Online dating: a Saga success story

25 January 2016

Joan and Iain Matthewson recently married after meeting on Saga Dating. Here, Joan tells their heartwarming success story.



A few months ago, I married the man of my dreams.

No big deal; more than 250,000 couples, of all persuasions, do the tying-the-knot business every year in the UK (despite the current trend for – as my Mum would have disapprovingly put it – ‘living in sin’.

But the union with my dearly beloved was a little different. We couldn’t have been much more mature. Iain is 83; I am 78. And we met online – the Saga Dating website.

Online dating first steps

It had been my first dabble with online dating, and I confess I was ambivalent about even trying: Iain was my first and only contact. He, however, was already something of a cognoscenti, having experienced a colourful range of adventures and encounters. All in the past now, of course.

We were both widowed, after long, incident-packed marriages. I had been on my own for 12 years, Iain for three. He has two daughters, and two grandchildren; so do I.

In my years of widowhood, I had forged a new and successful life for myself as a harpist. I had no intention of sharing my living space ever again with anyone, far less the sacrosanct retreat of my bedroom (perish the thought!). My path was set, harp by my side, towards eternity.

But when Iain and I first met in November 2013, we felt instant attraction and a sense of belonging. Unlikely as it might seem after separate lifetimes of joys, sorrows and myriad experiences, we fell in love. I had no idea this could happen in old age. I was entranced.

The relationship gets serious

So, slight adjustment. But perhaps Iain and I could be just good (very good) friends, going hand in hand into that same sunset, on his ‘n’ hers Zimmer frames.

Iain had other ideas, however. And soon, so did I.

Feeling distinctly modern, we decided to live together. We didn’t need marriage, we blithely declared. We would be better off just living ‘sinfully’ (what would Mum have said?).

But quickly we felt the pull of the signed pact, the heady promise of exchanged rings and vows. Even at our age.

And, yes, dear reader, I married him – last autumn.

An intimate second wedding

With extended families on both sides, differing expectations, and an extensive network of friends and acquaintances, we balked at the size, the expense and emotional complications of a full-scale wedding.

A small, swiftly organised nuptial ceremony was the answer. But how small? If we invited one part of the family, then the rest would follow, willy-nilly…

It had to be just us, plus the mandatory two witnesses. Not a word breathed to a soul until after the fait accompli! (We were miffed to find we had been pre-empted in our subterfuge by Helen and Rob in The Archers, and Andrew Neil – ‘the bachelor of Fleet Street’ – and his long-term lover, Susan Nilsson.)

We live in a rural, south-west Scotland, Brigadoon-type village in the middle of nowhere. But we have a huge, stylish music/art studio in our back garden… the perfect (to us) venue for our low-key mini wedding.

After giving the statutory 28 days notice for our union, we also had to have the studio inspected and passed as an appropriately dignified venue for our civil ceremony. Since we knew the feeding shed in a nearby donkey sanctuary had been recently approved as a wedding venue, we thought we were in with a chance. We were.

The council inspector beamed in delighted disbelief, and admitted he had never seen such a superb wedding venue. We are now considering renting the studio out to other incipient bridal couples: live harp music an optional extra. No need to travel anywhere for our intimate ceremony of commitment, no need for cars, or concern about the weather, or parking problems. A hop, skip and a jump across the driveway from the house, and we were there.

Coincidentally, close friends from America, Sharon and Ernie, were due to stay with us for two nights following their visit to the Edinburgh Festival. Over dinner on the evening of their arrival, we told them we were to be married the next day, and please would they be our witnesses. We also took the precaution of turning off the Wi-Fi in case Sharon broadcast the prime gossip to the rest of the world!

Our wedding day happened to be Ernie’s 85th birthday. Sharon was 79 in December. They have been married for over 50 years, an active and much-travelled couple, who ski regularly. We were a truly geriatric wedding party. I bought my wedding dress online in a sale (£28, since you ask): red, white and blue. With red accessories. Iain also bought his elegant wedding suit on the web, at an enviable discount price, along with a beautiful shimmery pale blue tie, and glorious white shirt, delicately imprinted with shadow butterflies.

I planned a celebration dinner party for the evening, devising and printing a wedding-themed menu, with a rose motif decoration.

On the morning of the wedding, we cleared both the major supermarkets in Dumfries of their entire stocks of red-and-white roses, and then rushed home to arrange the blooms in a multitude of glasses, jars and vases, throughout the house and the studio. I twisted two red roses and one white together with an unfurled paper clip, and tied a length of red ribbon round them: instant bridal bouquet.

Our cake was a delicious creamy confection, from one of the same supermarkets. Fizz was a bottle won in a recent raffle, supplemented by our usual favourite-but- modest everyday plonk. Cooking for the dinner had to be carefully timed so I did not have to flee mid-ceremony to adjust the oven.

A charming and sympathetic registrar arrived (early!) to plight our troth. She made the ceremony very special and exquisitely emotional: a wonderful weep was enjoyed by all (including the registrar). And her husband (who had come along for the ride) obligingly agreed to take a few snapshots for us.

Fortunately the ceremony was not interrupted – as we feared it might be – by the arrival of the council grass cutters with their high-powered and noisy machines (their contractual visit was overdue), or the giant tankard with our LPG order.

It was the happiest day we could have hoped for. We are still basking in its rose-tinted aftermath, and enjoying the delights of our legal and respectable late-life union. And (mostly!) the good wishes of family and friends. After their initial shock…

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