Married at second sight
WHO says romance is only for the young or that there is no such thing as kismet?
Paul and Lorraine Lannen (nee Wilson) used their joint 70th birthday party in December as cover for their surprise wedding.
"It was absolutely superb," said a still-chuffed Paul.
Lorraine agreed that they hadn't wanted a formal church or registry office wedding.
"It was just what we wanted - just like a big party with all our friends," she said. It is a party that, on Lorraine's suggestion, also raised $700 for Rotary's Water for the West.
"At our age and having been together for 14 years, we've got a home we love and everything we need, so we asked people to donate instead of buying us birthday presents," Paul said. It's an action in keeping with the couple's values and the joy they get from helping others.
Both volunteer for Rosies street outreach, Paul is a mainstay of the Nerang Men's Shed, and former midwife Lorraine took a year's long-service leave to work with indigenous communities in Katherine and Alice Springs before retiring.
But it was only after Paul had welcomed everyone to the party that the "forgetful" septuagenarian remembered to let them know they were also there for a wedding, and introduced them to the wedding celebrant.
"I think half of them cheered and half cried," Paul said.
The wedding had been a long time coming in more ways than one. Paul had asked Lorraine to marry him about eight years ago at the Eiffel Tower and, despite the romantic Paris setting, was told not to be silly and that they didn't need a wedding.
"Then she finished up asking me!" Paul said.
And all it took was an electrocution as the catalyst.
Late last year, Paul received third-degree burns to his hands after an accident at home and was lucky to be alive thanks to Lorraine's quick thinking in turning off the electricity.
Shaken, Lorraine decided that perhaps it was time to get married. But that is the sequel to this story, which actually began back when the pair were just teens.
"She was my first girlfriend at 16," Paul said.
Lorraine was from Kyogle and Paul from Casino, and when he joined the air force and went to Vietnam, they lost touch, falling in love and marrying other people.
Lorraine's first husband had sadly died of cancer and Paul had separated from his wife when, as a pool builder, he met a client who had grown up in Kyogle and happened to still be friends with Lorraine.
After he mentioned his first girlfriend, she quickly rang Lorraine to let her know, then called Paul in from the pool, saying only "there's someone on the phone for you". Little wonder this couple likes surprises, because 17 years later they tied the knot, never having taken their second chance for granted.