Against the Odds

Another Friends1st wedding – together against the odds

Barry and Rebecca were married in July 2021 having met and conducted their relationship in the middle of the Covid pandemic against the odds. In writing in Barry said: “We hope the Lord will lead many more people to the one He has for them, by whatever means, and that He gives them the courage to overcome what they might see as inhibiting factors. We had some big ones in that regard, but the story has been a success.”

Take heed to his wise words.

Barry’s Story:

Background philosophy that led to success!

When I joined Heavenly Partners/Friends 1st, I accepted that I may have to travel to England to meet prospective partners. I had been a few times, but nothing worked out. I found some people saying that some of the profiles they were receiving were outside of what they were looking for. For me, while the likes of distance and denomination are understandable factors in what a person thinks they want, that then prevent them finding what they really want, other factors, such as being previously married, or how many children, seemed much more significant. While I tried, I knew from early on that the vast majority of profiles I received were not suitable, and there was no spark with those I met.

I was committed though, as I knew being part of a dating agency required it, especially if you are being sent people overseas as well as from your own country. I also realised there was no point in getting caught up in inhibitions or thinking of a million reasons why a relationship wouldn’t work. Besides, if I didn’t find the one, but formed great friendships, that in itself would make my efforts worthwhile. As it turned out, the wife of my best man was one such friendship, who I met before she met my best man. I wouldn’t have met him either if friendship alone wasn’t enough for me. Those who want relationship or nothing at all, miss out on these valuable connections. I just had to put myself out there, knowing that it wouldn’t work out with many who I met, but I only needed one that did. If I didn’t commit or engage in the process, or travel overseas, I would not have met the love of my life.

Meeting Rebecca

Rebecca and I first met in person on July 11th, 2018, after a couple of months of virtual correspondence. I had decided to go to the friends1st summer holiday which for me involved an eight-hour drive, plus a four hour ferry, only to find almost everybody on the holiday was the wrong age for me, so wondered why I was there. I decided to use the free evenings to meet in person people who I only had virtual contact with and were within a reasonable distance. The people I met that week were some I was already in virtual contact with.

Rebecca was one of these people! When we met it was the night England were playing in a world cup semi-final, so a pub packed seven deep wasn’t an ideal setting for a first date. There was no love at first sight, but there was enough to keep the interest.

Six weeks later, she became the only person I’d been in touch with who visited me in Ireland. She took the caution of not staying in the same building as me wherever we travelled. As we lived so far apart, when we met up, we were effectively compressing several weeks of dating into a couple of days, as we were constantly together for a short time, and then not at all for weeks after.

Back and forth visits continued like this for the rest of the year, and into the new year, by which time Rebecca was already interested in me, but I was much slower on the uptake. Eventually, around the end of January, and the end of my year subscription with the agency, at around the time Rebecca was thinking of giving up, the penny dropped. We took time out to separately seek the Lord on whether we should be together or not. I got deep into Genesis 24 and Psalm 119 for my studies. A couple of weeks later, after waiting until we both had an answer, we shared that we both wanted to enter a relationship. I ended my time with the agency as we decided we wanted to give the relationship every chance.

It wasn’t until towards the end of the year, as we grew closer, that long term thoughts, such as the fact that one of us would have to move country if we were to marry, became a major part of our discussions. I’m eternally grateful that she said that she would move to live in Ireland. On a snowy day in January 2020, in a hot air balloon over Cappadocia in Turkey, I popped the question. The rest of that balloon journey would have been very awkward had she said no. I met her twice more over the next six weeks, and we chose October 24th for the wedding, just before the changing of the clocks, and I did the first visit to a possible venue with her. Then plans for her to join myself and friends for dinner on the occasion of my 40th birthday didn’t happen as a result of the pandemic and the UK entering lockdown on my birthday.

That started a long time of virtual contact, trying to keep each other going by video calls, and posting each other gifts. The next time we met was August. We realised the one place we would both travel to was Northern Ireland, so we rented a place in the middle of nowhere and had a week together. Many places were closed, and there was a storm when we were there, but it was glorious. That was the last time we met in eleven months. We realised the October wedding wasn’t going to happen, but thankfully the venue offered us a Sunday in July without any extra charge above the Saturday in October. We planned to meet on the day that was meant to be, even if we weren’t married, but the second lockdown started the week we would have met, or would have got married if it wasn’t for Covid.

