Bride & Prejudice! A father who won’t believe his son is gay and a mother who wants her daughter to marry an Asian man… meet the families who say Marry him? Over my dead body!
- John Fareham, 59 is a local councillor in Hull and his fiancee Dehenna is just 24
- Divorced builder Rob has a mother who doesn’t believe his new fiance is a man
- Jamie and Shaaba, 23, are inseperable but her Muslim parents won’t accept him
- New Channel 4 show Bride and Prejudice looks into couple’s parent problems
There is no attempt to gloss over the relatively advanced age of the groom. He certainly doesn’t try to pass himself off as younger than his years.
Indeed, John Fareham, a 59-year-old local councillor in Hull and the former Lord Mayor of the city, jokes about his creaky physical state.
‘I did manage to get down on one knee to propose and at my age the difficulty is getting up again, but I managed it with a spring in my step.’
John Fareham, 59, is a local councillor in Hull. Parliamentary candidate Dehenna Davidson is just 24 and has never had a serious relationship, but the couple are getting married
His bride Dehenna, who is just 24, tries to sum up why this — her first serious boyfriend — is the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with.
‘I don’t know if you can always put your finger on what it is about this person that you love,’ she says. ‘We just click. I couldn’t think of anyone I’d rather spend my time with. I have no doubt that he’s going to be a great husband.’
But not everyone is as chilled out about a union that involves a 35-year age difference.
Dehenna lost her dad at 13, so the main father figure in her life has been her grandfather Paul, who is just eight years older than the man she is going to marry. It’s fair to say he is not thrilled about the union.
‘Initially, I wanted to go out and strangle him,’ says Paul, who is a no-nonsense truck driver.
In fairness, he looks as if he could easily strangle the bespectacled and besuited John, a gentle and bookish type.
‘I know you’ve got your Rod Stewarts and your Mick Jaggers, but I don’t understand why she’d be so attracted to him,’ Paul rages, baffled as to why his pretty granddaughter would want to marry such a man. ‘She’s young enough and pretty enough to be with someone her own age.’
John, Dehenna (who is also known as Dee) and Paul are three of the people who are taking part in a rather jaw-dropping new documentary series on Channel 4 which revolves around couples who want to marry even when the idea of their union horrifies their families.
Bride & Prejudice follows six couples whose choice of partner has not gone down well with their inner circle, filming them in the build-up to their weddings as tension rises.
Chloe and Jack (pictured) have been together for two years. But her mother Debra, from Aldershot, won’t accept him after she brought him home claiming he was an orphan with nowhere else to go
Will parents who strenuously object to their offspring’s partner actually attend? Will Paul fulfil Dee’s wishes and not only attend the wedding, but give a speech in place of her late father?
Each family has a different reason for not wanting the wedding to go ahead, whether it be the couple’s gap in ages, racial or religious differences, or because the chosen partner is the wrong sex.
So heated do the arguments get that you do end up wondering if there will be any weddings at all to celebrate by the end. Yet the more we get to know John and Dee, the more they seem genuinely smitten.
They met when Dee, then a political researcher from Sheffield, attended a campaign event he was speaking at. It wasn’t love at first sight.
‘He said ‘hello’ and was very pleasant before waving me on to get on with work, which is very John-ish really,’ she says.
Their paths crossed several more times, but they insist they were just friends for a whole year before their relationship turned serious.
‘At first, you start realising that something might be happening here, but I put it out of my mind,’ admits John. ‘The idea was absurd. It’s the cliche isn’t it, a man of my age and a younger woman.’
John has been married before, but divorced for 20 years. ‘I thought at my age it was never going to happen again.’
Actually, they make a very well-suited couple. Dee seems older than her years, at least in attitude if not looks, but both admit they knew they were walking into the lion’s den — not least because of John’s public profile and Dee’s own political ambitions.
During their engagement, she stood for political officer herself, as the Tory candidate for Tony Blair’s old Sedgefield seat.
Rob (left) has already been married to his childhood sweetheart. But his mother refuses to accept that his new fiance Simon (right), 31, is a man – not a woman
She has some experience mixing with the more fusty element in the party, having spent a year working as an assistant to Jacob Rees-Mogg.
When her relationship raised eyebrows on the campaign trail, she said: ‘Age is but a number.’
In this programme, she admits even she had reservations.
‘There is a stigma,’ Dee says. ‘You have the thing of the younger woman with quite a wealthy older guy. You think, ‘Is that what people are going to think of me?’ ‘
John shakes his head violently. He certainly isn’t in Mick Jagger territory in terms of wealth, either.
Then there is the question of children. Her grandfather is visibly distressed at the idea that she will have John’s children, given that by the time those children are at school, he will be approaching retirement age.
‘I would like Dehenna to have children, but not with John,’ says Paul. ‘He will be taking the children to school with everyone thinking he is the grandad.’
There is no doubt from the off that this wedding is going ahead, and, despite his reservations, Paul has agreed to attend.
However, Dee is desperate for him to give the marriage his seal of approval by giving a speech.
Yet even on the morning of the wedding, when she is spinning around in her ‘Cinderella shoes’, he has not decided if he can do that. Other stories of conflict are interwoven over three episodes in the series.
Over in Cambridgeshire, the parents of builder Rob, who is 38, are having real trouble getting their heads around his forthcoming wedding.
They have already attended one wedding as parents-of-the-groom.
Jamie and Shaaba, 23, from Essex, have been inseparable since they were 16. But her strict Muslim parents refuse to accept him and want her to marry within her community
Rob had been with the same girlfriend from the age of 16 and married her seven years later, their marriage producing two boys. But it ended after only three and a half years.
