There was glitz, glamour and even a surprise proposal during Saturday night’s sellout Strictly Learn Dancing grand final.
After performing a sensuous rumba Paul Moran, from Hemel Hempsteadv surprised his girlfriend of three years by getting down on one knee and popping the question in front of a 500-strong crowd.
Wendy Harrup immediately said yes, and the couple returned backstage to be greeted with huge applause from fellow contestants.
Event organiser Fran Martin said: “A few weeks before the show, Paul came up to the hospice and told me of his plan to propose.
“I know how much our hospice means to Paul, as his first wife Elizabeth was cared for by our team of doctors and nurses before she died.
“This made our chat all the more poignant and led to us both dissolving into tears.
“I was bursting to tell everyone but knew I couldn’t let the cat out of the bag so I only disclosed this to a few event staff, and thank goodness it was kept a secret.”
The couple, who met in 2009, enjoy folk dancing together and thought they would give ballroom a go when they say the Hospice of St Francis fundraiser being advertised.
On Saturday night the pair had more than 40 friends and family cheering them on in the audience who whooped with delight and cried tears of joy when Paul proposed.
He said: “I knew I wanted to propose around Christmas time and had been looking for the right moment.
“I thought being on stage, with Wendy looking lovely all dressed up, in front of our friends and family would be perfect. Fran has been a great help getting it all organised.”
The other stars of the night were the fellow 19 couples who performed the rumba and quickstep after just six weeks of lessons given by Brian and Shirley from the Baila-Cusworth Dance School.
Before taking to the stage the nervous dancers were glamorously transformed with a makeover and hairstyling by stylists from Gorgeous Hair and Gorgeous Beauty in Berkhamsted.
The winners of the night were Kevin Coetzee, 28, and Lindsey Elkins, 29, who were crowned champions after a dance off with runners-up Joe Depiano and Tracy Pamment. Husband and wife-to-be Paul and Wendy ranked in third place.
The four judges on Saturday night were Alison Briant from the hospice, Daniel Fox from Heart FM, Sean Butt from Gorgeous Hair Salon and Linda Venables, a former World, European and British dance champ.
Fran said: “Over the six weeks we really get to know our Strictly couples and if it was up to me, they’d all win.
“I was, however, particularly blown away by 16-year-old Jack Lane from Hemel Hempstead.
“At his first dance lesson he was like a rabbit in the headlights – absolutely petrified.
“Six weeks later he’s on stage, confidently dancing complex steps with a cheeky smile.
“What an inspiration he is to other teenage boys, not only to learn those skills and then perform them in front of 500 people, but also to raise money for a good cause at the same time.”
During the evening, the audience were also entranced by two performances from The Espinosa Dance Project.
Overall the event looks set to raise more than £25,000 for hospice, which cares for terminally ill patients and their families in this area.
If these brave dancers have inspired you to take on a challenge for the hospice visit www.stfrancis.org.uk for details of forthcoming events.
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Weather for Hemel Hempstead
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 14 C
Wind Speed: 17 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: North east