As Emma Bunton 'Set To Marry' After 20 Years, Couples Share Why They Waited Too

"I dreamt of having a happy life, not a wedding day."

Emma Bunton and her partner Jade Jones are reportedly getting married this year, 20 years after they first got together and eight years since announcing their engagement.

The Spice Girl was spotted entering Enfield Registry Office this weekend, apparently giving notice of intent to marry, which means they’ll be tying the knot within 12 months.

Although they’re yet to confirm plans, their rumoured wedding is a welcome reminder that relationships don’t have to follow a stereotypical timeline.

Three couples who also chose to wait before getting married told HuffPost UK why slowing down was the right decision for them.

David M. Benett via Getty Images

‘I’ve never been a woman that dreamt of her wedding day’

Claire Lim, 35, married her partner Paul McCallum, 39, in July 2014 after 12 years together. “We had talked about marriage but we were comfortable enough in our relationship to wait for the ‘right time’,” says Claire, adding that the pair wanted to settle into running their own PR company first.

“We also have never felt the need to adhere to the social norms, I guess, like getting married at a certain age or having kids,” adds Claire. “We still don’t have children and although it’s not off the cards, we just want to see where life takes us without those extra social pressures.

“Personally, I’ve never been a woman that ‘dreamt’ of her wedding day, I always ‘dreamt’ of having a happy life instead.”

Claire Lim and Paul McCallum
Oly Barnsley
Claire Lim and Paul McCallum

Despite this, the pair, who are originally from Glasgow and now live in London, eventually decided to get married – and Claire says it has made a difference to their relationship.

“It brought everything into greater focus and spiritually bonded us even more,” she says. “I feel very relaxed and confident in our relationship, even more so now.”

‘We were happy the way we were’

Natalie Merrix-Chesner, 32, met her partner Robert Chesner when they were both 15. The couple, from Birmingham, decided to get married two years ago, after 15 years together.

“Marriage wasn’t something we’d ever thought about or talked about,” says Natalie. “Friends and family would ask why we weren’t considering it after such a long time together, but we just didn’t feel the need. We were happy the way we were and I didn’t believe that marriage would change anything – except maybe make a huge dent in our bank accounts!”

Their feelings changed after they attended a few friends’ weddings.

Robert Chesner and Natalie Merrix-Chesner
Supplied by Natalie Merrix-Chesner
Robert Chesner and Natalie Merrix-Chesner

“As we got older and our close friends started to tie the knot, we realised that standing up in front of all of our favourite people and making our commitment to each other official was something we actually both really wanted,” Natalie says.

“Aside from giving us an incredible day to remember, marriage has definitely brought us closer and I feel like we’re more of a unit now.”

‘I had no wish to marry her and then leave her widowed’

Steve Willingham, 42, married his wife Catriona Willingham, 34, after the couple had been together for eight years. Steve was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma, a form of cancer, in 2007 when the pair had been together for four years, and says this is the main reason they didn’t get married sooner.

“I always said to my partner I would never go through a ‘death bed’ marriage,” says Steve. “I had no wish to marry her and then leave her widowed and alone.

“In part, this helped my positive attitude toward my survival prospects and, following three bouts of chemo, radiotherapy, and a stem cell transplant, I was declared cured.”

Steve and Catriona Willingham.
Supplied by Steve Willingham
Steve and Catriona Willingham.

Having been married before, Steve says he wasn’t in a huge hurry to marry again – but it was what Catriona wanted once his health was back on track.

“Marriage was important to her and so it became important to me,” he says. “Overall we’ve been together 16 years this April. And while I don’t necessarily think that marriage changed anything for us with regard to our relationship, it was still a wonderful day and I’d do it again if I could.”