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Celebrating a 30th anniversary, Blind Date’s first married couple share their formula for happiness

Thirty years of marriage is a cause for celebration in anyone’s book. But when your relationship started on a television dating show, that surely takes it into a totally different league.

After all, while they may be ratings hits, no one expects the myriad relationships forged on shows such as Love Island and Married At First Sight to last longer than five minutes.

Indeed, it would be fair to say that the quicker the relationships fall apart, the more entertaining we find it all. The make-ups and break-ups, the jealous spats, the tears and tantrums are all grist to the mill.

So no wonder Sue Tatham, 55, and her husband, Alex, 56, are feeling decidedly blessed still to be together and blissfully happy after celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary on October 19 with their children Emily, 27, and Charlie, 25.

When Alex — then an ebullient 23-year-old accountant — picked the shy but smiley 22-year-old Sue on ITV’s iconic dating show Blind Date in 1988, no one could have anticipated they would forge a life-long relationship, least of all the couple themselves.

Without Blind Date — which was presented by the late Cilla Black and, in its heyday, attracted 18.2 million viewers every Saturday night — there is no way on earth they would have met.

Sue Tatham, 55, and her husband, Alex (pictured), 56, were blessed to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary on October 19 with their children Emily, 27, and Charlie, 25

To say they moved in different social circles is an understatement. Alex had been educated at Eton and then Durham University. His family featured regularly in society bible Tatler, with one report covering Alex’s 21st birthday party at their home in Fulham, West London.

Stalwartly middle class, Sue is the product of a comprehensive in the West Midlands and left school at 18 to work in a DHSS office.

But if the show’s producers were hoping for comedic mileage out of a culture clash between the pair — perhaps even some fireworks — then they were disappointed.

Alex and Sue made TV history as the first Blind Date couple to get married. Cilla Black was the guest of honour at their wedding in October 1991, turning up in a hat so magnificent it had a starring role of its own.

Here they are at their gorgeous home in London celebrating a milestone anniversary and looking every bit as smiley and excited about life as when that famous curtain swept back 33 years ago.

So what is their secret? How have they built such a successful marriage when virtually every other couple brought together on a dating show (there were only two other Blind Date marriages over 18 series) has fared so badly?

‘I definitely wasn’t looking for a husband,’ Sue, a former teacher who now ‘manages life’, admits candidly. ‘I just went on the show for a bit of fun. It was the biggest TV programme of its day. Everyone wanted to be part of it.’

Alex agrees. ‘I’ve always been a show-off,’ he smiles. ‘I was looking for a laugh — not a wife.’

Without Blind Date — which was presented by the late Cilla Black and, in its heyday, attracted 18.2 million viewers every Saturday night — there is no way on earth they would have met

Without Blind Date — which was presented by the late Cilla Black and, in its heyday, attracted 18.2 million viewers every Saturday night — there is no way on earth they would have met 

In fact, so blasé was Alex, who was doing the ‘picking’, he confesses he actually went ‘eenie, meenie, minie mo’ in his head before plumping for Sue, who was sitting in the middle between her brunette rivals — Lyn from Middlesex and Kate from Essex.

And yet talking to this enchanting couple, it’s clear that whatever their intentions and those of the TV producers, they have found the secret of a successful relationship.

‘We have each other’s backs,’ says Sue. ‘Whatever life throws at us, we are there for each other. If we’re at a party, Alex will always have an eye on me, checking I’m OK.

‘We may come from different backgrounds, but we have similar values. We both hate arguments and make it a priority to have a friendly atmosphere. Family comes first, always. 

‘Most of all, we want to have fun. We love trying new experiences together. And, believe it or not, I still get goosebumps when Alex walks into a room.’

And it all started the moment the curtain rolled back . . . and had very little to do with looks.

‘My only dread was that Alex would be short,’ admits Sue who at 5 ft 6 in was so concerned she would end up with a height-challenged man she borrowed a friend’s flat shoes for the night.

When the mop-haired Alex — an impressive 6 ft 2 in — appeared, Sue instantly relaxed.

Alex, meanwhile, was struck by bubbly blonde Sue’s huge smile.

But it was as they left the set, hand in hand, all set for a date in Ireland, that their future was set.

‘Alex whispered to me: ‘This is going to be an extraordinary experience which we will talk about for the rest of our lives. Whatever comes of it, let’s make sure we always stay friends,’ ‘ recalls Sue.

‘It summed up exactly how I felt. Knowing that Alex valued kindness as much as I did made me warm to him immediately. So many of the Blind Date couples bitched about one another afterwards.’

They did indeed. And cynics might suggest that this is exactly what TV producers were anticipating when they ‘matched’ Old Etonian Alex with the somewhat more humble Sue Middleton.

‘I’ve never seen myself as a posh boy and I still don’t,’ says Alex stoutly. ‘A class divide may exist in other people’s eyes but it doesn’t in mine. All I know is that the team were very keen to have me and Sue on the same show. 

‘I had accountancy exams, which meant I had to alter the date I could appear. They changed Sue’s appearance to fit in.’

When Alex picked Sue (pictured with Emily, four and Charlie, two in 1998) on ITV's dating show Blind Date in 1988, no one could have anticipated they would forge a life-long relationship

When Alex picked Sue (pictured with Emily, four and Charlie, two in 1998) on ITV’s dating show Blind Date in 1988, no one could have anticipated they would forge a life-long relationship

Whether TV producers sensed grounds for love or loathing, Alex and Sue’s relationship took off like a rocket. Their date was to fly to Shannon for a medieval banquet. 

On the plane over, they chatted non-stop, rapidly discovering how similar they were. Even their birthdays are just two days apart.

