I missed my own wedding – and it cost me my man as well as thousands of pounds…

As the make-up artist dabbed foundation over my flushed face, I tried to relax. After all, this was supposed to be the happiest day of my life, not the most stressed.

So, I forced myself took deep breaths as she swept the brush across my cheeks and applied mascara to the tips of my lashes. Slowly, I could feel myself getting calmer. Only then –‘Excuse me, a harried voice asked. ‘But do you think you could give me a hand here?’

She’s only doing her job, I told myself as I was once again cast aside for a customer. It was my own fault for not getting a proper make-up artist for my wedding day and opting for the free option in my local department store to save a bit of cash, instead. Only it had taken much longer than planned…

Eventually, she’d finished. Smiling broadly, she handed me a mirror.
‘So, what do you think?’ she said. ‘Happy?’
I almost cried. With the layers of caked-on make-up already pooling in the fine lines of my face, I looked awful. Nothing like me at all. But what could I do? It was a freebie, after all.

‘Great,’ I said, gathering up my things and fleeing before the tears started. ‘Thank you.’

Truth was, what was supposed to be mine and Darren’s dream day was already turning into a bit of a nightmare.
Darren and I had been together for two years. We’d met online; what with me being really into music, the pic he’d posted of him playing the drums had totally won me over.
We hit it off straight away. But when he proposed five weeks later, I was unsure. As much as I liked him, it all felt too soon. After all, I had to consider my kids, Alexander, now 20, Grace Isabella, seven, and Max, six.

‘Let’s just wait a bit, hey?’ I said. ‘Get to know each other a bit more.’
So, we did. And when he asked me again on Valentine’s Day, I couldn’t have been more delighted.

‘Yes!’ I said, proudly showing off the aquamarine ring – my birthstone – that he’d bought me.

We set the date for the following July and started planning in earnest. Neither of us particularly wanted a big wedding but it started gathering momentum. Soon, the guest list was topping 80.

Darren wanted us to get married in the church where he had been christened and his parents had tied the knot.

Some 25 miles from my house, it wasn’t exactly local but –
‘Fine, if it’s important to you, I’m happy with it,’ I said.
Over the next 17 months we penned invites, I chose my dress – a beautiful 1920s design in crystal-encrusted duchesse satin that set me back £2,000 – booked the photographer, ordered the cake and arranged the reception.

Slowly, the day rolled around. The night before the wedding we had a rehearsal. Everything went to plan but afterwards –
‘See you tomorrow then,’ Darren said, kissing me goodbye.

He was superstitious, thought we shouldn’t stay together the night before the wedding because it was ‘bad luck’ so was sleeping at his mum and dad’s, near to where he lived.

I couldn’t help wishing he’d change his mind. Although we didn’t live together I was used to having him stay over several times a week. I could have done with his help with the kids.

As I drove home from town, wincing every time I caught a glimpse of my overly made-up face in the mirror, I mentally thought of everything else I had to do before 3pm when the service started. It was 1.30pm already.

First though, I thought as I got out of the car; reapplying my face.
Only as I pushed open the front door, I was greeted by the sight of my two youngest jumping on the settee in their pyjamas. Alexander was our Best Man and had been already picked up by Darren while I was in town.

‘What’s going on?’ I asked my parents who were quietly having a cup of tea in the kitchen. ‘I thought we’d agreed; you were getting them dressed, taking them to the hotel with you and I was meeting you there?’

‘About that,’ Dad said. ‘We’ve been having a think. It’s going to cost a far bit in a cab and well…’

‘We’ve decided not to come,’ Mum interrupted. ‘We can celebrate with you another time.’
I couldn’t get my head around it. I knew they were exactly overjoyed at the thought of the wedding but I never expected this… ‘But it’s my wedding day…’ I said.
‘And you chose a venue that’s a long way away,’ Dad said. ‘So, we’re going home.’

I didn’t want to get myself in a state by arguing with them so : ‘Forget it,’ I said. ‘Just go. I need to get the kids there or we’re going to be late.’

Hastily scrubbing off my awful make-up, I piled them, their outfits, the cake and the flowers in the car, trying to stay calm even though I knew I was running desperately late.
‘We’ll just get ready there,’ I told them, taking deep breaths.

Without help I struggled to do everything anyway, especially with my fibromyalgia. It was so debilitating. With chronic muscle pain, severe fatigue and decreased energy, most days were a struggle.

Eventually, we made it to the hotel Darren had booked for us to spend our honeymoon. I looked at my watch; 1.50pm. Time was getting tight…

‘Everything OK?’ our photographer asked worriedly as she hurried through the foyer to meet me. ‘I thought you’d be in your dress now.’
‘So did I,’ I said, fighting back tears.‘Let’s just get to the room and I can help,’ she said kindly.
But at reception, there was a problem. The staff said the room had not been paid for. I was refused access to the room to dress while they looked into it.

I was really panicking now, knew that the guests would be arriving at the church as there was now just 50 mins to go before the 3pm ceremony. I started to cry.

Then my mobile beeped. It was a text from my bridesmaid. She was sorry, but she was going to have to bail; her kids were sick and she wasn’t going to make it. I couldn’t believe it. What else could go wrong?

