AFTER eight months of preparation and secrecy, friends and family have celebrated 60 years of marriage of Peter and Marlene Hallewell.

On Saturday, 27 October around 90 guests helped organise a party for the New Road, Tadley, couple at the Apollo Hotel.

“We didn’t have a clue about it,” Peter, 81, told The Gazette.

“My son just told me to put a tie and a jacket on as where we were going for dinner was quite a posh place. I just thought 'OK' and didn’t really think anything of it.

“When we got to the Apollo there were all my family from Yorkshire, friends from our old shop and people from Bournemouth who we had not seen in year.”

Marlene, also 81, added: “I couldn’t believe the effort they had gone to and not to let on to any of us what was going on.”

The pair married on November 15, 1958 after only meeting three months prior.

The couple met at a dance in Uxbridge, where Peter had asked Marlene to dance.

She said: “He seemed really nice and looked really tanned so I asked him if he had just come back from holiday.

“He told me that he had just come back from Christmas Island. After we finished dancing I went over to my girlfriends and asked them where Christmas Island was as I didn’t have a clue!”

After being together for just three months, the pair got married at the Limington registry office, as they were looking for somewhere to live and had to get married beforehand.

“So many people thought that I was pregnant,” said Marlene.

Peter added: “We didn’t have a lot of money back then and there was a photographer across the road from the registry office, so we popped in to see if he could do a quick photo in his studio.

“He told us ‘we’ll just walk up to the church and do it outside’.”

After 60 years, the pair say they have hardly argued which has led to a happy marriage.