Surrounded by their family in a blizzard of confetti, smiling Jan and Rob Shakespeare begin an astonishing second marriage – against all the odds.
Because the couple’s first wedding took place in 1976 and ended in a painful divorce back in 2000.
And for nearly 15 years the pair, who had three children together, never spoke. They even stood at opposite sides of the football pitch whenever they watched youngest son Adam play.
They also managed to get through two of their boys’ weddings without saying a word to each other.
But it was tragedy that brought them back together, with Jan consoling Rob over the loss of his second wife.
It made the pair, now 61, realise life was too short for their rift to go on – and that the love sparked when they met at a Woolworths store as teenagers was still burning.
Rob says: “Jan was my first love and we will be growing old together as I definitely can’t afford another wedding – or a divorce.”
And Jan, who had the ceremony she dreamed of second time around in 2017, says: “We married in a registry office first time. This time I wore a big white dress and we got married in a church.
“Our children, 11 grandchildren and one great-grandchild were with us. It was perfect and I’m back with my best friend.”
The lovebirds first met in 1974 in the days of flares and platforms at a Woollies store in Erdington, Birmingham.
Jan worked in the office and Rob in the stockroom. Within a year they were dating.
Jan recalls: “Rob and I were just 16. I was a cashier and he was pretty much my bodyguard, going round the tills with me collecting money twice a day.
“He asked me out at a works Christmas dance. Our first date was watching a film we hadn’t realised was X-rated and there were quite a few men wearing flasher macs in the cinema.
“We had to leave but we didn’t stop laughing.”
The couple moved in together at 17. “I fell pregnant and our parents weren’t happy but it was planned,” Jan said. “We were excited about the future.
“We got married soon after I turned 18 in September 1976.
“I had a white dress, but not a proper wedding one, and I was five-and-a-half months pregnant.”
Daughter Cara was born on Christmas Day and the couple went on to have Lee, now 38, and Adam, now 35.
But 23 years into their marriage, cracks started to show. Jan was made redundant from her job in Boots and started working shifts at another company. She and Rob barely saw each other.
She says: “I absolutely loved working at Boots and I think I had a bit of a breakdown after being made redundant.
“Rob was always saying he didn’t see enough of me in my new job. I was working until 11 at night. We started arguing about that a lot and I just got fed up. I left and we didn’t speak properly again for years.”
The couple separated in 1999 and Rob filed for a divorce, which came through in 2000.
Both met new partners and Rob remarried two-and-a-half years after their split.
Rob says: “I never thought I’d find love again, but I did. My second wife was an absolutely wonderful woman.” Although Rob and Jan’s paths crossed occasionally, they didn’t speak for years.
Jan says: “Adam played football and we’d both go and watch him, standing at opposite sides of the pitch. It was strange. We even made it through two of our sons’ weddings without talking.
“Lee was married first. Rob and I were both with different people and just sat in different places.
“When our son Adam had a wedding reception, again we didn’t talk to each other.
“The only time we ever did was after we lost a grandchild. I was in hospital, crying.
“Rob put his arm around me and said, ‘It’ll be OK, sweetheart’. I don’t know why we never talked.”
That all changed in 2013 when their daughter Cara told her mum that Rob’s wife had died of ovarian cancer. The tragedy broke the ice.
“I gave him a call and offered my condolences and said I was there for him if he needed me,” says Jan. “A couple of weeks later, he gave me a call and we chatted for 90 minutes and arranged to see each other for a coffee.
“I found it was like being back with my best friend. It was so bizarre – we picked up where we had left off 15 years earlier.”
Rob says: “It was wonderful. We just started to get along like we always had done.”
The couple decided to start seeing each other again – but kept it from their children until Jan ended the relationship she was in.
She says: “We told them, ‘We have good news and bad news. The good news is we are back together. The bad news is you are only getting one Christmas present from now on!’”
Rob decided to propose for a second time to Jan on Christmas Eve, 2015.
The couple were at Adam’s house when suddenly the room went quiet and Rob got down on one knee.
The couple, who now live in Cannock, West Mids, married in 2017 at the Church of St Peter and St Paul in Coleshill, Warwickshire, in front of 50 guests.
Jan says: “It had always been my dream to walk down the aisle so we decided to do it this time. We had gospel singers too.
“We’ve still got our wedding bands from our first marriage but we decided to get new ones this time round, to mark a fresh start.”
Rob says: “When I saw Jan at the end of the aisle in her white dress, I cried.
“We decided to have our first dance to Ed Sheeran’s Perfect as it seemed to fit the situation. We even had dance lessons for it.”
Both say their relationship is stronger than ever.
“We appreciate each other so much more now than we ever did,” says Rob.
“We are the same people, but also we’ve changed a lot and I think now we can step back and realise what we’ve got in each other.
“I’d always told Jan the first time around she was the one I was going to grow old with.
“When we got divorced, I thought that wasn’t going to happen anymore. But it’s funny how life turns out.”
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