WITH her dark hair tumbling around her shoulders and tiara perfectly in place, Linda Edwards, 47, looked like the beautiful bride she was.

Hand-in-hand with her partner of nearly two years, Paul Edwards, 45, she was delighted to say their vows in front of close friends and family.

Tears streamed down the couple's faces as they declared their love for each other.

But the vows "in sickness and in health" were more poignant for Linda and Paul than for most newlyweds.

Because, marrying in the small living room of their Greater Manchester home in front of a local register, they knew their marriage came with a time limit.

Paul had terminal lung cancer - and would die just seven days later.

Even in his final days, Paul managed to surprise his new bride Linda – because he didn’t tell her they were marrying until hours before their Valentine's Day ceremony.

Now, speaking for the first time, she’s revealed how she went from wedding to widowed in seven heart-wrenching days.

Linda, who has five grown up children, said: “I will never regret marrying Paul. He was a remarkable man and the love of my life.”

She only found out the night before their wedding that Paul, who’d she been dating for almost two years, had secretly arranged it all.

Without her knowing he had publicised his plight on social media, via the charity Gift of a Wedding, and people had rushed to offered their services for free.

In the end the couple, from Middleton, Greater Manchester, got a free wedding worth thousands – and Linda is eternally grateful.

“We weren’t engaged,” she said. “His sister Julie was on the phone a lot which I thought was strange. But I couldn’t have guessed they were secretly planning a wedding.

“Then suddenly she turned to me and said, ‘Guess what – you’re getting married tomorrow!’

“I was totally stunned. I turned to Paul and he was grinning…. It was really sneaky but he always was mad as a hatter.”

“He wasn’t romantic so it was a shock,” she smiled. “It was mad, a real whirlwind. The night before our wedding wasn’t your typical pre-wedding night. The district nurse came over and helped him.

“I was excited. I was gobsmacked – happy gobsmacked. I was running on pure adrenalin.”

The next morning, while on route to buy a last-minute wedding gown, Linda received another surprise. “I received a phone call from one of Paul’s nurses,” she said.

“She asked me what my dress size was… so I learnt I was getting a dress.

“Suddenly I got another call, ‘Your tiaras are here.’"

She continued: “Another call came, ‘You need to go to the salon and get your hair and make-up done.’

“In total I got a free dress, tiaras, my hair and makeup done, the photographer, cakes, flowers, balloons, a driver and more.

“Even Paul’s hospice, Spring Hill, made us the wedding cake.

“Everything was done for us."

As Linda walked into their home, where the ceremony was held, Paul “broke down crying.”

“It was bittersweet but lovely,” she said.

“We were all crying by the end, but we were all happy too.”

Sadly hours after the wedding he became increasingly sleepy.

And exactly a week later, at 7.20am on February 21, he died – holding his new bride’s hand.

“It was his wish not to die alone so I am so glad I was there,” Linda said.

“Before he left he got my hand and kissed it. “It was his way of saying, ‘I know you’re there. I love you.'

"I am a proud Mrs Edwards now. He was my soulmate.

“No matter how long you get with someone, if you love them it’s insignificant.”

Health support worker Linda told how she and scaffolder Paul met as schoolchildren but reunited as adults.

“We got together a couple of years ago,” she recalled. “We’d gone to school together and been friends on Facebook and he messaged me out the blue one day – May 4, 2015.

“The very next day, May 5, we met up.

“We went to a local pub. I wasn’t going to, I’d sworn off men, but I decided at the last minute to meet up with him.

“It’s a good job I did because he was wonderful. Mad as a hatter but wonderful. We didn’t stop talking that night and from then we were simply inseparable.

She said she loved Paul’s cheery personality and zest for life. She got to know his 10-year-old daughter from a previous relationship and settled into a happy life.

But things started to go wrong in May 2017 when Paul developed a persistent cough which was worse at night.

“I told him he needed to go to the doctor,” she explained. “It was ongoing but he was a typical man about it and just put it down to his job. There’s a lot of dust where he works.

“But I nagged him and he went.

“The doctor was obviously worried as they sent him to hospital on the same day. He had a scan of his lungs there and then.”

A week later Paul learnt there was a shadow on his lungs and he had underlying bronchitis, which is inflammation of the lining of your bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from your lungs.

Still, neither Linda nor Paul were overly concerned.

She continued: “I thought the bronchitis could’ve scarring so I told him, ‘let’s just wait and see what happens.’

“But a couple of weeks after that we were referred to Fairfields Hospital in Bury. There a doctor told him results of a biopsy indicated he had lung cancer."

It had spread to his left lymph node and the adrenal glands on his left-hand side.

In August 2017 he was diagnosed with stage three lung cancer.

“He was a real fighter at this stage whereas I fell to bits,” she said. “He was the one consoling me initially.

“Then after a couple of weeks he crashed, realising what he had on his hands.

“Then it went to pot, although he bounced back up. He had a lot of people around him. He wanted to fight. He wanted to live and get rid of it.”

“So he started aggressive treatment. We were both heartbroken but knew – against the odds – we had to be strong."

In September last year he started six weeks of intensive chemotherapy.

But in January there was bad news. The chemotherapy had not been successful and the cancer had spread to his bones and spine.

“There was nothing else they could offer him,” Linda admitted. “It was devastating to hear.

“All they could do was give him drugs and radiotherapy to ease his pain.

“But, truthfully, during this period there was no relief. He was in constant pain.

“Yet he was also very brave and didn’t moan. He fought until the end and I am very proud of him for that.

“He had treatment because it gave him a fighting chance – but it also ruined his quality of life.

“You take what’s on offer because it could save your life, but it doesn’t always work.”

Now Linda has happy memories of their wedding day.

“I’d have loved for him still to be here and to have married him when he was well,” she said.

“But it wasn’t to be...Paul only ever wanted me to be happy.”

Linda wants to thank Gift of a Wedding for helping them.