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My top 10 books about love.

Here’s a piece I wrote for The Express. It’s my top 10 books about love (not necessarily romantic)

The launch of When I Met You

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to put into words how grateful I am to every single person who ventured out on Thursday night to Waterstones in Richmond to help me celebrate the launch of my fourth book ‘When I Met You.’


But given that I’m a writer, perhaps I should at least have a try? Words being what I do an’ all innit bruv.

Firstly, there are the obvious reasons. Wine had been bought, books had been ordered in, I’d been to the hairdressers for a hair ‘do’ (which I’d had a crisis of confidence about because I kept thinking I looked like Roy Orbison).

It would have been more than a tad awkward to be standing on my own in front of a mountain of books, making small talk with my agent and publisher while trying desperately to pretend the shop wasn’t empty. When the photo below was taken this was essentially the situation. Notice not only how ‘Roy’ the hair is but also how gritted the teeth are. I had arrived early at the book shop with my boyfriend, Ross, and my children and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t occur to me to send them out into the cold to drag total strangers in off the street. At this point the three of them made themselves scarce, browsing books, arranging glasses, basically anything to avoid the nervous maniac in the red dress.


But, fear of social embarrassment aside, the more poignant reason I am so grateful to people for coming, or for just posting links to Amazon, on Facebook, or twitter, or for buying/reading the book or just generally being supportive, is this. Writing a book is a wonderful thing. Like anything creative, the whole process is enormously satisfying. I love writing stories, and seeing them appear as actual physical books which people can pick up and read is incredibly rewarding and feels like an achievement. But, let’s face it, it’s a slightly weird thing to do too. Unlike other jobs, there’s no office to go to and no commute (this is actually great, as is the fact you can work in your pants should you feel like it. Often I do.)

Writing a book is a totally solitary activity and for a year or so you spend hours and hours creating en entire world and people who aren’t real but who seem completely real to you. If you hit a problem, or aren’t in the mood, there’s no one to have a natter with over a cuppa in the staff kitchen, no one who can help you solve plot problems as you go along, no one you can gossip about your characters with, who truly understands the contents of your by now distracted mind. In fact, until you have a finished draft of some sort that people can read it’s all just in your head. I think this is why so many writers love twitter. It’s the equivalent of a bit of office goss and a way to meet kindred, book obsessed spirits.

And then, one day, suddenly you do have a finished draft which you duly send to your agent and publisher and this stage is just terrifying really. What if they don’t like it?? Worse still, what if they hate it and all this time you’ve been thinking you’re on to something but you haven’t been at all? You get the gist. In a nutshell you become an annoying insecure wreck.

But, with a bit of luck they do like it and some months later, after the inevitable edits, you have an actual book and a date on which said book is going to make it’s debut into society. And because you are the book’s mother you are desperate for it to be liked and for it to be popular so that with a bit of luck you can go through the whole bizarre process again. So then you need to tell people about it because these days the shelves are very over crowded and it is increasingly difficult for your publisher to get it into any shops. My last book sold so many more copies as downloads than it did paperbacks and so word of mouth isn’t just important it’s vital.

So what then? Well, it’s down to you to spread the word and so a book launch is arranged and people are duly invited. But of course it’s January, no one’s drinking, the weather is more conducive to huddling under a duvet in a coat than going out. Can you imagine my angst?

And yet, I needn’t have worried because on Thursday there was the most amazing turn out and THAT is why I am so unbelievably grateful and touched and why your support means the world. It was great. People arrived, my heart rate returned to normal and it was a lovely, buzzy, fun night. Sadly I don’t have loads of photos as I was too busy slugging back the wine, chatting to people and ruining perfectly good books by scribbling my awful looking signature in them.

image (16)

But here are the few I do have on my phone. This is one of my amazing agent, Madeleine Milburn, who said a few words and is such a joy to work with. I love her to bits. She be the best.

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This is my brilliant editor, Sally Williamson, who also said some lovely things and who was there along with the rest of the Mira team. Thanks to Alison in particular for all her hard work and efforts in making the launch such a success. image (5)

Then this is the moment when I was given some beautiful flowers and when, just for a second, I felt, in a brilliant way, like I had just won a medal for ice skating.

image (7)And then it was my turn to speak and I think the following snap truly shows what a shy, retiring wall flower I am ?!

image (3)Then, this is my Dad, Michael, who us Forte’s like to refer to as ‘Mickey F’ and who got a special thanks because he was instrumental in helping me come up with the idea for this book. He’s an all round legend.

image (9)Sadly I don’t have one of my wonderful Mum who was there with a whole gang of her pals. Neither do I have one of my step-mum, lovely Sally, but they were both there in full wonderful force as were my army of siblings.

And as were loads of you, but like I say I only have a small selection of photos. But here are the ones I do have – here’s the beautiful Charlotte Woodward.

image (10)This is the moment my kids, Lily and Freddie, met Dick and Dom and forgave their mum for being a general stress head –

image (14)And these are my friends Flash and Matt. Flash is a rock star and lead singer in the band King Lizard. Because of him I have been to my first heavy metal gig and because of me he has been to his first women’s fiction book launch. This pleases me.

