Seven couples are in the running to become this year’s Bride of the Year.
And now we begin the process of narrowing down the numbers as we move closer to choosing one lucky couple as our winners.
This year’s Bride of the Year competition, run by the Hartlepool Mail in conjunction with Robert Usher Photography, has a prize package which is worth just under £13,000.
One bride and groom will win a perfect day including taking their wedding vows in the Captain’s Cabin on board HMS Trincomalee on Friday, September 6.
Now comes the next stage. It’s time for our readers to have their say on the pair they would like to reach the grand finals.
You can vote for your favourite couple by phone or text.
You have from now until midnight on Wednesday, March 12, to register your vote.
Once voting has closed, the four couples with the most votes will go forward to the grand finals to be held on Tuesday, March 19.
We will be revealing those four lucky couples next week.
How you can cast your vote
It’s easy to vote for your favourite by text and phone. The deadline for voting is midnight on Tuesday, March 12, 2013. And remember, you can place as many votes as you like, plus you can encourage your friends and family to help collect votes for your favourite.
Every vote will count towards finding our finalists – keep voting!
Simply text HML WED followed by a space then the 2-digit vote number for your favourite, followed by a space and then your name, plus house name or number and postcode (max. 160 characters) and send to 61500.
For example, HML (space) WED (space) 01 (space) John Smith 1 TS24 8BX – send to 61500. Texts cost £1 plus standard network rates. This will be charged to your mobile phone bill.
Lines close at midnight Tuesday, March 12, 2013 .
Entries received after the closing date will not be counted but may still be charged.
For terms and conditions, plus details about how we may use your information for marketing and how you can opt out, see our Fair Collection Notice printed on page 2 of the print edition of the Hartlepool Mail.
Call 0901 299 6047 and follow the instructions given, leaving your 2-digit vote number.
Call Charges: Calls cost £1.02 from a BT landline. Calls from other networks may cost more and calls from mobiles may cost considerably more. Lines close at midnight Tuesday, March 12, 2013.
Service Provider: JMedia UK Ltd., London, SE1 0QX 0844 800 1188.
Terms and conditions
Standard JP Competition terms and conditions apply. These can be found at
www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk/compterms Voting lines close at midnight Tuesday, March 12, 2013.
For terms and conditions, plus details about how we may use your information for marketing and how you can opt out, see our Fair Collection Notice printed on page 2.
Finalists will be decided by a reader vote. No responsibility can be taken for any votes that are lost or delayed or anything else that prevents votes being received.
By entering the promotion, entrants will be deemed to have accepted and be bound by the Terms and Conditions.
Voting is by text and phone only, and the finalists will be the entrants with the most votes after the deadline has passed.
In the event of a tie for fourth place, the tied couples will progress to the finals.
01 Jessica Bell & Shane Beckenkrager
Shane Beckenkrager , 26, wants to marry his 22-year-old sweetheart Jessica Bell before an incurable disease leaves him unable to walk down the aisle.
Shane found out last year he had a form of hypermobility called Ehlers-Danlos Symdrome, a degenerative condition that affects one in 15,000 people.
It means his joints can dislocate at any time, and his shoulder has come out of its socket seven times since the diagnosis.
But there’s more bleak news. Shane has since been told that his condition may also be hereditary – and that means 14-month-old daughter Sakura may have it.
In the meantime, though, Shane, of Brunel Close, Hartlepool, is hoping to bring joy into his family’s life by winning the Bride of the Year competition.
02 Amy Cummins & Mark Moore
College sweethearts Amy Cummins and Mark Moore, both originally from Hartlepool and both aged 28, started their love story when they were both at Hartlepool Sixth Form College where they first met 11 years ago.
Love blossomed when they went on the same college field trip.
Afterwards, Amy plucked up the courage to text Mark and ask him out.
They then supported each other through university, moved up to Scotland for work, and then moved back to the North-East for work and to be closer to family.
A visit to Italy last year to see their best friends wedding was “so magical” it made them realise it was exactly what they wanted as well.
