TEARS of joy flowed for Gemma Kerr - and so did the champagne as she was crowned Bride of the Year.
And now, the 28-year-old can look forward to a fantastic £13,000 wedding after winning the competition run by the Hartlepool Mail in conjunction with Robert Usher Photography.
It was a tense night on board HMS Trincomalee where a top panel of judges faced a tough task after all four couples gave themselves every chance of being crowned winners.
The four sets of finalists were Gemma Kerr, 28, and Andrew Bazeley, 25; Amy Cummins and Mark Moore, both 28; Sophie McKay, 20, and John Dunbar, 26; and Natalie Murphy, 30, and Christopher Evans, 28.
All explained why they deserved to have their perfect day including taking their wedding vows in the Captain’s Cabin on board HMS Trincomalee on Friday, September 6.
Then it was down to the panelists - Hartlepool Mail editor Joy Yates, HMS Trincomalee Trust events co-ordinator Joan Lilley, Bride of the Year 2012 Deborah Mullen, competition organiser Robert Usher and Cleveland Caterers boss Stephen Connolly.
It was Robert Usher who said: “You have all been fantastic but there can only be one winner.”
And as he revealed the winning couple, it brought gasps and tears from the winners and generous applause from the other finalists.
Bride-to-be Gemma, a mum to six-year-old Madeline, said: “I am so overwhelmed. I am totally lost for words. I cant’ believe it. This is all my dreams coming true.”
Husband-to-be Andrew, a Hartlepool refuge collector, found his mum Christine Bazeley, 47, and said: “You better start planning for a new dress.” Christine replied: “Really? That’s brilliant.”
There to give them some early advice was last year’s winner Deborah Mullen who said: “The whole experience is a wow moment and I am sure it will be for you.” And in a piece of touching ceremony, she handed a tiara from her own wedding to this year’s bride and said: “This is because you are a princess now.”
Minutes after being announced as champions, our still tearful bride phoned home where mum Joan Kerr, 53, was waiting for news.
And there were whoops of joy down the phone after the best news possible was announced - that they had won. Joan said: “I am so pleased for you both. I know how you feel about each other and you deserve this.”
Now comes the exciting part where Gemma and Andrew visit each sponsor and begin planning their big day.