What does a girl do when she has 19 wedding dresses and no idea which one to choose?

Friday 24 July 2015

Bride-to-be Jo Boase is Saga Sapphire’s Cruise Director and she asked passengers to help her make the big decision.

What does a girl do when she has 19 wedding dresses and no idea which one to choose?

Jo created a catwalk in the Discovery Lounge on the Saga Pearl II and invited the 450 guests to come along to a wedding dress fashion show where she and the ship’s dancers strutted her wedding dress maybes and maybe-nots to music including The Dixie Cups’ 60s hit Chapel of Love.

The show was hosted by The Queen’s former royal events organiser Sir Michael Parker and the guests’ applause, whistles and whoops gave Jo confidence but one huge roar of approval towards the end left everyone in no doubt which gown Jo would wear down the aisle on August 14.

The chosen dress, fortunately, was one of Jo’s top contenders so a winning vote just endorsed her thoughts.
Jo said: “It is a beautiful dress and very flattering. I want it to be a surprise for my fiancée Julien Ravon but I can confirm it is not a meringue!”

Jo has three of her favourite dresses, a three-tier wedding cake, table decorations and other paraphernalia packed into her cabin which Julien, who comes from Biarritz, will collect from a convenient port while Jo is sailing in the Med.

Why did she have 19 dresses?

Jo said: “I bought one a long time ago, but wasn’t sure. The BBC Antiques Roadshow lecturers came on board and told me they knew of a shop which sold Italian haute couture wedding dresses at really low prices in Klaipeda, Lithuania.

“Next time we docked there I visited and bought a one-off Italian designer dress. It was gorgeous - just stunning and I paid £46.50! It would be at least £2k anywhere else and afterwards I thought ‘you idiot you should have bought loads and put them on eBay’.

“When we sailed there again I went back with Hotel Director Dawn Cartwright and bought 17 including another particularly lovely one which Dawn picked out. It looked nothing on the hanger but looked really good when I tried it on.”

Jo met her ‘man from the Basque country’, on the cruise ship Bleu de France which had just been sold to Saga to become the flagship Sapphire.

In the season before the vessel was handed over to Saga, a few cabins were kept aside to enable Saga’s senior crew, from engineers to the entertainments team, to go on board to do a recce before she went into dry dock for a refurbishment.

While sitting on deck with colleagues on Bleu de France, passengers were enjoying a quiz. Jo said a question came up asking which film featured the music Johnny be Good. She said: “We couldn’t think of it and then a French voice said ‘It is Return to the Future, no?”

Jo said: “Ah yes, I thought, Back to the Future and I turned round and also thought the French man was quite dishy, actually a bit of all right.”

Jo certainly did have her back to the future in more ways than one.

“He was sitting on his own the bar on his own so I said ‘Why don’t you come over and join us?’

“He was waiting for his brother Flo who was the Bar Manager, but later he joined us and we stayed up until 2pm talking,” said Jo. “I knew then that he was ‘the one’.
“He phoned the next day and asked me to dinner but I had already arranged to meet my boss – so he had to have dinner with both of us!”

Jo added: “Julien told us he was a carpenter and I have to say I couldn’t believe my luck as I had just bought a 200-year-old lock keeper’s house in Saddleworth, West Ridings, and it needed total refurbishment. He also played in a band so would understand the unsocial hours and vagaries of the entertainment world.
“I was meant to get off the ship after the weekend but he was on for a whole week.

“My colleagues insisted I stayed on to pursue the budding romance so I changed my flights.

“Let’s say the romance blossomed,” Jo said. “This all happened in 2011, so for me life began at 40.”
Julien disembarked in Marseille and invited Jo to his home town of Biarritz. He said: “If you don’t fall in love with me, you will fall in love with Biarritz.”

Jo said: “Actually I was already hooked, although it nearly went horribly wrong.

“When he left I saved his number in my phone but somehow the #33 brought up 033 so while I was getting his texts unbeknown to me he was not getting mine.
“He was not answering straight away so I thought he was being really cool. I began to feel a fool and wondered if I had just fallen for the classic holiday-style romance.

“Julian was also upset by my lack of contact and he confided in an English girl who is in his band. She said ‘For goodness sake, just ring – you will know by her voice if it is all wrong’. Thank goodness he called.”
Jo’s work has been four months on and two months off for many years and it was something Julien understood as his brother was at sea.

Jo said: “Julien is 10 years younger than me, but at 33 he is more mature in many ways! But now we are getting married I will be doing two months on and two months off. I am eternally grateful to Saga for allowing me to do this.

“They value their staff and try to help keep home-life burning.”

The wedding ceremony will be in Biarritz. Jo said: “Julien’s father, Gerard, is a church choirmaster so this will be a Basque ceremony. The British guests will not have a clue what’s going on and neither will the French.

“There will be one English hymn, Glory, Glory, Halleijuiah, which my friends and my mum Sylvia will be singing loudly and saying thank goodness – after all I am 43 and they will be glad to see me married.”

Life on a cruise ship can often mean that crew become an extended family. Jo has worked for Captain Philip Rentell for more than 20 years and he will be giving Jo away along with her best male friend at home, Nigel Brooke.


Capt Rentell’s wife Helen will be providing the traditional blue garter and Jo will have eight bridesmaids.
She said: “I didn’t want any bridesmaids but Shore Excursions Manager Jacquie Forbes-Watson told guests that she was a bridesmaid and it snowballed.

Dawn, Jacquie, Annie Popova (Chief Purser), Kayleigh McMahon (former assistant and now Cruise Director), Lauren Henshaw (former Assistant Cruise Director), Beverley Williams (Cruise Director from a previous cruise line) and my friends from home Andrea Day and her daughter Scarlet will all be wearing wear knee-length black dresses, any style, and accessorise with cerise bouquets.”

Capt Rentell said he is delighted to be part of the ceremony. He said: “I met Jo in the 90s while working for Sun Cruises, but it wasn’t until I came to Saga in 2005 that I realised what a very special lady she is.  
“I am privileged to know her as a good friend, so I was both flattered and honoured when she asked me to assist in ‘giving her away’ on the day of her marriage. It is a duty I look forward too immensely.”
After the ceremony the 100 guests will go to the Theatre de Nature for a traditional Basque medieval-style banquet. Jo said: “We have booked the venue until 7am so it will be an all-night party.

“About a dozen band members will bring along their instruments for a massive jam and we have arranged for the local boulangerie to bring croissants at 4am.”
Now that’s what you call a wedding party!

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