Couple Mark Gillman and Janelle Armstrong were stranded in the UK this week due to the volcanic eruption in Iceland.
Couple Mark Gillman and Janelle Armstrong were stranded in the UK this week due to the volcanic eruption in Iceland.

Wedding plans go up in Iceland ash

IT was supposed to be the culmination of two years of careful planning, but former Graftonian Janelle Armstrong’s wedding went up in smoke this week.

The 33-year-old physiotherapist was due to leave London’s Heathrow Airport last Friday alongside her fiancé, IT worker Mark Gillman, ahead of their Blue Mountains wedding yesterday.

But as was the case for thousands of travellers, the pair was left stranded after the ash billowing from a volcanic eruption in Iceland rendered much of the European air space a no-fly zone.

Speaking from the UK, Janelle said she and Mark started to hear last Thursday about the ash being ‘problematic’.

However it wasn’t until Friday morning their flight was officially cancelled. “It took a while to sink in,” Janelle said.

After phone calls to Qantas to find out what happened next, Janelle and Mark managed to book a flight out on Tuesday.

“It was a tense few days not knowing what was going to happen,” she said.

“You’re just hearing update after update.”

Because her fiancé’s relatives were unable to rebook their flights until April 25, Janelle frantically set about re-booking the wedding for the week later – April 30.

However it was to no avail, with their Tuesday flight also being cancelled.

“At that point we had to completely can everything,” she said.

“We were absolutely gutted.”

The pair met on April 22 four years ago, and were hoping to marry as close to that special date as possible.

Janelle said their wedding, booked for 4 o’clock yesterday at the famous Lucas Caves at Jenolan in the Blue Mountains, would have to wait for about another six months.

Ironically, the groom’s English parents were already in Australia, having taken their own pre-wedding holiday in Vietnam – meaning their flight to Australia early this week was still a go-ahead.

Janelle said other close friends from the UK had also taken their annual leave and had travelled to Australia ahead of the wedding.

“They won’t be able to make it back again,” she said.

Janelle’s mum, Irene Armstrong of Grafton, was also devastated by the circumstances.

Yesterday she was giving away the wedding cake, decorated with icing roses, that she had made herself in advance for her daughter’s big day.

The couple’s bonbonniere – rock candy, embedded with their names – also became a give-away.

Next week, the couple will return to work in their home county of Surrey, south of London, instead of being on their honeymoon on Heron Island, off Queensland’s coast. However Janelle said they were coming to terms with the disappointment.

“We’re doing alright now,” she said. “We’ve had enough time to take stock.

“It makes you realise what’s most important. We’re still together, and we’ll still get married.”

On the positive side, Janelle said the airlines as well as the suppliers for her wedding had been ‘fantastic’, with none charging her cancellation fees.

“We’ve been really lucky,” she said. “We haven’t ended up hugely out of pocket.”

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