You look amazing.’ He composed himself before we said ‘I do’, and then posed for photos.
At the reception, my surprise got a special mention in Paul’s speech. ‘My wife was the best bit of rubbish I’ve ever seen!’ he joked.
Later, as we danced to Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud, Paul was still wisecracking. ‘I’ll get you a shift,’ he grinned. ‘That was a one-off,’ I laughed!
After a honeymoon in Alicante, we’re settling into married life and – like our wedding day – it’s far from rubbish!