‘Secret’ wedding 
that made dying 
wish come true

Lisa Norcliffe bought her wedding forward so her terminal ill father Ian could walk her down the aisle.' Picture: Ross Parry Agency

Lisa Norcliffe bought her wedding forward so her terminal ill father Ian could walk her down the aisle.' Picture: Ross Parry Agency

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A bride-to-be quickly arranged a second secret wedding so her terminally-ill father could walk her down the aisle – and then kept her marriage under wraps for a year until guests arrived at the ceremony she had planned first.

A close-knit circle of family and friends fiercely guarded bride Lisa Norcliffe’s secret for more than 12 months until guests gathered on the date of her originally-planned nuptials.

The 30-year-old and her now husband Jimmy Haigh, also 30, had their summer 2012 date booked when Lisa’s beloved father Ian Norcliffe was given the devastating diagnosis that his rare form of blood cancer was incurable.

A private man, Mr Norcliffe, a former butcher, only told immediate family members of his dreadful news in May last year.

Knowing he would not be alive to see her wedding this year, Lisa learned he desperately wanted to walk her down the aisle and put her secret plan into action to give her father his dying wish.

Helped by Reverend Rodney Chapman, of St Andrew’s Church in Stainland, near Halifax, the couple, from nearby Elland, made quick arrangements for the speedy wedding ceremony and flowers, a wedding dress, rings, suits and outfits – including for daughter Georgia, 10, and son Reggie, six months – were bought in the space of just three weeks.

On May 31 last year a handful of guests watched as Lisa’s proud father walked her to the altar to marry James in a moving service.

The couple then kept the wedding secret as Mr Norcliffe didn’t want people knowing the extent of his illness. Sadly, the 56-year-old was admitted to hospital the following day and died five days later.

Lisa said of her father: “He was a private man and didn’t want everyone to know how ill he was.

“It meant everything to have him walk me down the aisle.

“It was obviously special to him.”

For a year Lisa kept her maiden name and didn’t wear a ring on her wedding finger in order to keep the secret of her marriage.

She explained they didn’t tell anyone of the secret wedding due to the upheaval of her father’s death and subsequent funeral.

“With his funeral it wasn’t the right time to tell people what had happened and everyone had to deal with the grief,” she said. “Then we thought why not keep it a surprise for everyone?

“Stainland and Barkisland are renowned for not keeping secrets. I think everyone was amazed it was kept for a year. I was amazed.”

As 250 oblivious guests arrived at the couple’s “wedding” they learned of the previous ceremony in a note printed in the order of service.

Posters showing last year’s event were also put up around the church.

Lisa said: “People were so moved by it.”

The celebration at the end of June – a blessing – was cow-themed in honour of the milkman bridegroom, whose family have a farm in Barkisland, near Ripponden in the Calder Valley.

The bride and bridesmaids arrived back at St Andrew’s Church in a tractor and trailer.

“Dad would have loved it. He knew it would be cow-themed. We had told him everything about it.

“I don’t think I could have done this year’s wedding without last year’s. For me, it was like he was there.”

Guests raised money for Overgate Hospice in Elland, where Mr Norcliffe had been a day patient. The couple are also raising money for the charity Myeloma UK.

She added: “The two dates were both so important to us, but being walked down the aisle by the bravest man I have had the privilege to have as my dad meant the world to me.”

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