Couple tie the knot in ‘magical’ hospital wedding 48 hours before bride’s death

Andy and Rute Ralph on their wedding day. Picture: Bill Vine

Andy and Rute Ralph on their wedding day. Picture: Bill Vine - Credit: Archant

A Norwich bride who reunited with the love of her life after 20 years fulfilled her wish to marry him two days before her death.

Andy and Rute Ralph on their wedding day. Picture: Bill Vine

Andy and Rute Ralph on their wedding day. Picture: Bill Vine - Credit: Archant

Andy Ralph paid tribute to his wife Rute Ralph, née Picao, who died on May 17 aged 44 from breast cancer.

The couple dated in 1993 but personal circumstances saw them go their separate ways for nearly two decades until they reconnected through Facebook.

Mr Ralph, who lives in Wellesley Avenue North, said: “It was love at first sight for Rute, she said she never stopped loving me from the moment she met me.

“It wasn’t a fairytale, it was complicated.”

He added: “The actual service, there was something magical about the whole thing. I almost completely forgot about the fact Rute had only a few days to live.

“I look at the photographs and it is very difficult to understand how she died on the Sunday when the ceremony was on the Friday.

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“In some of the photos she doesn’t even look ill.”

Mrs Ralph moved from Portugal to England in 2016, with the couple relocating to Norwich shortly before she discovered a lump in her breast in April 2019.

The mother-of-three underwent chemotherapy and a mastectomy but was told the cancer had spread quickly. During her treatment she began receiving support from the Big C when she visited its centre on the hospital grounds.

Mr Ralph said his wife wanted to volunteer for the charity if she recovered.

Before the pandemic, the couple were due to get married on April 10 at the Colman Gallery in Norwich Castle, where it was hoped Mrs Ralph’s three daughters, friends and family, who live in Portugal, would be able to attend.

Mr Ralph said it looked impossible to marry there, but they were granted permission to marry at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH).

NNUH staff helped with hair and make-up, and Mrs Ralph was able to wear the wedding dress she had bought from the Big C shop in Norwich’s Timber Hill.

The couple were married by the Rev Jane Nursey, witnessed by friends Bill and Helen Vine, with members of Mr Ralph’s Good Gym group able to watch the proceedings from a hospital courtyard through the window.

Mr Ralph said: “Despite being so poorly, Rute managed to put on her beautiful wedding dress and summon unimaginable strength to stand and take part fully in the ceremony.

“There was just this sea of positivity at the service, which was so appropriate to the person Rute was. It was a beautiful day.

“I desperately wish the circumstances had been different but marrying Rute was one of the proudest moments of my life and I am very pleased that she managed to realise her dream in her final days.”