On Saturday 20 August 2022, the third NHS wedding took place at the luxury Apex City of Bath Hotel. Lara Jeanes and Sam Gilks from London were chosen from hundreds of applicants to have their dream day realised.
After Sam proposed in 2019, the couple were looking forward to spending the year planning and saving for their big day in 2020. However, as Covid 19 hit the world, junior doctor Lara was deployed to an intensive care unit where she said she was treating ‘the sickest of the sick’ patients.
“I have never been in a situation like that before,” she said. “My job was to put people on ventilators to keep them alive and support their organs and my everyday shifts were 12 hours long, which meant I would be wearing PPE for up to eight hours a day. That’s eight hours where you can’t eat, drink or go to the bathroom. It was exhausting.”
To make matters worse for the couple, the pandemic meant that their 13-month-old daughter Sienna couldn’t go to nursery and so Sam, who worked in food operations, had to quit his job to care for her. “Instead of saving for a wedding, we were suddenly reduced to one income,” he said.
As well as putting wedding plans on the back burner, the couple had some very sad news when Lara’s dad passed away on Christmas Day 2020 and Sam lost his grandmother. “It’s been really challenging for our family,” said Lara. “I hadn’t been able to see my dad for months before he passed. It’s really taught us how precious life is.”
Apex Hotels treated Lara and Sam to a complimentary wedding package, including a three-course wedding breakfast in one of the hotel’s stunning suites, drinks, evening buffet and upgraded wedding night accommodation in their luxury rooms The couple also had full access to the hotel’s relaxing spa facilities so they could fully unwind before the big day.
The ceremony itself took place at the stunning and historic Roman Baths, which is moments away from the hotel. Lara and Sam said their vows beside the torch-lit steaming waters which was exactly the outdoor, unique wedding they dreamed of.
To complete the day, the couple were gifted other wedding essentials from some of Apex’s trusted suppliers. The whole event was beautifully captured by Jay Rowden Photography, flowers were provided by The Painted Flower and the evening party was kept in full swing by Celebration Roadshow. Lara was made to look picture perfect thanks to make-up artist, Lisa Caldognetto Bridal and hairdresser DM Hairdressing. The botanical themed wedding cake was also especially designed and made for the occasion by The Gorge Bakehouse.
The wedding was extra special for Apex City of Bath as the hotel recently celebrated their fifth anniversary.
Michael Stott, Commercial Director at Apex Hotels said: “We were so moved by the passion, dedication and sacrifices our NHS workers made during the pandemic to help keep us all safe, that we wanted to do something to say, ‘thank you’. Offering a complete wedding package to five worthy couples seemed like a good way to show our appreciation and working with Operation Recuperation meant we could ensure the couples chosen were among the most deserving in the NHS.
“Lara and Sam have had an extremely challenging couple of years with Lara treating the sickest patients due to Covid 19. To have lost family members, as well as one income, on top of that is unthinkable for most families. We’re so pleased to be able to gift them with this wonderful celebration of their love for each other now that the pandemic has died down. They deserve every happiness after their hard work and sacrifice.”
Rachel Sherwood, founder of Operation Recuperation, said, “I am so thrilled that Lara and Sam were able to celebrate their wedding in style thanks to Apex Hotels and the beautiful Apex City of Bath Hotel. The three weddings that have taken place so far have been a fantastic success and I am looking forward to seeing the delight our partnership will bring to the final two couples. These are heroes who have saved lives and worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic. Giving them memories they will cherish for the rest of their lives is such a fitting reward.”
Apex Hotels kicked off its partnership with Operation Recuperation in 2021, gifting 10 overnight stays at its hotels across the UK to nominated NHS workers as a well-deserved break. Two more deserving couples will be enjoying Apex Hotels weddings across the UK over the next few months.