A First Dates contestant who found love with the woman he matched with on the show has married her – after being given just five years left to live.
Mike Sumner, 38, who has Motor Neurone Disease, tied the knot with Zoe Welch, 31, in a relative’s garden, in Silsden, Bradford, West Yorkshire.
The pair – who met on Channel 4’s dating show First Dates in March 2020 and are remembered for Zoe’s impressive downing of a pint – planned their wedding in just three months after Mike’s health started to deteriorate.
The couple chose to have a small town hall ceremony at Sheffield Town Hall on 30th August 2022 followed by a wedding with their family on 17th September 2022 in a relative’s back garden.
Mike entered in a DeLorean car, from his favourite film Back to the Future, and Zoe downed a pint of squash – recreating the stand-out moment from their first date.
Now happily married, the couple hope to cherish the time they have left together and have plans for a honeymoon in Italy next year.
Mike, who was training to be a driving instructor before his diagnosis, originally from Grimsby, North East Lincolnshire, said: “It was surreal seeing Zoe walk down the aisle in her dress.
“She looked amazing and the I got emotional at the ceremony.
“It was fun turning up in the DeLorean car and seeing the guests’ reactions.”
Zoe, a people manager at a bank, from Sheffield, South Yorkshire, said: “We wanted to have a non-traditional wedding and had just 20 people in the garden.
“It was such a special day.
“I helped Mike get ready and then went off to get ready, so my outfit was a surprise to him when he saw me.
“On our first date I downed a pint of beer so we recreated that moment, but I did it with squash as I’d already had a few drinks.”
The pair met on First Dates, and although they didn’t have a romantic spark at first they hit it off as friends.
Mike said: “I travelled from Grimsby on the train and it felt like a journey into the unknown, I was nervous.
“I arrived first and was taken to speak to the barman, Merlin. He was fun, we chatted about the future, the 80s and electric cars and I explained why I can’t drink strong beer as it doesn’t agree with me.
“I only spoke to Fred for a minute or two, he was very suave and smooth.”
Zoe added: “They didn’t want Mike and I to see each other before the date so they hid me round the corner outside.
“I hadn’t brought a coat with me, so I was freezing cold, I kept thinking ‘are we going in yet?’.
“It was surreal when I walked into the restaurant I was like ‘oh there’s Fred, there’s Merlin’.
“I only spoke to Fred for a minute but he was just as nice as he is on TV.
“I was jealous Mike got to spend more time with Merlin, I spoke to him when I ordered a pint.
“There were little cameras dotted around everywhere but you soon forget they’re there.
“There wasn’t an instant spark between us but I thought ‘let’s get to know each other and see where it goes’.
“I did notice his bright blue eyes.”
Mike added: “I thought she was fun and really easy to talk to.”
“I’m so glad we went on first dates,” Zoe said.
“We each thought we’d just go on it for fun, and the fact we found someone we got on with is amazing.
“We have no regrets.”
After hitting it off on their date as friends, they stayed in touch and were both devastated when Mike got diagnosed with MND in November 2020.
“I was crushed,” Zoe said.
“I really cared for Mike and knew I would support him through it all.”
The friends met up for the first time since their date in June 2021 and continued to go to concerts, dinner and drinks together.
The pair realised their romantic feelings for each other in September 2021 and Mike moved in with Zoe in Sheffield, South Yorkshire.
“From that day on, we became a couple, and vowed to live each day to its fullest – taking mini-breaks away, getting out in the sunshine and generally seizing the moment,” Zoe said.
Mike’s condition caused him to deteriorate quickly – going from walking with a stick to needing a wheelchair in 12 months.
Mike proposed to Zoe in March 2022, while on holiday in Florida, USA, and the pair decided to set their wedding for September when family and friends advised it might be better to do it sooner rather than later.
“We don’t know how much time we have so we wanted to do it sooner rather than later,” Zoe said.
“We only decided in July that we would get married in September, so it’s been a rush to arrange it all.”
They opted for a legal ceremony at the registry office in August 2022 followed by a small wedding celebration in a relative’s garden in September of this year.
“We decided on a purple theme as we both like the colour and love Dairy Milk,” Zoe said.
“All the table decorations and cake were purple, and Mike’s tie was purple and the skirt of my dress.”
The couple surprised their 20 guests when Mike turned up in a DeLorean car.
“We got lucky we were able to have the car as it wasn’t starting up the night before,” Zoe said.
“But it worked on the day so Mike could turn up in it.
“The readings at the ceremony were lovely and I did the speech as the best man didn’t want to.
“We had Barnaby with us at the ceremony – he’s the bear Mike had bought me to remind me of him when we were long distance.
“Rather than having a child we have a cuddly bear.
“We had beautiful blue skies it was amazing.”
The newlyweds are now set to have a mini-moon in York and hope to go to Italy next year for their honeymoon.
“We’d love to have a bigger party with more guests to celebrate soon too,” Zoe said.
“It was an amazing day.”