Bride keeps big day secret for sake of her dad

Wedding of Lisa Norcliffe and James Haigh
Wedding of Lisa Norcliffe and James Haigh

A bride-to-be arranged a secret wedding so her terminally-ill father could walk her down the aisle - and then kept her marriage under wraps for a YEAR until guests arrived at her planned ceremony.

A close-knit circle of family and friends guarded Lisa Norcliffe’s secret for more than 12 months that she had wed Jimmy Haigh, 30.

The couple, of Elland, had their summer 2012 date booked when Lisa’s father Ian Norcliffe was given the devastating diagnosis that his rare form of blood cancer was incurable in May 2011.

A private man, Mr Norcliffe, a former Stainland butcher, only told immediate family of his news.

But knowing he would not be alive to see her wedding this year, Lisa, 30, learned he dearly wished to walk her down the aisle.

Rev Rodney Chapman, of St Andrew’s Church in Stainland, made quick arrangements for the “secret” wedding ceremony - and flowers, wedding dress, rings, suits and outfits - including for daughter Georgia, ten, and son Reggie, six months - were bought in the space of three weeks.

On May 31 2011, a handful of guests watched as Lisa’s father walked her to the altar of St Andrew’s Church in Stainland to marry James in a moving ceremony.

Sadly Mr Norcliffe, 56, was admitted to hospital the following day and died five days later.

Lisa said: “He was a private man and didn’t want everyone to know how ill he was.

“It meant everything to have him walk me down the aisle. It was obviously special to him.”

For a year, Lisa kept her maiden name and didn’t wear a ring on her wedding finger, to keep up the secret.

Lisa said: “Stainland and Barkisland are renowned for not keeping secrets. I think everyone was amazed it was kept for a year. I was amazed.

As the 250 guests arrived at the couple’s “wedding”, they learned of the previous ceremony in a moving note printed in the order of service. Posters showing last year’s ceremony were also put up around the church.

Lisa said: “People were so moved by it.”

The ceremony at the end of June - a blessing - was cow-themed in honour of the milkman bridegroom, whose family have a farm in Barkisland. The bride and bridesmaids arrived back at St Andrew’s Church in a tractor and trailer.

Lisa said: “Dad would have loved it. He knew it would be cow-themed. We had told him everything about it.

“I don’t think I could have done this year’s wedding without last year’s. For me, it was like he was there.”

Guests raised money for Overgate Hospice, Elland, where Mr Norcliffe had been a day patient.

She added: “The two dates were both so important to us, but being walked down the aisle by the bravest man I have had the privilege to have as my dad meant the world to me.”