“Getting married is something that we’d wanted to do for a long time and it had a very special meaning”

Hilary Diaper and Justin Grossman tied the knot at home in February 2021 thanks to staff from Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice, who pulled out all the stops to arrange their special nuptials in just three days.

Hilary and Justin with Reverend Cat Thatcher at home
Hilary Diaper and Justin Grossman were married at home by Reverend Cat Thatcher

Plans on hold

Hilary Diaper, 71, and Justin Grossman, 94, met over 30 years ago while working at the University of Leeds, where Justin was a senior lecturer and Hilary was the keeper of the university’s art collection. They decided to tie the knot in early 2020, but their plans were put on hold due to the coronavirus outbreak.

When the national lockdown was lifted during the summer, the couple were able to give notice of marriage at their local registry office and the date was set for January 2021. However, this was postponed because of the further lockdown.

An unexpected diagnosis

Their big day was due to happen in March, but towards the end of 2020 Justin became very unwell and his health deteriorated quickly. A hospital scan revealed that he had a tumour which was pressing on his spine, leaving him unable to use his legs.

Hilary said: “Justin has always been very active and energetic and even in October we were still going up to the dales for socially-distanced picnics.

“Everything happened so quickly but the minute he was diagnosed, Lisa, a Sue Ryder Nurse from the community team at Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice, got in touch with us and she’s been fantastic ever since.”

Hilary and Justin's special day

When Lisa heard of Hilary and Justin’s wish to get married she set the ball rolling to make it happen, organising for Reverend Cat Thatcher, Vicar of St. Mary’s Church in Oxenhope, to visit the couple.

Reverend Thatcher then gained a special licence from the Archbishop of Canterbury so they could marry at their home, only a few miles from Manorlands Hospice, just three days later on Sunday 21 February.

Speaking about the ceremony, the Reverend said: “I was delighted to be asked to conduct Hilary and Justin’s wedding, and to see their evident love and happiness on this special day. It was a joyful yet poignant occasion, truly reflecting those lines from the marriage vows – in sickness and in health. It was a privilege to be able to bless and pray for them.”

Hilary and Justin cutting their wedding cake

A quiet, gentle service

Hilary said: “It was so lovely that the Reverend Cat agreed to do the ceremony, which was a quiet gentle service witnessed by a good friend of mine and Justin’s eldest son from a previous marriage.

The whole sitting room was filled with flowers from family and friends and Cat did some appropriate readings including one from the Song of Solomon.

“One of my friends iced a wedding cake and posted it to us with decorations and assembly instructions, and Justin’s eldest son’s partner made us crochet bride and groom mice which we wore as button holes.”

“The day was just full of love”

After the special ceremony, Hilary and Justin celebrated with a slice of cake and some champagne.

“The day was just full of love and I’m so grateful to Lisa and the Chaplain at Manorlands for arranging it for us. Getting married is something that we’d wanted to do for a long time and it had a very special meaning.

“Going forward I know that I have great support from Lisa. Not only is she a lovely person, but she is phoning regularly and giving a lot of moral support and advice. I feel that I can talk to her about anything. Justin wishes to stay at home and Lisa is helping me to be able to do that.

“As we live locally to the hospice, we have been supporters for many years. We’ve always thought it provided a fantastic service, but we now feel extremely grateful that we’re receiving such good care and treatment.”

Find out further information on Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice, the expert care they provide and ways you can help to support them.