Groom denies mother-in-law row was PR stunt for weddings firm
The groom whose stepmother's vitriolic email about his fiancée became an internet sensation has broken his silence to deny claims that the affair was a publicity stunt for his new wedding business.
Freddie Bourne registered a company catering for "dream" weddings a fortnight ago, just days before the email about his wife-to-be, Heidi Withers, was leaked onto the internet.
Mr Bourne, a St Andrews University contemporary of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, told The Daily Telegraph that the timing was nothing more than an "unfortunate coincidence".
But Max Clifford, the public relations guru, described the storm over the email as a “gift from heaven” for Mr Bourne’s new business and said that, if it was a PR stunt, he should be congratulated for “initiative”.
Last night speculation was also mounting that the wedding plans have been cancelled because of the furore over Mrs Bourne’s email.
Miss Withers’ father, Alan, said that he doubted that the church ceremony followed by a reception at Berkeley Castle, Glos, on October 13 would now go ahead at the original venue and date.
In her email Mrs Bourne derided the choice of venue as “brash”.
“Freddy and Heidi are still very much in love and I hope the wedding will still go ahead at some point,” he said.
“Hopeful it will all be sorted out, we just want to forget everything and move on.”
Last night Mr Bourne said: “Our wedding is absolutely still going ahead we are very much looking forward to it.”
But he refused to confirm whether it would be going ahead on the planned date or venue.
Other members of the Withers and Bourne families also declined to deny the speculation that the event is off.
Mrs Bourne said: “I’ve nothing to add.”
Freddie Bourne, 29, and two friends registered Mise-en-bouche Ltd – a specialist caterer for “dream” weddings – on June 16.
Only days later, his stepmother, Carolyn, a plant breeder from Dawlish, Devon, attracted headlines around the world when her coruscating email to Heidi Withers bemoaning her alleged lack of manners was leaked on the internet.
Characterising her as “vulgar” and graceless, it subjected her table manners, conversation topics, morning lie-ins and choice of wedding venue to a savage point-by-point critique.
It earned Mrs Bourne the nickname the “mother-in-law from hell” in Britain and “momzilla” in America.
Miss Withers’s father responded by branding her “Miss Fancy Pants”.
Mr Bourne, 29, who lives with Miss Withers and their shih tzu dog, Whisky, in a flat in Fulham, west London runs a successful online business supplying bicycles.
But two weeks ago he and two friends Anthony Teale and Alexander Bayliss formally registered Mise-en-bouche Ltd, a canapés and cocktails specialist which claims to offer the “best wedding catering in London”.
“Your wedding will be one of the most important days of your life,” its online publicity insists.
“And for that reason, everything has to be perfect”
But Mr Bourne insisted that that there was no connection between the storm over his marriage plans and his new role in the wedding events firm.
“I categorically deny that any of this is a publicity stunt," he said.
“The timing is simply an unfortunate coincidence.”
He admitted that he and Miss Withers could benefit financially from the publicity surrounding the bitter relations between the two women after receiving offers for the media rights to their £18,000 wedding to be held in Berkeley castle, Gloucestershire, in October.
"We have indeed received offers, but have accepted nothing," he said.
Max Clifford said he had been flooded with calls from people suggesting that he must be “behind” the story adding that about 90 per cent of those he had spoken to were convinced it was a “set up”.
He said that he did not personal believe it was a PR stunt but added: “For his company, it is a gift from heaven.
“If it is a coincidence it is a wonderful coincidence.
"But if it is not - congratulations for initiative.”
Louise Ellerton, a leading London brand consultant, said the publicity could prove to be a “double edged sword” bringing a surge of publicity for the new business but also some notoriety.
“That clearly might not be ideal from the founder’s perspective, but as time goes on the public memory is quite forgiving,” said Miss Ellerton of The Value Engineers consultancy.
“It’s a case of getting through the initial period after the flare and then capitalising on that awareness in a way that tells the story they want people to hear.”
Mrs Bourne's husband Edward laughed off suggestions that his wife's sharp-tongued message could be a publicity stunt for his son adding: "I couldn't comment on that."
Mr Teale said that there was “categorically” no publicity stunt and dismissed suggestions that the company's website had been taken down because of recent events.
He insisted that the company would moving away from organising weddings to focus on corporate events when it is relaunched in October – a date which coincides with Mr Bourne’s wedding.