How these two went from 'just friends' to perfect soul mates
THE final chapter of a nine-year love story will unfold at Cooee Bay today, proving love breaks down barriers and can take those involved by surprise.
Jo Richards, 40, and Helen Bond, 50, were both on the look out for the "perfect man" after failed attempts at love left them thinking they had chosen duds in the dating scene.
Ahead of their nuptials they spoke about they fell in love.
With Jo having been divorced years earlier, she found a friend in Helen, a client she began personally training in the gym.
With each still registered on dating websites looking for a "bloke" to call her own, they found common ground and soon started catching up regularly.
The friendship was easy and comfortable.
They were totally unaware they were falling in love.
Helen knew well before Jo that she had developed feelings and kept it to herself for six months.
Jo however realised in one afternoon and told Helen the same day.
"We hadn't been in female relationships before, we were both looking for blokes," Jo said.
"I had realised after I'd been friends with Jo for a while that 'Oh my goodness, I think there is something here', but I hadn't told anybody," Helen added.
One afternoon after a few red wines on her own, Jo realised what Helen already knew.
"I actually thought 'Oh, I'm not really into men, I can see myself with a woman'," Jo said.
"That was actually sad for me, because then I realised I had to tell everyone.
"It wasn't actually a good realisation, it was a bit of a mess."
Needing to get things off her chest, Jo turned to Helen and her sister Liz.
"I told my friends in a couple of hours as I'm no good with secrets," Jo said.
"Helen didn't say much, which I was very scared about because I thought she wasn't going to accept me."
Little did Jo know, Helen was going through exactly the same process, on her own.
Helen contacted Jo and asked if they could talk in person the following day.
Nervous and unsure what to expect, Jo went for a walk with Helen across the Fitzroy Bridge.
"Halfway across the bridge Helen told me she had been in love with me for about six months, I never saw it coming," Jo said.
"Helen hadn't said anything to anyone, she hadn't told a soul because she was scared."
After talking, Jo and Helen decided to have dinner together and from there on they were inseparable, it was all "a bit effortless in the end".
"When I realised I was probably gay I didn't know what to do, it was messy and scary but then I got this lovely, beautiful, kind, caring, considerate woman," Jo said.
The next challenge for the couple to overcome was telling their families.
With Helen's parents being quite religious, they were worried how they would react.
But to their delight, both sets of parents were really accepting.
Jo and Helen began to rest easy, as life finally began to settle down.
But of course nothing is ever smooth sailing for long.
Helen was diagnosed with bowel cancer last year and had very little time to process what was happening.
When they became engaged, they had to wait for the public to vote yes or no to legalising gay marriage.
"While I was recovering we said 'Right we are going to get it sorted, we are going to get married even if it is a no result from the census'," Helen said.
"We didn't want a commitment ceremony.
"We wanted to be properly married just like everyone else," Jo said.
"We have always joked we would cross the ditch and elope and although we do love New Zealand, we wanted to celebrate with our family."
The whole process of the same-sex marriage census and vote affected Jo more than she anticipated.
"The vote thing really knocked me around because I was very sensitive about the whole thing," Jo said.
"The day of the vote I was an absolute mess and when we got the yes vote I tried not to cry but I sobbed and sobbed."
Helen said after the vote they felt more accepted and less judged by people in the local community.
Now, after nine years of knowing each other and seven years as a couple, they are allowed to tie the knot and have their marriage legally recognised under Australian law.