Wonderland wedding celebration at St John’s Hospice in Lancaster

Bride Ruth Whalley and groom Stuart Riley.
Bride Ruth Whalley and groom Stuart Riley.
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Two dedicated St John’s Hospice volunteers celebrated their Alice in Wonderland themed wedding tea party at the popular Courtyard Café at the Lancaster hospice.

Lewis Carroll once wrote that ‘one of the secrets of life is that all that is really worth the doing is what we do for others.’

He would have been thrilled that Ruth Whalley, 69, and Stuart Riley, 78, who volunteer at St John’s Hospice have found love.

St John’s Hospice holds a special place in the hearts of the newlywed couple.

Ruth was a volunteer nurse there 30 years ago during the early days of St John’s, while Stuart’s wife was cared for and later passed away there some years ago.

The couple have been close friends for some time before their romance blossomed. Ruth, who recently moved back to the north west from Hampshire, grew close to Stuart while visiting friends in the Soroptimist Club in Lancaster.

They enjoyed dining out, coffee and trips to the cinema in Lancaster as well as walks on Morecambe promenade before starting to plan their future together.

Keen volunteers, they decided to hold their wedding breakfast at St John’s Hospice to show their friends and families why they love St John’s so much and to show what a welcoming place it is.

Ruth said: “St John’s is a critical community resource, many people know about the hospice and the day therapy centre but there are also the outreach services of the hospice at home team and clinical nurse specialists which also greatly improve the quality of life for patients and their families across the area.”

Stuart added: “Our Alice in Wonderland themed tea party was chosen because falling in love again has made us feel young again.

“We decided to go all out and make it a magical afternoon with a Mad Hatter and scenes from the book and a venue decorated with mushrooms, flamingoes, caterpillars, and playing card soldiers and floating tea cups.”

The happy couple is acutely aware of the hard work done by St John’s and requested that their guests make donations to the hospice rather than bring gifts.

The hospice is responsible for raising 70 per cent of its annual funding so donations, fundraising and the volunteer work done by people such as Ruth and Stuart ensures that the hospice care of patients and families can continue.

Four chefs and six volunteers helped to make this fairytale wedding a reality on the big day.

St John’s Hospice head chef James Foster talked about creating a suitably wonky Alice in Wonderland cake for the wedding saying, “It’s not often you are asked to make a wibbly wobbly cake – it has been an honour and a quite a challenge to make this wedding cake!”

The Courtyard Café at St John’s Hospice is open seven days a week and is open to all, not just those visiting family and friends.

As Carroll said ‘Oh, ‘tis love, ‘tis love that makes the world go round.’

Ruth and Stuart will be honeymooning in Mykonos.