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Dating

Royal Wedding: Meet the gay couple getting married on same day as Harry and Meghan

Amy Ashenden May 17, 2018

Jon and James

A gay couple are getting married on the same day as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle – after making a bet they would tie the knot on the same day.

Jon Mansfield and James Aldridge, both artists in their forties, knew after just two months of meeting in 1998 that they wanted to get married but equal marriage was not yet legal in the UK.

When the UK law changed in 2014, and their adopted son began asking “When are you going to get married?” they decided it was time to plan the wedding.

The pair met by chance on the street celebrating New Year’s Eve in Brighton.

Just two months later, Jon gave James a ring for Valentine’s Day and told him: “I want to marry you, even though it wasn’t legal.”

In an unusual twist of fate, the pair are now tying the knot on Saturday – the same day as the Royal Wedding.

The couple back in the day

“Jon bet we’d end up getting married on the same day as the royals!” James told PinkNews.

“It’s quite bizarre it’s turned out that way, to be honest.”

Jon is more of a fan of the royals than James, but he’s “not too bothered we won’t be watching it live on the day.”

He said: “I think people moan about them a lot but I quite like a royal wedding, I think I’m a bit of a stickler for tradition.

“Kate and Will’s wedding was lovely and I like Harry, I think he’s a bit more ordinary.”

Despite giving each other engagement rings 10 years ago, they admit they never expected the law to change.

James explained: “At first we didn’t think it would become legal.

“Obviously later civil partnerships came into law, but I felt that was gay people being fobbed off and I wanted to wait until a full marriage was possible.”

Jon told PinkNews: “I was quite shocked that it came out of a Conservative government – I thought good on [former Prime Minister David] Cameron for the first time.

“The Labour government made huge changes to LGBT lives so when Cameron did something positive, it was quite a shock.”

James added: “It was coming up to our 20th anniversary of being together and we had become a proper family with a dog and a house, and we thought it’s good legally to secure our relationship.”

They will tie the knot in Wiltshire, where they live with their son and their border terrier, Moshi, who Jon jokes they’d “like to be our bridesmaid but she’s getting on a bit now.”

Jon and James’ dog, Moshi

The wedding day is expected to be “relaxed and full of kids running around everywhere” with a ceilidh band playing and their son as ring bearer.

They plan to spend their honeymoon in Greece where they’ve previously been on holiday together as a family.

20 years ago, the couple met by chance while partying with friends and found they had an instant connection.

Jon, living in London at the time, travelled down to Brighton where he got talk to James, who was visiting from Cambridge.

Jon told PinkNews: “Me and my friends had split up – my friends went off to get tickets, and I said I’d go to an off-licence and buy a whole load of booze in case we didn’t get in anywhere.

“I queued up for ages outside an off-licence and was the last person to get served that night.

“So feeling very pleased with myself, I sat on the street corner waiting for my friends and this very handsome man walked past.

“There were loads of people around but he struck me as being particularly lovely and charming.

“And then about two seconds later he walked past again, then another 10 seconds later, he walked past again.

“So that third time I thought I’ll offer him a drink and he said, ‘Yes, please.’

“We got chatting, found we had a lot of similar interests and that was it!”

But James hadn’t walked past Jon three times by mistake – he was hoping Jon would say hello.

James explained: “I was looking for a loo – very romantic – and I thought he looked very nice but you can’t just walk up to someone so I didn’t know what to do.

“He sort of looked over so I walked past a third time and then he offered me a beer so I said yes.”

Jon added: “At the time there was a huge craze for glitter gel – I had some round my eyes and he said, ‘I like your glitter,’ and I thought he was very cute.”

James and Jon

They quickly bonded over their love for art and spent the next 24 hours together.

When Jon arrived back in London, he had a message on his answerphone from James saying he wanted to meet again.

So James soon headed down to stay with Jon in Vauxhall, spending several days together “wandering down to the South Bank” and going for pub lunches.

“I don’t see the point of playing games really,” James said.

“If you like someone, you need to tell them you like them and go for it.”

Although they lived in different cities, their visits became a regular thing and “pretty quickly” they fell in love.

“I remember people talking about honeymoon periods and stuff, but we never had any of that – we met, moved in and it was all quite immediate,” James said.

“My mum was seriously ill with cancer at the time and she died a year later – it’s a bit of a cliché but when people are ill and dying, it makes you realise life is for living.

“So if you find someone you want to be with, you don’t know how long you’re going to be around, so you have to go for it.”

Jon and James

Jon grew up in Wiltshire and came out at 17 to “mostly supportive family and friends” and even celebrated coming out by handing out daffodils the next day at school.

His art teacher responded: “Oh thank god for that, we knew already.”

“I was very lucky,” Jon added.

James, however, didn’t come out until a year before he met Jon.

“Growing up there weren’t any people I recognised as me,” James explained.

“I didn’t see anyone I saw myself in – everything you heard about gay people was stereotypical views, camp comedians or HIV and AIDs.

“I didn’t feel like I fitted in.”

The pair explained they wanted to share their story to send a message to other LGBTQ people that “you can be a happy gay person.”

“We’ve been joined at the hip for 20 years almost and now there’s a small person wedged in between us,” Jon said.

James added: “We’re quite private people but when I was younger I couldn’t see anyone like me so I couldn’t see a future path for myself, so I think it’s important to share this story.

“We want to add to the visibility of happy gay people.”

More: adoption, equal marriage, meghan markle, prince harry, Royal wedding, wedding

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