SERIAL BRIDE JULIE, 55, KISSED TENS OF FROGS… AND MARRIED FIVE OF THEM.
SHE EVEN WED THE SAME MAN THREE TIMES.
AFTER FIVE WEDDINGS – AND FIVE CHARITY SHOP WEDDING DRESSES – JULIE’S CONFIDENCE WAS AT AN ALL-TIME LOW.
THE MUM-OF-FIVE GAVE UP HER SEARCH FOR HER PRINCE CHARMING, GOT A JOB AS A SEX CHAT WORKER AND NEVER FELT HAPPIER.
BUT IT SEEMS OLD HABITS DIE HARD AND JULIE IS NOW PREPARING FOR WEDDING NUMBER SIX, TO A BRAND NEW MAN, IN HER FIRST EVER BRAND NEW DRESS.
As the dress slipped over my head, I felt the soft satin against my skin and the weight of the skirt on my hips.
Instantly, it felt different to what I was used to. It was brand new, for a start.
As the bridal shop assistant fastened the last button, I dared to look up into the floor-length mirror.
I couldn’t help the smile that crept across my face.
‘So this is what it feels like’, I thought.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no stranger to being a bride. I’ve been hitched five times already.
I made sure I wore a different dress to each wedding, of course. But they were all from local charity shops – my first dress was only a fiver and the most I spent on one was £20.
So when the assistant said the gorgeous gown I was standing in cost £1,200 I nearly fainted off the pedestal.
But for the first time ever, I feel like I’m worth it!
My first wedding to Leonard Maund was back in 1973 when I was just 17. He was older than me and we’d never even been properly introduced.
My dad gave him £500 to marry me – which was a lot of money back then – and I just went along with it.
He didn’t buy me a ring or get down on one knee, so I suppose I should have known that his heart wasn’t really in it.
But I’d had a rough start in life, and this seemed like a good chance to start afresh.
For a while, Leonard was loving and affectionate – he was even a bit clingy.
But pretty soon he started to get really controlling. He didn’t like me leaving the house and got extremely jealous at the slightest thing.
One night we had a really bad row and started hurling insults at me.
‘I wish I’d never married you’, he screamed.
I didn’t need telling twice.
After five years of fighting, we divorced.
People would say to me: ‘Don’t rush into marriage again, you have your whole life ahead of you.’
But while my friends were looking for fun, I was looking for husband number two.
When I met Derrick Portman in 1981, we hit it off straight away.
He was a big, burly man with an even bigger ego.
I was besotted.
One night, after a few whiskies, he slurred ‘let’s get married’.
‘Yes!’, I squealed, trying to ignore the smell of his boozy breath.
I was so thrilled I didn’t even think to ask why he too hadn’t bothered to buy me a ring or get down on one knee.
The next day, the wedding plans were in full swing.
And back I went to the local charity shop. I found a nearly new dress for a tenner. I was chuffed to bits.
After the wedding, Derrick’s true colours began to show.
He liked a drink, but I didn’t think it was anything to worry about.
But after a few, he’d turn into a monster.
He’d punch and kick me – and I’d curl into a ball until it was over.
I was brought up to believe that marriage was for life, and after already having one divorce, I didn’t want to give up on Derrick.
I already had my eldest son Jason from a previous relationship, but in 1984 I got pregnant with Dean, now 28. Over the next eight years, I had three more children: Lena, now 27, Penny, 25, and my youngest, Shane, now 20.
I loved being a mum, but Derrick’s unpredictable temper was getting too much for me to handle.
I had three miscarriages one after the other and was heartbroken.
I’d had enough. In the early hours of one morning in 1995 I got the kids dressed and packed all our things in to the car.
I just kept driving. All I knew was that I had to get away.
We ended up in the Isle of Wight.
I found us a home and vowed to stay single.
But after six weeks, I got introduced to Benny Cooper.
Immediately, we had a connection.
Our personalities were so similar, and the kids loved him.
One night he came over for a coffee – and we ended up on the karaoke.
He was so much fun to be around. We sang and talked and laughed all night. Eventually, it was time for bed.
‘Shall I take the sofa?’, he asked politely.
‘You’re too big for the sofa! You can have my bed if you want’, I joked.
