Danielle Woollaston, 30, Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham, explains how a dirty swimming pool wrecked her big day dreams...
Flicking through a holiday brochure, I dreamed of finding the perfect place to get married. I wanted somewhere with white sand, blue sea and sun.
‘Ooh, what about this place?’ I said to my hubby Mark, 39.
It was a small village on the idyllic Greek island of Zante. And for the actual wedding ceremony, Cameo Island was just a few minutes away.
Plus the flight was only four hours – not too long for our kids Sophie, 7, and Cameron, 5.
Finding the perfect hotel, everything fell into place.
The wedding package, plus our accommodation, would cost around £20,000.
It was a lot, but after being together for 12 years, engaged for five, we wanted to splash out.
We happily paid our deposit.
‘We’d better start saving for the rest!’ Mark said.
‘It’ll be worth it, babe,’ I said.
We were chuffed when 50 of our friends and family all booked the same hotel. With three pools, it had something for everyone. And the reviews online were great.
Soon, it was time to make some final arrangements.
I found the dress of my dreams – I couldn’t wait for Mark and everyone to see it.
We chose a Greek-inspired menu for the wedding breakfast and picked a colour scheme.
All that was left was to count down the weeks!
‘I can’t wait to marry you,’ I kept telling Mark.
‘Me neither, you’ll finally be my wife!’ he smiled.
So in August last year, we all flew to Zante. Checking in, our first impressions were great.
We had 10 days to relax before the wedding, so we got into the holiday spirit.
We spent our days by the pool and at night, we sat in the bar, playing games and talking.
I got butterflies as our wedding day edged closer. I just hoped everything turned out perfectly.
But three days before the big day, I woke up and ran to the loo to be sick. I had the sweats and bad stomach cramps. I’d never felt so ill in my life. I went back to bed, but just felt worse.
In the end, I didn’t dare move from the bathroom as I needed the loo so often.
‘I’m not sure I’ll make the wedding,’ I sobbed to Mark.
‘You’re not alone,’ he said.
Some of our guests had come down with the same symptoms. Then Sophie started clutching her tummy.
‘I don’t feel well,’ she cried.
‘Not you, too, darling,’ I said.
Sure enough, she started throwing up, too, and more of our friends and family got ill.
‘What’s causing it?’ I asked, still too ill to leave my bed.
‘Is it the ice in the drinks or something we ate?’ Mark said.
But we hadn’t all had ice, or eaten the same food.
Pretty soon, it was the night before the wedding and I felt terrible.
I looked at my beautiful dress and sobbed. Would I feel well enough to get married?
Thankfully, next morning, I felt slightly better.
I got my hair and make-up done, and slipped into my dress.
‘You look incredible,’ Mark said.
‘Wish I felt it,’ I said.
At the venue, our guests put on brave faces, but everyone looked a bit green. I tried not to sway as we stood in the heat to say our vows.
I couldn’t even look at the food we’d so carefully chosen. Neither could Mark. He’d been feeling ill, too.
It sounds awful, but we were so weak we couldn’t wait for it to be over.
It was supposed to be the best day of our lives, but it was one of the worst.
We all spent the rest of the holiday in our rooms – and at home it took a while to recover.
We’d arranged a party a few days later, but most of our guests were still too ill to make it.
When someone in our group got tested, we finally knew what it was.
We’d all been infected with cryptosporidium – a parasite that causes gastric symptoms like diarrhoea and vomiting.
It’s often caught from pools that haven’t been cleaned well and contain traces of faeces.
It made sense as the few in our group who didn’t swim were the only ones not to get ill.
The thought that me, Mark, the kids and our loved ones had been made ill by ingesting someone’s poo was enough reason to throw up all over again.
Eventually, we all made a full recovery. But I’m still angry our dream wedding was ruined as the pool wasn’t cleaned properly.
We spent years saving and looking forward to our special day – we can never get it back.
But I know I’ve got my life partner in Mark. Nothing can ruin that.
A spokesperson for Thomas Cook, who Danielle and Mark booked the holiday with, said, ‘We know how important holidays are and we work hard to make sure that all of our customers enjoy their time away, so we were concerned to hear of this unusual case. When we receive information directly on these reports we will investigate thoroughly.’