When Asda Widnes colleague Katie Gilbert planned her dream wedding, she didn’t anticipate that she would be spending it under lockdown.
Both 25-year-old Katie and her fiancé Curtis Rourke, who's 27, were devastated when they realised their planned date of 23rd May could no longer go ahead.
Kind-hearted colleagues at the store knew how much the ambient section leader had been looking forward to her big day, so they planned a secret bash to cheer her up.
Katie, who has worked at the store for a year, had no idea manager Ruth Houghton had contacted her mum, fiancée and friend to plan the surprise. They had laid on a buffet, created a 'top table' in the staff canteen, sourced a cake and had written speeches.
They even found a singer to entertain guests and a colleague to dress as a vicar – all to make it feel just like the real thing.
She says she had no idea anything was happening and was completely blown away by the kindness of everyone at the store. She was just about to pay for her lunch at the till when a Section Leader came around the corner in a full suit and tie and announced that he had come to escort Katie to her wedding breakfast.
She said: "I started to get a bit emotional then. We went up to the Canteen and I saw the sign on the door ‘welcome to Katie & Curtis’ celebration.’ I was so overwhelmed that when I walked into the room I just put my head in my hands and started to cry. I didn’t even notice Curtis, my mum and my friend were standing there. When I saw the effort everyone had put into it I just couldn’t believe it.
"Peter, one of the security colleagues, dressed up as a vicar and a girl who works on checkouts and is a singer provided the entertainment. Everything you can think of they had sorted. There was a top table with a centrepiece. Shaun, the Admin Manager, had us all crying with his speech. I told him that my dad might need to borrow his speech. Everything about the afternoon was perfect and it really cheered us up."
She added: “I had no idea. I had tried to go in the canteen that morning and the Cleaning Manager said that I couldn’t go in because they were polishing the floor. I’d been going round all day telling colleagues to turn around and go back other way!”
Katie, who has been with Curtis for six years, says that having to move her wedding was devastating, but now she has more than 12 months to look forward to the rescheduled date in July 2021.
Katie said: “I’ve been a bit emotional but when I’m at work I can forget about it. Everyone has been coming up and asking me if I’m okay. We have a little board in the house that counts down the days and it’s gone from so many days to go, right back up to more than 400. We’re lucky because everyone can still make the new date and we have another year to look forward to it.”
She says her colleagues at the store are like family and are the ‘best people’, but never imagined she would receive so much support.
"It’s a small enough store for everyone to know each other and feel like family,” explains Katie. “They’re just the best people I have ever worked with. My mum works at Runcorn store and they called her up a couple of days before and she put them in touch with Curtis. Normally he can’t keep a secret, so he’s managed to do quite well to keep this quiet!”
Ruth Houghton, Widnes Store Manager, said: “Katie has had to move her wedding from this weekend until next July. Despite this huge disappointment, she has been in work every day, leading her team and always with her smile on her face.
"We wanted to do something special to let her know how much we appreciate her, so we secretly arranged a wedding breakfast and sourced decorations, a cake, a wedding singer and a vicar. We even had speeches and social distancing dancing!
"I have been doing this job for a long time and I was overwhelmed by my team's resolve to create a special day for Katie. It was great to see Katie's reaction and how our small gesture made such a big difference.
“It’s like we had a real wedding in the store. We’re all still talking about it even now.”