EVERLASTING LOVE was riding high in the charts back in January 1968, and for two families, it was the start of a whirlwind romance that brought together two brothers and two sisters.
In an unlikely story of love, two sets of siblings married each other on the same day, with two churches, two cakes, two first dances, but one reception.
This year they will celebrate their golden anniversary.
Husband and wife, Sue and Sean Hartney grew up 444 miles apart — Sue is from London and Sean from Cork, Ireland.
Everything began when they met at a party on Saturday, January 20 1968. Sue was invited to the party by her work colleague, who was also her husband-to-be’s sister.
Just over a month later, Sue proposed to Sean on Thursday, February 29, 1968, taking advantage of the leap year tradition.
At their engagement party, Sean’s sister Jean, met Sue’s brother Bob and another love story began.
Not meeting again until a year later, Jean and Bob went on their first date on Wednesday, June 11, 1969.
Reminiscing over the night, Bob said: “We went to the Boathouse in Kew. It’s closed now but it used to be amazing.
“You paid three bob (50p) to get in, and had chicken in a basket.”
Jean added: “Bob proposed one month later on the banks of the Bedford river. We were on a fishing trip”.
The couples organised their wedding for the same day, but wanted to ensure guests could see both ceremonies.
Sean explained the day: “We had our ceremony at a CofE Church in East Acton at 1pm, and Bob and Jean married at a Catholic Church in East Dulwich at 4pm.”
Guests were driven the 11-mile distance between venues by coach, added Bob.
“I was the only one to go to both weddings,” he said.
“Obviously Sue couldn’t go to our wedding because she was in her white dress too.”
At their joint reception, the couples had two wedding cakes to enjoy, set apart only in shape — as one was round and the other square.
They also enjoyed two separate first dances, with Sue and Sean taking to the floor first.
Each year, the couples celebrate every wedding anniversary together — travelling as far as Thailand for their silver anniversary.
And Bob had a challenge on his hands on that trip. Each year he gifts Jean red roses for the number of years they have been married — which proved difficult in Chiang Mai.
“I had hotel staff running around looking for 25 red roses, but we managed to find them,” he laughed.
This year, the four will be traveling to New York to celebrate 50 years of marriage.
Amazed at their upcoming anniversary, Sean said: “You blink and it’s gone.
“We’ve had lots of good times and not many sad times.
“And it’s not finished yet, long may it continue.”
Quizzed on the key to a successful and long-lasting relationship, Sean addeed: “You’ve got to give and take. In this day and age, couples give up too easily.”
Jean said: “Never go to bed on an argument, and don’t take each other for granted.”
While Bob’s response prompted a chuckle across the room: “Jeanie is my drinking partner,” he joked.
The couples admitted that although their relationships were very different, they value each other immensely.
“They’re not just our family, they’re our friends,” said Sean.