Sobbing, I was finally let into the room – only to find that in the rush I’d left Grace Isabella’s flower girl outfit at home across the other side of town. And the now the vintage car I’d booked had already arrived to take me to the church.
‘Oh my God!’ I cried in frustration.

Frantic, I called Darren.
‘Everything’s going wrong. I don’t think I’m going to make it,’ I wept. ‘I’m not even dressed.’

‘But you have to,’ he said, the panic rising in his voice. ‘All the guests are here.’

‘What do you want me to do?’ I sobbed.
The vicar had said he could still marry us if I got there in ten minutes. I agreed to take my dress with me and put it on at the church.

But when I went to get into the car – being vintage it had no seatbelts. The driver looked at my kids and looked at me in confusion.

‘They weren’t supposed to be here,’ I gabbled as he looked on, no doubt wondering how on earth he could put two young children in a car with no seatbelts.

‘Just come in your own car,’ Darren said angrily when I called him again. ‘And for God’s sake, hurry up!’
But by now I was so stressed and upset that I was on the edge of a panic attack, barely able to breath let alone drive with two hyper kids….

‘There’s no way I’ll get there in time,’ I wept. The church was 20 miles away.

‘I’ll help you get everyone in the car,’ the photographer offered, obviously feeling sorry for me.
‘Thank you,’ I said. ‘But it’s hopeless.’
I decided to give up on the church, drive straight to the turn of the century hall where we were holding our reception. When I’d calmed down enough, I drove first back to my house to pick up Grace Isabella’s bridesmaid dress and get them dressed, then to the reception.

As I pulled into the huge sweeping driveway in my Ford Focus, my wedding dress still in the boot, my heart sank. Everything should have been so different. I should have arrived on the arm of my new husband, everyone clapping and smiling.

Instead, most of the guests had already gone home and Darren was livid.
‘How could you?’ he said. ‘How could you just leave me standing there on my own?’

‘I’m sorry,’ I wept. ‘Please forgive me.’
Darren was in tears too. How could it have gone so wrong after the rehearsal the night before had been perfect?
‘Excuse me,’ the DJ said, butting in. ‘I’ve not actually been paid yet.’

Darren flung an envelope at him and then turned on his heels.

‘Please don’t go,’ I begged. ‘Stay. We can talk it over; sort it out.’
But he went back to his parents, refusing to spend the night with in our honeymoon suite. Our £12,000 day was in tatters.

Suddenly, I realised how exhausted I was. ‘Come on,’ I said wearily to the kids. ‘Let’s go home.’
But after I’d dropped them off and left them with Alexander, I went back to the hotel.
‘Please come back,’ I begged Darren in a series of texts.
And eventually…’You came!’ I cried.

But he was so distant. Instead of falling asleep in each other’s loving arms, I cried myself to sleep.

We gave it our best, stayed for the two nights we’d booked for our honeymoon, but it was useless. Our disaster wedding day had caused a huge rift that we just couldn’t seem to overcome.

While the rest of our lives returned to normal, it loomed over us like a storm cloud. Then the excuses started. ‘Sorry, I won’t be over this week. I’ve got too much work on.’

As the weeks passed, he came over less and less. By May, he’d stopped altogether, was living with his parents in Leigh-on-Sea. I had to face facts; whatever we’d once had was long gone.

But it was so hard… I missed him desperately.
On what should have been our first wedding anniversary I put my dress on and posed for pictures in the park.

The kids had never seen me in it and were always badgering me to show them. It was also my way of grieving for the wedding I should have had…Plus, I’d only just finished paying it off.

I felt so devastated to have missed my chance of happiness. I’d still do anything to turn back the clock but Darren has moved on with his life. He just couldn’t forgive me for what he saw as me jilting him.

I was recently diagnosed with a genetic condition which causes joint pain, severe fatigue, general weakness, and exhaustion. I hope this helps explain to Darren why I missed my wedding. Everything was so overwhelming.
It kills me think that we should have been a happy family now. Instead, I’ve never felt so alone.

Darren said: ‘Everything Nichola said is true. I was devastated by what had happened on our wedding day. We would still be together now if everything hadn’t gone so wrong.

‘In hindsight, I wished that I had insisted on a more low key simple wedding that would have been less stress and pressure for Nichola. She always did take on more than she could cope with and didn’t like asking for help or support – and maybe she felt unable to because we’d not always got on so well with each other’s families. And I’m annoyed that the church couldn’t give her more leeway to get there because they had other weddings back to back.

‘While I do have sympathy for how she had just gotten too overwhelmed on the day, I can’t help thinking that Nichola could’ve done more to get there; I didn’t care if she didn’t have the dress or make up right, I just wanted to get married. I feel sad that she hadn’t had more support from friends and family that might have got her through.

‘We tried to stay together after but everything had happened had led to irreconcilable differences and ultimately I had to make the decision to end it. Looking back, perhaps it all happened for a reason. I still care for Nichola but after what had happened I know it could never work. I wish her well for the future and hope she meets someone nice and kind.

‘My advice to others? Don’t worry about a big wedding, just please yourself.’