03 Gemma Kerr & Andrew Bazeley
IT was a family wedding that proved the inspiration for a romantic Hartlepool man to take the plunge himself.
Andrew Bazeley, 25, and Gemma Kerr, 28, were at Lake Garda in Italy for the wedding of Gemma’s brother Graham last May.
The romantic occasion was just the spur Andrew needed for him to pop the question himself – and now he’s hoping to complete his own love story by winning the Bride of the Year competition,
He bought an engagement ring in Italy, got down on one knee and asked the love of his life: “Will you make me the happiest man and marry me?”
Gemma, a cleaner and barmaid at the Burn Valley Social Club, who lives in Argyll Road, Hartlepool, said: “I couldn’t get any words out. I was so happy.”
Gemma, mum to six-year-old Madeline Kerr who attends St Theresa’s Primary School, admitted: “It was really romantic.”
Now she’s hoping to complete the love story by winning our competition.
04 Sophie McKay & John Dunbar
IT was a romance that began in a fast food restaurant.
Sophie McKay, 20, and fiance John Dunbar, 26, first met in February last year. Sophie said:
“We had known each other for a few days but we got together in McDonald’s. We ended up asking each other out.”
The couple then got engaged in May last year when John popped the question in a crowded bar.
Sophie, who is 14 weeks pregnant with her first child, said: “We were in Diablos and he just grabbed the mic, got down on one knee and said ‘Sophie, will you marry me?’ I was in shock at first but I said yes.
“There were quite a few people there and they were cheering.”
The couple had hoped to marry next year but Sophie said: “We had to scrap the plans when I fell pregnant. Weddings are quite expensive.”
Now they are putting their wedding hopes into the hands of our readers.
05 Natalie Murphy & Christopher Evans
WOULD-BE bride Natalie Murphy, 30, from the Throston area of Hartlepool, was the first entrant in this year’s Bride of the Year competition.
She first met Christopher Evans, 28, eight years ago in Chesterfield while visiting family. Romance blossomed and the couple became engaged in 2010.
She said Christopher was unable to work due to various health conditions but she works “full time as a staff nurse to give the best to my family”.
She added: “I am unable to afford my dream wedding since becoming a mum to our daughter Jessica in 2011.”
But there’s an extra reason for wanting to take the prestigious title.
The couple recently moved back to Hartlepool to be closer to Natalie’s family and she admitted: “It was a stressful time for us.
“Our love for each other has helped us to stay strong.”
06 Rebecca Ritchie & Kevin Pennick
Rebecca Ritchie and Kevin Pennick, both 23, have their own home and a beautiful baby daughter Lucy Marie.
Now, they’d love “the icing on the cake” by winning the Bride of the Year competition.
The couple first met in December 2008 but Kevin had to regularly go away on duty in his job as a driver in the Army.
“We didn’t have much contact,” said Rebecca, currently on maternity leave from her job as a mobile carer for Carewatch.
The brief moments they had were spent “going to the pictures, visiting family, anything to spend time together.”
Then in March 2010, Kevin was about to go away for a six-month tour in Afghanistan so Rebecca organised a surprise party for him.
But unbeknown to her. Kevin had his own surprise. Part way through the party, he “got down on one knee and proposed,” said Rebecca, who added: “I knew he was the one for me.”
07 Sarah Rountree & Stephen Fortune
Although Stephen Fortune is 6ft 5ins and Sarah Rountree is 4ft 11ins, they’ve hit it off in the romance stakes.
And now the Peterlee pair are hoping they can seal their romance by winning the Bride of the Year competition.
At 6ft 5ins tall, Stephen towers above his fiancee and admits: “We get strange looks from time to time but we just think it is funny.”
Tuneful Stephen, 28, declared his love for his partner Sarah, 21, by writing and recording a song for her called The Boy.
Stephen, who works as a security officer at Peterlee Magistrates’ Court, hopes one day to be a full-time musician.
He added: “I love her with all my heart.”
The couple got engaged on Christmas Day, 2011.
Stephen said: “I would love to give her the wedding of her dreams. She is such a kind person who would do anything for anyone.”