At the start of 2021, as the vaccines started to be rolled out, we began to have more certainty over the wedding taking place this time. Rebecca had to do it all by herself, as I couldn’t travel over or play much of a part, beyond video and email consultation, which was how venue visits, church plans, catering, DJ, car, and everything else, was decided. I couldn’t even pick a suit with my best man, having to hire mine and send him a photo, hoping it would be a good match.

Come the start of July, we were both tired of video calls, and gagging to meet in person. Unfortunately, this coincided with the rise of the Delta variant, so non essential travel from Ireland was forbidden, with the penalty of a fine of up to €2,000 and prison time. Deciding that was less than the price of the wedding, I went ahead, but nobody came with me from Ireland. The police accepted my reason for travel, so I had no fine. I met her four days before the wedding, our first time together in almost eleven months. It meant so much to be together again.

There was more last-minute drama with the wedding licence, but thankfully that resolved. On July 11th, three years to the day we first met, we tied the knot in a beautiful, mask filled ceremony in Oxfordshire. Traditional weddings were still stifled – ours had no dance floor, six to a table, and people weren’t allowed leave their table with food or drink. However, just to complete the circle started with that first date, it was a European cup final that England were playing in. By the end of the month, we were both living in Ireland and pursuing the Lord’s adventure for us ever since.

Rebecca’s Story:

I joined Friends 1st in the latter end of 2017. I was in a job and church where I wasn’t meeting anyone and knew that if I wanted to find my significant other, I would have to think outside the box. Over the coming few months I received profiles and made contact with a few people. I also knew that if I was going to make this work, I had to be committed to it and respond to contacts and get out there and meet people. It was the only way I was going to find someone! I had to make the effort, I also really wanted to develop relationships and seek fellowship with others. These did not have to be romantic relationships, friendship and fellowship was as important.

I received Barry’s profile in around April of 2018. I initially dismissed it as he lived so far away, I could not see it working out. Over the next week or so it played on my mind, as my philosophy with the whole thing was to make contact with everyone and spread the net wide. I sent an initial email to make contact and very quickly got a response back from him. We continued to ping emails back and forth over the next few weeks.

I got a surprise email in early July to say that Barry was in England and did I want to have a face-to-face meeting. And so it was that I found myself standing in a packed-out bar on a scorching July evening chatting to an Irishman! The date went well, and I knew that I would like to meet him again and get to know him better.

The following month I was due to visit some friends in Northern Ireland. I began to consider extending my trip for a few days, heading across the border to spend some time with Barry on his turf. I made those plans and that is what we did. We spent a few days together travelling around and getting to know each other better. I was beginning to learn that sometimes if you have a crazy plan, even if it is a little risky, you should just do it! Nothing ventured nothing gained!! I knew that at the end of this trip that even if we didn’t work out as a couple, I had made a friend for life and a girl can never have too many of those.

After a few more back and forth visits we sought the Lord and entered a relationship with each other in January of 2019. In the following months I began to ask a lot of questions about what it would mean if we were to marry. I had never considered living anywhere other than central England, close to family, friends and a great church community and now potentially I was going to have to leave that and start a new life in a foreign land.

This process was not an easy one. I had to seek the Lord constantly. I felt the Lord was showing me that He was my Constant and my Provider. I began to go on a journey with Him where He showed me His faithfulness. He had not let me down throughout all I had been through up to then and He wasn’t about to start now! He showed me very clearly through prayer and through Scripture that whilst everything else felt shaken and I felt that I was losing a lot, he was my Constant, He would be there with me and never let go. My Rock and Anchor!

We got engaged in January 2020, whilst on holiday in Turkey and I started to plan our wedding. Then the pandemic hit. I was left not able to see the one I loved and planning a wedding and an international move all by myself.

After a postponement we got married on the 11th of July 2021. It was a fabulous day, made all the more special by the fact I had only seen my fiancé for a week in the previous 18 months.

So here we are at the end of 2022. I have been living in Ireland for over a year now and am living my best life. Married life is not without its’ challenges, but I would urge anyone who is hesitant about the risks involved with making contacts and meeting up with people to give it a go! I’m living proof that by stepping out of your comfort zone you have everything to gain! In the words of Nike, JUST DO IT!!