When Rob announced that he was seeing someone again, his mum’s reaction was a breezy: ‘Who is she this time?’ But it wasn’t a ‘she’, it was a ‘he’.
When we meet Rob and his new partner Simon, 31, who met via online dating, his parents are not only in shock, but denial.
While Rob is fuming about the fact they can’t get excited about napkins and floral arrangements (‘I wouldn’t say they’ve taken a back seat; they’ve taken no seat’ he says about their attitude to the wedding), they still can’t process the fact that their son is suddenly (in their eyes) gay.
Watching the filmed encounters between mother, father and son does make you rather feel like you have stumbled into an Alan Partridge sketch, such is the cringe factor. The differences between the generations are laid bare.
‘You don’t wake up one day and think, ‘Oh I wonder if I’ll have a gay son,’ ‘ admits Rob’s dad Steve. ‘It just lands on your doorstep and you have to deal with it.’
Suffice to say they are dealing with it very badly. Neither has been able to tell their friends that their son is gay, or share the happiness of the forthcoming wedding.
‘I feel a sort of embarrassment,’ admits Steve. ‘It’s not like going around saying, ‘I’ve won the lottery’ is it? I’m dreading the moment where the minister says ‘you may now kiss the . . . the groom . . . the bride . . . the what?’ ‘
The core of the problem is they simply don’t believe their son is gay. ‘If he was a genuine gay you would notice it from a very early age,’ says Steve. ‘Limp hands,’ nods his wife, Linda who cares massively what the neighbours think.
They reminisce about how clearly heterosexual Rob used to be. ‘When he was growing up he used to bring some cracking birds round,’ says Steve.
There’s an extraordinary showdown when Rob confronts them and they tell him that it isn’t just them that don’t believe he is gay.
‘Nan doesn’t believe it either,’ they say.
‘Well she will when she sees us snogging at the wedding,’ hits back Rob.
His dad can’t countenance this. ‘You aren’t going to do that, that’s . . . ‘ he splutters.
‘Disgusting?’ volunteers Rob, exasperated and hurt.
His husband-to-be, whose own mother is excited about the wedding, is furious.
‘I want to scream from the rooftops for them to sort themselves out,’ says Simon. ‘If they can’t support us, I’d prefer them not to be there, but he (Rob) wants them there regardless.’
One of the most astonishing stories, which unfolds in Essex, involves the union of 23-year-old students Jamie and Shaaba, who met at the age of 16 and are inseparable.
But Shaaba is from quite a strict Muslim family and her mother Faye always wanted, nay expected, her to marry a man from within their Mauritian community. Jamie certainly does not fit the bill.
‘I’m not meaning to be racist but he is . . . white,’ says Faye, who is an estate agent and quite happy to go on camera to share her disgust.
She has four daughters and has always been quite strict about the boyfriend issue.
‘We are old-fashioned. We believe in no sex before marriage, we don’t encourage boyfriends.’
Shaaba sighs. ‘Mum has a very set idea of the sort of man she wants for me. Someone who is brown, basically.’
But there is another objection that perhaps goes some way to explain the strength of Faye’s disapproval.
We only learn halfway through the programme that Jamie is also transgender.
He was not only born a girl but, when his friendship with Shaaba began, it was very much a female friendship.
‘She came and stayed in our house,’ says Faye, explaining that there is no way, under her strict no-boyfriend rules, that she would have countenanced such a thing had she known there was a relationship imminent between the two — or a sex change in the offing.
Yet within six months of meeting Shaaba, Jamie had had an operation to remove her breasts and was taking testosterone to transition to a male. Shaaba has no issue with her partner’s past.
‘You are a man. I am a girl. This is a straight relationship,’ she says to Jamie on camera.
Quite a bit for a mother to get her head around, though, and, frankly Faye can’t. ‘It is heartbreaking,’ she says, as the wedding preparations begin. ‘I was very angry. I even disowned her at one point.’
Where will they go from here? As Shaaba puts it: ‘If anyone else was racist and transphobic and homophobic, I would drop them no question. But she’s my mum.’ And yes, she wants Faye at her wedding.
As does 20-year-old Chloe, who lives in Aldershot. She has been with her partner Jack, also 20, for two years.
He proposed just six months after they got together and they are now, despite not having any money, deep in confetti and table setting plans.
Her mother Debra is appalled. ‘I just didn’t think she would be at this stage at this age. I thought she would be getting a steady job, a driving licence.
‘They are all swept up in the moment and I don’t think Chloe is mature enough to make an informed decision. For that matter, neither is Jack.’
There is no way Debra, who herself married young — and lived to regret it — will support this marriage. ‘I’m prepared to say, ‘I’m your mother and no, you can’t do this,’ ‘ she says.
Chloe pulls a face. ‘I don’t think we are too young to get married. I think that’s a load of c***.’
As their story unfolds, you can see why Debra has such concerns.
She first met Jack when Chloe brought him home as a friend, explaining he was a homeless orphan and had nowhere else to go. Big-hearted Debra let him move in, making sure she grilled her daughter on the true nature of their relationship.
There was no romance, was there? Chloe assured her there was not.
The truth only came out when she saw her daughter had changed her Facebook status to ‘in a relationship’, and she went into her bedroom to confront her, finding her and Jack cuddled up on the bed.
It then emerged that Jack’s parents weren’t dead after all, and he had concocted that story to get a place in a hostel.
Little wonder Debra has objections to this wedding.
Most of these weddings do go ahead, we can reveal (although we have agreed not to reveal whether the disgusted relatives all attend), but the programme is a timely reminder that along with the confetti of a wedding also comes conflict.
Happy ever afters sometimes seem a long way off.
Bride & Prejudice is on Channel 4 at 9pm tomorrow.
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