Wedding planning for most people involves a lot of fretting over things — from flower arrangements to trying on dresses to figuring out where to seat your eccentric Aunt Edna. But while many couples spend the months leading up to their nuptials focusing on party details, Craig and Joan Lyons of Liverpool, England focused on making their wedding a day to give back and leave a lasting legacy to the world.
That’s because, as the couple recently shared with the Daily Mail, Craig was diagnosed with Stage 4 terminal pancreatic cancer in August 2015 — a shocking diagnosis that led them to move ahead more quickly with their wedding. Together, they created their own version of a Bucket List (which they affectionately called their “F*** It” list), and moved getting married to the top of the list. They also were inspired to create a charity event out of their reception to raise funds for others with similar diagnoses.
And that’s when Joan got another big idea: She would shave her head at their wedding reception in an effort to honor Craig and support others affected by serious illness — and donate her locks to charity.
On April 15, not long after saying “I do,” she did just that.
Joan’s friend Amy Walsh made the first few snips, followed by Craig’s barber, who finished shaving her head while the song “Ferry Across the Mersey” was played on saxophone in a nod to the beginnings of the couple’s romantic relationship. Joan’s hair will be made into wigs for Little Princess Trust.
“I was really relaxed, just thinking how thankful and privileged I was to be able to do this,” Joan tells Babble. “Once I was shaved, Craig just held me and kissed me, told me how beautiful I looked and he was proud of me. I was so proud to be his wife.”
In addition to the head shaving, the couple also decided that they would use their big day as an opportunity to raise money for charity in other ways, by auctioning off sports memorabilia to raise funds and donating money raised to Macmillan Cancer Support, Zoé’s Place Hospice, and Woodlands Hospice.
“The whole day went in a whirl but my most precious memory of that whole day was walking into the registry office and seeing my brave Craig standing there, waiting for me,” says Joan. “Nothing could ever take that moment away from me and I will remain by his side and share his fight. We both believe this is what love is about: supporting, sharing, being, and belonging.”
To help commemorate the occasion, the couple enlisted the help of wedding photographers Kim and Ant Struth of Struth Photography, with whom they were connected through Gift of a Wedding, a charity that supports couples looking to get married as quickly as possible due to health issues.
“When we first heard about this wedding, we were more than keen to help out,” Kim writes on their website. “I knew it was going to be an emotional day, but it was one of the happiest and most uplifting weddings I’ve ever attended. Seeing Joan have her head shaved was shocking, inspiring and empowering all at once.”
Thanks to the Mail, Joan’s touching wedding gesture is now inspiring others across the globe — and so is the rest of their love story.
As Joan shares with Babble, the couple have known each other for 30 years, and although Craig says that Joan had always been the love of his life, he kept that secret to himself until about 18 months ago. In late 2014, while the two were riding a ferry on the River Mersey in England, Craig professed his love to Joan. Although Craig was the first one to break the silence, Joan admits that for many years they “both harbored untold feelings due to shyness and both thinking the other would never be interested.”
Shortly after becoming a couple, Craig and Joan got engaged — at McDonald’s! As Joan recalls, she was sipping a latte; Craig was drinking a milkshake. “That is how we are,” she tells Babble. “That is our little heaven enjoying the simple things, as long as we’re together.”
It would be impossible to be at the wedding – or hear the couple’s story – and not be moved. When asked about the impact of the wedding on her own marriage, Kim tells Babble, “My husband Ant and I spent the day concentrating on the couple, but afterwards we spoke to each other about how strong they were and how inspired we were, and it brought us closer as a couple. The love we see in weddings is always beautiful and emotional, but this wedding was something entirely different; their love is one of a kind.”
With wedding planning and the big day behind them, it will be back to life as usual for the couple. Joan will return to her job in a few days, and Craig will continue his fight against cancer. They both will continue to work toward raising awareness, but they also plan on spending as much time as possible together, for as long as possible.
We often look to romance novels, the lyrical words of poets, or even the latest romantic comedy to find love stories. But if you ask me, the love story of Craig and Joan is as true an example of everlasting love that you could ask for.
“None of us know how long we are for this earth,” Joan tells Babble. “We should make every moment count.”
A simple — yet powerful — reminder for us all.
To support Joan and Craig’s fundraising efforts, you can donate at JustGiving.com.