But there was certainly no opportunity for anything intimate, in contrast with contemporary reality shows such as Love Island where these things are seemingly encouraged. ‘We were heavily chaperoned and our hotels were five miles apart,’ recalls Alex.

‘It was almost Covid-style social distancing conditions. Although the TV researchers with us were delighted we were getting on, they didn’t want any hanky-panky.’

Sue hastily agrees. ‘It couldn’t have been more different from today’s dating shows,’ she says. ‘When Alex isn’t around to disapprove, I like watching Married At First Sight, which I find utterly addictive.

‘When I went on Blind Date I was a real party girl, eager to have fun, so I may well have been tempted to appear on something like Love Island — with all that sunshine and nice men.

‘But thank heavens I lived in an age when TV wasn’t so intrusive and couples weren’t encouraged to hate each other.

‘I would be very worried if either of our children wanted to go on a dating show. It’s not just the tackiness. It’s all the potential for trolling. Life was so much gentler 30 years ago.’

Alex and Sue recall how they managed to escape the cameras soon after they had flown back from Ireland.

‘I took Sue to London Zoo because, thanks to my degree in zoology, I could take her behind the scenes at the Chimp House,’ Alex says. ‘I took her out to dinner that evening and that’s when we kissed for the first time.’

Although the couple lived 120 miles apart, their relationship developed at whirlwind speed. Just three weeks after meeting, Sue — who still lived at the family home — introduced Alex to her parents, Barrie, a headmaster, and Barbara, a civil servant.

Alex and Sue made TV history as the first Blind Date couple to get married. Cilla Black was the guest of honour at their wedding (pictured) in October 1991

 Alex and Sue made TV history as the first Blind Date couple to get married. Cilla Black was the guest of honour at their wedding (pictured) in October 1991

‘It was a big moment,’ she says. ‘I’d had boyfriends before, but I already knew this was serious.

‘Alex is such a charmer and wanted to get himself remembered. He turned up with some fluffy slippers in the shape of ladybirds. They were a total icebreaker. My parents roared with laughter. It cemented the jolliness.’

Meanwhile, Alex’s parents, David, a trademark agent, and Jenefer, an interior designer, hadn’t even heard of Blind Date, let alone watched the show. They weren’t just baffled but worried when he announced that he had fallen in love with his date.

‘But then they met Sue and all their worries evaporated,’ says Alex. ‘They could see how great we are together.’

They courted for three years — spending every weekend together either in London or Walsall — before getting married at Sue’s parish church in Pelsall on October 19, 1991.

‘When you long to see someone again the second you’ve said goodbye, you know it’s real,’ says Sue.

So bound up in their romance was the nation that 5,000 strangers turned up outside the church to cheer them on, while the televised Blind Date wedding special was 1991’s second most watched programme, with 17 million viewers.

‘Even so, it was very much our wedding — us saying our vows,’ insists Sue.

‘Cilla was just a lovely guest who happened to wear a funny hat and everyone wanted to see her.’

Six weeks before the wedding, Sue’s recruitment company transferred her to London, where the newlyweds were to set up home in a two-bedroom terrace house in the capital’s South-West.

‘We had a traditional courtship and a traditional wedding, and we didn’t live together before we were married,’ says Alex.

‘Our honeymoon in Mauritius was when we really first spent any length of time together.’

After retraining as a Montessori teacher, Sue worked while bringing up their children — Emily, who was born in 1994, and her little brother, Charlie who arrived two years later.

Meanwhile, Alex moved into the computer industry and is now managing director of Westcoast, a leading supplier of IT products.

How have they built such a successful marriage when there were only two other Blind Date marriages over 18 series? Pictured: Alex and Sue with children Emily and Charlie

How have they built such a successful marriage when there were only two other Blind Date marriages over 18 series? Pictured: Alex and Sue with children Emily and Charlie

This is a couple who are determined to make light of everything life throws at them — and appreciate that they are lucky to have privileges many would envy.

Alex has had a stellar career, and both their children went to top private schools: Charlie to Eton and Emily to Downe House in Berkshire. 

Home for the past 20 years has been an imposing double-fronted house built in 1879 in a smart area of South London.

‘I know we’re incredibly lucky,’ says Sue. ‘We have two fabulous children whom we adore. Emily graduated from Warwick and works in social media. Charlie studied at St Andrews and is now a software developer. We have a family Zoom every Sunday.’

But, however determinedly cheery, no couple can avoid pain altogether. And the past few years have been decidedly testing.

Two years ago, in July 2019, Alex’s father, David, died very suddenly. He was 82.

‘Dad went into hospital for an operation and never woke up,’ says Alex. ‘It was very traumatic, but I felt incredibly lucky to have Sue beside me. It crystalised all that matters in my life. My job is to look after Mum, Sue and my sister.

‘Then, in January of this year, it was Alex’s turn to comfort Sue after her dad died, also aged 82.’

Sue explains: ‘Dad had Parkinson’s disease for the last few years of his life, which was really horrid. The awful thing was that, because of Covid, we weren’t able to see him at the end, which made it even harder. I miss him every day.’

But, whatever their private sorrows, this happiest of couples are determined to treasure everything they have.

‘If there’s a secret at all it’s that we still love one another like crazy and get that little frisson of excitement when we see each other,’ says Alex.

‘We have one of those doorbells where you can see who’s on the doorstep. It’s plugged up to my phone. So quite often Sue will be going into the house, I will be at work, and I’ll surprise her by calling out: ‘Hello, I love you.’ ‘

‘Life’s never boring with Alex around,’ says Sue fondly. ‘I’ve loved every minute of the past 30 years with him.

‘I don’t think anyone would seriously recommend going on a dating show to find a husband, but it’s definitely worked out for us.

‘Without Blind Date, we simply would never have met. We’re enormously lucky.’


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