A HAPPY Colley Gate couple will celebrate finally tying the knot after a 16-year engagement at a secret location planned by their children and the BBC.
Anthony Oakes and Gemma Ford will be stars of the CBeebies show Marrying Mum and Dad, after being set up by Caitlin, aged 11, Jack, aged 10, Toby, aged eight and Ryan, aged six.
The family, of Hammersley Close, passed rigorous interviews and film tests before being chosen as one of nine to feature in the series which will be screened in the summer.
The children will be shown working on the arrangements for their perfect wedding with the BBC, organising the transport, cake, venue, outfits and entertainment.
After a last minute hiccup when Toby was persuaded to spill the beans on the venue which was to include the marriage, Caitlin hurriedly switched locations.
Their parents will now marry at Dudley Register Office tomorrow, before being whisked away and after a night in a hotel will be treated to their big day on Saturday.
Excited mum Gemma, a teacher at Lutley Primary School, where all the children attend, will even be blindfolded as she is helped into her wedding outfit, such is veil of secrecy.
The 34-year-old and Anthony, aged 35, met as students at Halesowen College and started dating a few months later in April 1996.
An engagement party and a bespoke engagement ring followed in September 1997, but the wedding day was put off while they completed university degrees.
Since then “life just got in the way” said Gemma, as the couple’s children came along and redundancy for Anthony meant life-changing career paths for them.
Gemma went back to work and trained to be a teacher, while Anthony, a former quality control engineer, stayed at home to care for the children, before training as a teaching assistant and is now a high level TA at Blackheath Primary School.
Gemma added: “We always intended to get married, but we are quite laid back and life just got in the way.
“But the children are desperate for us to have one surname and, to them, it will make the family complete. “