Upper Heyford couple turn to Facebook after big day is ruined when brother is killed and father falls critically ill

Simon Winters and Julie Willoughby

Simon Winters and Julie Willoughby

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Blackbird Leys and Greater Leys. Call me on 01865 425403

SIMON WINTERS and Julie Willoughby were just hoping for a little Facebook help for their wedding after a brutal three months.

The couple had cancelled their original wedding date after Mr Winters’ brother was killed and his father seriously injured in a car crash in May.

And then, in a second blow on Monday, they discovered Miss Willoughby’s father was critically ill with cancer – so Mr Winters’ brother took to Facebook to appeal for help to pull together a new wedding for the couple within the next three weeks.

And in less than 24 hours they have been inudated with more than 100 offers of assistance for everything from the venue to photographers, caterers to even make-up and hair for the bridal party.

Last night 37-year-old Mr Winters said: “It is completely overwhelming.”

Desperate for Miss Willoughby to have her father walk her down the aisle, Mr Winters’ brother, Steve, posted the appeal for help on Wednesday night.

He wrote: “If there is anything you can do to help us in making this wedding happen before it’s too late then we would be so grateful.”

Steve, 35, who lives in Abingdon, said: “I just felt sorry for them and I wanted to do what I could to help them in the circumstances.

Oxford Mail:

  • Steve Winters, left, and partner Victoria Lane holding a laptop showing the Facebook post they made asking for help on behalf of his brother Simon and his fiance Julie Willoughby. Picture: OX69307 Cliff Hide

“We just want to get it done so that Julie’s dad is well enough to walk her down the aisle.”

By yesterday afternoon Steve’s post had been liked and shared by nearly 400 people, and dozens have sent messages of help.

The Upper Heyford couple are on track to get married within the next three weeks.

All that they still need is a venue and a caterer.

Oxford Mail:

  • Julie Willoughby and her dad Donald

Staff at the Oxford Hotel in Wolvercote saw the Facebook post and yesterday contacted Steve to arrange a meeting with the couple, offering them the use of a room for free.

The couple, who will be sharing their big day with their two children Jack, four, and Lily, one, and Simon’s son Harry, 10.

Simon, 37, a freelance chef, said: “When Steve told us that he’d put it online we were just looking for somebody who could give us a discount on a cake, not be offered things left, right and centre.

“We’re being offered things we didn’t even originally plan. It’s crazy, we can’t believe it.

“It shows there are nice people out there that are offering these things. It’s refreshing. We didn’t expect it.”

The couple, who have been together for eight years after meeting at Gosford Hill School, were due to marry on July 12 at the church and village hall in Upper Heyford.

But they were forced to postpone it after the groom’s brother Paul and father Peter, both originally from Kidlington but recently living in Swindon, were in a serious car crash in Swindon on May 25.

Paul, aged 33, died instantly and Peter, 61, was seriously injured.

Oxford Mail:

  • Paul Winters

Simon said they decided to delay the wedding until December “to give everyone time to grieve and to give the family something to look forward to”.

Financial problems from rescheduling their July wedding meant they could not afford to rearrange it soon enough for Miss Willoughby’s father to be well enough.

Mr Willoughby, 71, is waiting for treatment for cancer and has been given weeks to live.

Simon said: “Because of caring for my dad when he was in hospital I had to stop working, and we spent all of the money we’d saved for the wedding on bills and things.”

Miss Willoughby, 35, a service assistant at St Edward’s School, Summertown, said: “I wish we were bringing the wedding forward for a happy reason, not a sad one, but we just want one day where we can switch off and enjoy ourselves.”


WHAT people have offered so far:


  • DJ and disco
  • Chocolate fountain
  • Hair
  • Make-up
  • Photography
  • Bouquets/buttonholes
  • Cake
  • Centrepieces
  • Balloons
  • Bridesmaids’ dresses
  • Nails
  • Decorations
  • Chair covers
  • Cars
  • Wedding film
  • Calligraphy


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