My wedding's off and now I'm planning a proper party!

My wedding’s off and now I’m planning a proper party! Like so many brides, bra tycoon Michelle Mone’s big day has been cancelled but she’s not complaining about the delay

  • Michelle Mone’s wedding was meant to take place at the House of Lords soon
  • The budget was off-the-scale and the dress and bridesmaids were ready to go
  • Like so many others, Michelle had no option but to pull the plug on her big day

A few weeks ago, when we were less careful with vocabulary, we might have described Michelle Mone’s wedding as having been planned with military precision. It was certainly an event she poured everything into — money, heart, trademark organisational zeal.

The ceremony this month was to take place at the House of Lords (she was made a Conservative peer in 2015; full title Lady Mone of Mayfair), with guests then decamping to one of Britain’s grandest hotels.

The budget was off-the-scale, unsurprising since the bride is worth an estimated £20 million, while the groom is said to be worth closer to a billion.

The dress, designed by couturier Suzanne Neville, was ready, as was the body to go in it.

A few weeks ago, when we were less careful with vocabulary, we might have described Michelle Mone’s (pictured) wedding as having been planned with military precision. It was certainly an event she poured everything into — money, heart, trademark organisational zeal

Michelle, 48, had famously lost 8st since she came to public attention as head of the Ultimo bra empire (unofficial title: Baroness Bra). The final 11lb that would see her ‘dress-ready’ for her wedding to fellow businessman Doug Barrowman, had also been conquered. ‘I had the final fitting then this all kicked off the following weekend and we realised the seriousness of what was happening,’ she says.

‘Everything was done. Five bridesmaids dresses. Seven ushers. Everything was boxed up, ready to go. My dress was ready to step into, and so was an evening gown. We had booked a big honeymoon in the Far East. We were going to go to Singapore and Bali. Guests were flying in from all over the world, all of our family and friends. It’s the biggest dream isn’t it — having everyone together?’

And then came Armageddon — or the fear thereof.

Like so many brides at the moment, Michelle had no option but to pull the plug on what she hoped would be the biggest and happiest day of her life. ‘There was a day or so when, like everyone, we were gauging what was happening. We were speaking to the chapel at the House of Lords, and our venue, but circumstances were changing by the hour.

‘Then, two weeks ago, we got ourselves a gin and tonic and sat down. We both looked at each other and agreed we had to postpone.

‘It’s heartbreaking, but there was never an option. We could never take a risk with a single one of our guests. Even if it has blown over by then, how could you? You’d never forgive yourself if anything happened.’

Events have moved on. Now every bride in the country who was expecting to walk down the aisle in the next few weeks is in the same position, with cancelled weddings, plans up in the air, hopes, dreams — and crucially for so many, if not Michelle — finances in tatters.

Michelle, 48, (right) had famously lost 8st since she came to public attention as head of the Ultimo bra empire (unofficial title: Baroness Bra). The final 11lb that would see her ‘dress-ready’ for her wedding to fellow businessman Doug Barrowman (left), had also been conquered

‘My heart just goes out to all the other couples,’ she says. ‘We don’t have the money worries, but there will be so many who have put every penny of their savings into their weddings. They will have lost deposits. I just hope hotels and venues are sympathetic, particularly to those who don’t have insurance.’

The economic fallout — even before you start thinking outside the wedding industry — is extraordinary. As well as the venues, there are photographers, caterers, florists, make-up artists all facing financial ruin.

‘The scale of it is staggering, and when we start to rebuild it’s going to be about the big companies helping the little companies, everyone pitching in.’

It sounds as if she made her own personal wedding decisions in a pretty calm, measured fashion.

‘I did. I think my business brain kicked in. When you are in business and you are in a crisis, you become quite calm. What are the facts? What can we do immediately? I was like that.

‘It was a case of ‘OK, let’s have a CTP here — a Critical Time Path. Let’s get everyone on video-conferencing.’ But I know I’m different. There will be brides out there who will still be in tears. My heart goes out to them.’

Being Michelle, she has not only come up with a Plan B for her own nuptials, but put it into action.

Yes, she has lost many thousands of pounds (she declines to be specific), but she is in what she admits is the privileged position of being able to afford to rearrange.

‘This will pass. China is coming out of it. We have set a new date, but we decided not to go for June or July, just to be safe. We’ve set a new date in August. We will get married.

‘My number one dream now is that all my family and friends come out of this. This [revised] wedding is going to cost us even more money, because at the end of all this we are going to need a bloody party!

‘Instead of getting drunk for one day and one night, we will get drunk for three days and three nights. We’ve now booked to have it over three days — a Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

‘I hope the same thing for all couples-to-be out there, that they can get all their families around them and just celebrate.’

The alternative — that, collectively, we won’t have those families with us — seems too awful to contemplate. ‘God forbid,’ says. Michelle ‘Otherwise there will be no celebrating.’

Much is talked at the moment of how we are all in this together, all gripped by the same fears. There is a tendency to scoff when the super-rich say this from their mansions, behind big gates, but in this case, it is true.

Money can only go so far; for all Michelle Mone’s millions, she is still sitting at home fretting about whether her parents will be around to see her down that aisle.

As she puts it: ‘It doesn’t buy you health, does it? It doesn’t buy you happiness. And what good is being the richest person in the graveyard?’

Michelle and Doug are holed up at their mansion in the Isle of Man. They had been planning to be in London at this time (they have another home in Belgravia), but ‘the border shut and we couldn’t get there, so we are staying put on the Isle of Man’.

