Couple’s wedding balloon found in Germany by dog after floating 389 miles from Sunderland

Balloons and Beyond owner Vikki Birbeck with recreated balloon display.
Balloons and Beyond owner Vikki Birbeck with recreated balloon display.

A balloon released by a Sunderland couple on their wedding night in memory of the bride’s late father was found weeks later in Germany.

The balloon, launched into the night sky by Gemma and Graeme Swalwell last month, drifted across the North Sea before being found 389 miles away in Wietmarschen, in Lower Saxony.

Frauke Fischer's dog Theo.

Frauke Fischer's dog Theo.

It was discovered intact by Frauke Fischer while out walking with her pet bulldog Theo last week.

The balloon carried the motif ‘Mr & Mrs Swalwell’ and when Frauke googled the name, she came across pictures of the wedding for the Red House couple online.

From there she managed to track down Vikki Birbeck, the owner Balloons and Beyond, who created the display in her workshop in Houghton.

Gemma, 32, and Graeme, 45, married at Sunderland Civic Centre on August 19, followed by a reception at Town End Farm Club.

My dad used to work as a pipe fitter and he spent a few years in the north of Germany, so it was strange that it landed there

Gemma Swalwell

It was from there that, at the end of the night, the newlyweds - who are parents to seven-year-old Maisie - decided to release the balloons from the display.

It was just two days after the fourth anniversary of the passing of Gemma’s father Keith Bramley and the family felt it made him part of their special day.

One of the balloons turning up in Germany was especially pougnant for Gemma as her father had previously worked in the country as a pipe fitter.

Frauke said: “I went for a walk with Theo, when he suddenly jumped under a tall tree. All around were stinging nettles.

The wedding balloon found by Frauke Fischer's dog Theo in Germany.

The wedding balloon found by Frauke Fischer's dog Theo in Germany.

“Then I could see something on the ground. I realised immediately that it was a balloon. I picked it up and read the name and I thought: ‘Wow, English’.

“I searched on the internet and found the picture from the wedding venue with the balloon and the email address of Balloons and Beyond.

“I waited full of hope for an answer and Vikki told me the story of Gemma and her husband.”

Gemma said: “We decided on the night of the wedding to let the balloons off in dad’s memory. It made it feel as though my dad was included in the day.

Graeme and Gemma Swalwell and daughter Maisie on their wedding day.

Graeme and Gemma Swalwell and daughter Maisie on their wedding day.

“My dad used to work as a pipe fitter and he spent a few years in the north of Germany, so it was strange that it landed there, we were really surprised.”

Frauke added: “I thought that it was a miracle that a balloon could fly such a long distance and still be in a pretty good condition, and, I think it’s a sign from the father that he is up there in the sky looking down on them.”

Vikki said: “I was really surprised when I heard from Frauke – at first I couldn’t understand how she managed to find me, but the balloon was personalised with the couple’s name on.

“She Googled the name and found the photos. She was just as amazed as I was.

“I posted the story on Facebook and it reached more than 20,000 people in two days – it’s absolutely amazing.

“It turns out Gemma’s late father used to work in Hamburg. Theo was born there and Frauke’s daughter goes to university there. There are just so many connections in this story it’s just incredible.”