A WEDDING planner who made dreams come true for hundreds of brides had her own big day ruined by a suspected arson attack.
Jo McKnight (nee Taylor) of Chester has worked at Grade 1 listed Peckforton Castle for three years and was due to marry her fiance Stefan at the venue on Sunday, June 19.
But at 4.30am, a horrified Jo, together with 70 other guests at the hotel, was evacuated after a fire was discovered in the drawing room, which had already been prepared for the next day.
She said: “The tables had already been laid with place settings, glasses, place cards and wedding favours.
“I didn’t realise how serious it was at first but the fire engines kept coming. By the time the seventh one arrived I knew it was all gone.
“It felt like we were dreaming, like it wasn’t real.”
Staff at the hotel rallied round to make sure that Jo still had her big day. The reception was arranged at the nearby Wild Boar but the ceremony itself still had to be performed at the castle because the registrar had been booked from the Cheshire East local authority and the Wild Boar is in Cheshire West.
After a few phone calls, one of the outbuildings was granted a temporary licence and the couple were married at 2.30pm. Stefan wore jeans and T-shirt and Jo wore a T-shirt and shorts with her hair in curlers.
Even as the ceremony was taking place, more than 100 firefighters were still battling against the flames.
Firefighters were later able to escort the wedding party back into their rooms on the other side of the castle to recover the dress, and a mock candlelight ceremony was later held at the Wild Boar.
Jo said: “Obviously, it was a terrible day – but in the end we had a brilliant wedding and it was all thanks to people pulling together.”
Jo is staying with her mum in Vicars Cross but her and Stefan hope to move into their new home in Upton soon.