‘Only if you’re in it’, he said, making me blush.
And that was it – I was infatuated.
We spent every day for the next six weeks together. He was The One. I just knew it.
He didn’t ever propose, but somehow we agreed to get married.
I needed a new dress – so off I went to the charity shop again. This time I splashed out twenty quid on a big taffeta gown.
Two weeks later I was Mrs Cooper.
I’d even bought some new underwear for our wedding night – I was so excited.
But before Benny got to see it, he got in an argument with some strangers for being drunk and rowdy in the street.
He spent our wedding night in a police cell, and once again I was left with that familiar feeling that something wasn’t right.
Two years passed, and Benny was spending more time in trouble than with me – and I filed for divorce.
I got on with my life. I had a few boyfriends but I focussed on bringing up my kids and being a good mum.
Eight years later, Benny came crawling back with his puppy dog eyes.
And guess what? I agreed to marry him again.
My friends thought I was crazy.
But I was still in love.
All I needed was another trip to the charity shop.
Benny tried hard to be a good husband – but he couldn’t put his wayward ways behind him.
The old arguments began to resurface.
He was very jealous of other men, and although he was allowed to stay out all night and do what he liked, he hated it if I did the same.
My fourth divorce was just around the corner. I could feel it.
I told him I wanted to stay friends but I couldn’t be his wife any more.
I thought that was it.
But no sooner had I picked up my fourth decree nisi, had he asked me to marry him AGAIN.
It was 2007 and he seemed more mature.
This time he even bought some rings- so I thought he must be ready to really change.
I’d had boyfriends who had beaten me up in the past – but Benny was so different.
He offered me protection.
I think that’s what made me keep going back to him.
By this point, my friends were lost for words. They started calling me Elizabeth Taylor.
They couldn’t believe I was marrying the same man a third time in my fifth wedding.
But I’d always been a wildchild. I jumped into things without thinking. That’s just how I was.
I had become something of a regular in the charity shops, and pretty quickly I was back for dress number five.
All our family and friends showed up as usual, but it was fairly low key.
I’d learned not to expect things to run smoothly, but it was a brilliant day.
The marriage? Not so brilliant.
‘This is your last chance’, I warned him on our wedding night.
‘Mess this up and that’s it. I’m not marrying you again.’
He replied: ‘I love you. I want to make you happy, once and for all.’
Maybe he did. But I never found that happiness.
A few months later, I told him I wanted my fifth and final divorce.
He agreed that it was for the best.
We promised we would stay friends – and we have.
But I’d finally realised that he wasn’t the man for me.
Newly single and in need of work, I logged on to the computer one night.
I saw an ad on the internet for a phone operator.
I applied immediately… and I got the job.
I’ve been a sex chat operator ever since.
It’s my perfect job. I love talking and I always speak my mind.
After years of men letting me down, it’s finally given me back my confidence.
They ring me up because they’re desperate to be turned on…
It makes me feel like, for the first time ever, I’m the one who holds the power.
The money’s great and I’ve been able to treat myself to luxury holidays and treats for the kids.
I’d written off relationships and, for once, I put myself first.
Then along came Paul Burcher, 61. I’d known him from years but he’d been married too and we lost touch.
He was nothing like any of my other boyfriends.
He was romantic and old-fashioned. We started dating in May this year.
More than anything, we were great friends. And I’ve come to realise that that’s the most important thing in a marriage.
When he showed me an engagement ring he’d bought I couldn’t believe my eyes.
In five marriages, I’d never once had an engagement ring!
I just remember seeing this massive diamond. It must have cost thousands.
Naturally, I said yes.
We went away for the weekend to celebrate.
I’m not materialistic but I’d never felt so good in my life.
Even now, when I look at my finger I still can’t believe that this beautiful sparkling ring was bought for me.
I didn’t jump in quite so quickly as before, but Paul is a good man and will be a wonderful husband.
He doesn’t even mind that I talk dirty for a living.
He knows who I am and what I’ve been through… and he still loves me.
That’s a pretty amazing feeling.
We’re planning to get married next year.
When Paul said I can treat myself to a brand new designer wedding dress, I was gobsmacked.
I can’t wait to be his wife, but I also can’t wait to wear a gown that cost more than a fiver at the charity shop!