Her grown-up children — she has three from her first marriage — are on the mainland, ‘not allowed to come here’. Her parents, who are 71 and 70, and in the high risk category, are at their home in Glasgow.

Her father is in a wheelchair, and has been for decades, after suffering from a rare spinal condition. Her mother is recovering from breast cancer. She had a mastectomy in December 2018 (Michelle got engaged that Christmas), followed by chemotherapy treatment. She got word the treatment had been successful just three weeks ago.

‘But obviously her immune system was affected,’ says Michelle. ‘They are both in that category where it’s imperative they just don’t go out. They are carers for each other now. I’ve been having food parcels delivered to them and telling them to wait an hour before bringing them in, then using their hand sanitiser.

‘I’ve been warning them they must not go out of the door. I’ve been absolutely screaming at them down the phone. My mum will say: ‘I will just pop to get milk,’ and I shout: ‘Don’t you dare! Don’t you dare go out that door.’

‘You have to be quite firm. They are at that age where they think: ‘Och, it’s not going to happen to me.’ ‘

It sounds like she is rather good at screaming down the phone.

‘I’m the CEO of the family,’ she says, managing a laugh. ‘Doug is the chairman. I’ve been bossing everyone around. I’ve been arranging deliveries, where I can, and telling the kids that if they don’t need toilet roll they have to see if they have elderly neighbours who do. They are all doing the right thing, which is nice. I brought them up OK.’

Her parents are stoics, too. ‘They’ve been through a lot: my Dad’s illness; losing my little brother [her brother died of spina bifida when she was ten]. As a family, we have gone through a lot of trauma. They are built for it, and know that we just have to take one day at a time. That’s what my Granny used to say, God bless her soul: one day at a time.’

Mother’s Day was the first she has spent without the whole family around her. ‘Which was unthinkable. We always have a big lunch on Mother’s Day, with everyone there. This year, we were just grateful that the postman was able to bring us cards.’

Like most families, they have quickly embraced WhatsApp groups, video-conferencing network Zoom and the like. All normal rules about the use of social media have gone out the window, too.

‘Normally, I’m strict about having the phone on silent at night. Not now. I have it on. We can be on WhatsApp at 2am.’

Michelle reverts to business-speak as she shares her advice on how we, the nation, can get through this crisis, and apologises if this sounds ‘cold-hearted’.

‘I think when you are in business — as I have been since I was 24 — you do become hard. You have so many knocks along the way. At times like this, your mind goes into business mode. And I’ve always had deadlines, plans. That is still the case now, and I think it’s helpful.’

Some of her business advice — like always keep a rainy-day fund — is a bit of the horse-has-bolted variety. Some, like ‘keep a clear head and think about how you can use your time constructively’ is more applicable.

‘On a business level, I’m saying to people, yes this is hideous, but we’ve got to focus on what we can do, focus on the positives. If you own a business, is there a way of using those two hours you are not commuting to do something that will take things forward. Sort your emails. Write a new business plan. Do all the things that normally get pushed aside when you are busy.’

She’s still furiously planning.

Michelle famously set about getting herself wedding-dress-ready with a 29-point fitness and weight-loss plan.

When we speak, she is still continuing with this — mindful that she has a dress to fit into at the end of the summer. ‘I seriously can’t be snacking now.’

It’s a flippant comment — who on earth is thinking of their waistline at this time — but perhaps a more serious one, too. She and Doug have decided to do two workouts a day rather than one from here on.

‘It’s the same with keeping fit. We can still exercise, in fact we have to,’ she says. ‘My own challenge will be keeping motivated and not getting bored and heading into the snack cupboard.

‘I used to be an emotional eater, but I know from bitter experience how that makes you feel even more depressed. You have no confidence. That ten minutes of stuffing your face can play havoc, mentally.’

Little wonder her own wedding was such a significant deadline in her life. It marked a new beginning, new body, new everything. It might seem a little trite to move into diet-speak, but in her case, it is about more than just weight loss.

‘For me, the weight represented who I was at that time. I was someone who didn’t like myself — and not just because of how I looked. I hated myself, was never happy.

‘I’m a completely different person now because I’m in a very loving relationship, but I worked life out for myself. It’s not about getting to grips with your weight; more your mind.’

Once she had sorted out her mind, she started to ‘treat the weight like a business’, making difficult choices. But she still struggles. ‘It’s a demon. It erodes confidence, happiness, everything,’ she says, of the inability to regulate what you eat.

‘Working with some of the most beautiful women in the world didn’t help either (models such as Rachel Hunter and Kelly Brook were on the Ultimo books, while Julia Roberts wore a prototype in the film Erin Brockovich).

‘For me it’s now a daily thing. I know I could go off the rails and go back there again, but I’m determined I won’t. It’s like being an alcoholic, isn’t it? I don’t want to go there.’

Hence, the charts of fitness workouts and meal-planners, even now. Maybe, especially now.

Then there is the home organisation, another thing she has thrown herself into with surprising vigour.

‘I never bothered about anything like this before, but last night I found myself clearing out the kitchen cupboards. I’d never even looked in some of them before, but there I was. It’s about keeping busy, feeling that you are doing something constructive.’

The thought of Michelle Mone on her hands and knees stacking Tupperware might underline what crazy times we live in, but there can be few who don’t hope that she — and every bride-to-be like her — will eventually get their dream day.

Her new date is now firmly in the diary, the ultimate goal to reach. ‘Then we will have that party,’ she says. ‘And by God we will all need it.’

Source: Read Full Article