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And lastly, here is me and Alessia Small, one of my oldest friends who was on top form and who looks bloody brilliant in her hat.

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So that is a taste of what was a great night and now my book is out there, vying for attention, trying to make it’s merry way in this big, wide, book filled world. So huge thank you’s to the fab team at Cherish PR, to Sophie at Waterstones, to the amazing bloggers who have read and reviewed the book,to  authors such as Fionnula Kearney who support each other, Clic Sargent for the wonderful work they do, and to all the people who couldn’t make the launch due to life/work/ childcare/illness etc but who have said they will read it and spread the word. You’re all the best.

And here’s the link to When I Met You – a story I am immensely proud of and which I hope you enjoy with all my heart

Peace out. I’m off to start work on the next one….. Chaaaaaaaapter One

Jemma xxx

Reeely reely new showreel

As a presenter, from time to time it is necessary to come up with a new showreel. This can be the bane of one’s life as it involves having to source material and select clips and persuade/ bribe someone to edit it. But it has to be done or your hairstyle will be shockingly out of date and no one can tell what you’ve been up to. This is my latest should you fancy a peek.

American cover for If You’re Not the One

090914[2](1)If You’re Not the One is coming out Stateside in  June 2015 and they have just sent me the cover design. I wanted to share because I love it. I think it’s fresh, contemporary and mature. Gawd bless America! x

The room where I write.

The wonderful Novelicious (a must- see website for anyone interested in reading fiction) asked me to contribute to their regular feature ‘My Writing Room.’ Here’s the link if you fancy a snoop… x

The day I was a guest on The Wright Stuff

I was on The Wright Stuff today talking about If You’re Not The One, wearing odd outfits on children’s TV, the news and more besides. Here’s the link –

Why we should all get naked!

Unless you’ve been in a cave these last few days you will no doubt be aware of the #nomakeupselfie campaign which has exploded on Facebook and so far raised over one million pounds for Breast Cancer Research. That’s over ONE MILLION POUNDS people in little more than 24 hours.

Of course, some areas of the media have chosen to criticize it, to brand it as narcissistic and generally belittle the whole thing entirely. It bewilders me to think we can live in a world that can even contemplate being negative about something which is simply a force for good. Full stop. With so many awful things happening around the globe can we not instead celebrate the good? Can we not take a second to think about what it’s really all about and what is driving so many females to take part. I for one truly believe that if you took everyone’s no make up selfie and lined them up in a huge art gallery, the faces staring back would say so much.

I’ll be honest, before I knew much about it, when I saw the first few pictures of women staring out at me, bare faced, I was initially a bit cynical myself. Was this just an excuse to post yet another selfie, only this time have people comment on how pretty they were without slap? Apparently some were posting pictures but not donating, so what was the point?

But the pictures kept on coming and slowly it dawned upon me what an incredible thing this was. School friends I haven’t seen for years, women I’ve worked with, best mates, there they were, unadorned, staring quite intently down the lens. Some were smiling, some looked embarrassed and self conscious, some were defiant and grim faced. Some of the images were quite shocking. Some really were quite raw. We are so used to seeing our fellow females with their ‘faces’ on that the pictures really do make an impact. But there is also something really beautiful about each and everyone of them. They’re so intimate and it occurred to me then that what I was looking at, these pictures were of faces that only those really close to us ever get to see, husbands, boyfriends, children, our relatives. They’re the only people who see us first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Everyday we get dressed for work, or for the school run, choosing how to present ourselves to the world. It’s a small handful of people who see us tired after a long day, hair tied back, comfy clothes on, make up off.

People were saying that some hadn’t got the point. That people were posting selfies but not donating, but as far as I could see the vast majority of these women had got the point entirely. Post a make up free selfie and text BEAT to 70099 thus donating £3 to the charity who are trying to fight this disgusting, hideous disease which sadly will affect, if it hasn’t already, someone we know, or indeed ourselves.

I decided to do it and in doing so got to experience what everyone else has felt. The nerves! Did I really want to expose myself like this? I don’t think men will ever understand how much we rely on make up. It’s our armour! To me, applying eyeliner and mascara is as much of a part of my routine as putting on shoes or knickers. Without it I feel weird and look a bit like a rat if I’m honest. And it doesn’t just stop there. Foundation, blusher, lippy, they’re all my friends and what’s more they come out with me in the day, stowed into my handbag along with my phone, keys etc. Do I ever leave the house bare faced? Of course I do. Anyone who’s seen me on the school run will attest to that but I don’t feel great. And besides, in reality, I’ve probably got plenty of yesterday’s mascara still clinging on for dear life anyway.

make up selfie

Still, doing it ultimately felt quite empowering (although note that I did not do it in harsh morning light so have not been as brave as some). Was I really so vain that I’d only let people see me looking like the most glamorous version of me, made up and in photos which I have ‘allowed’ to be seen? Only the other week my sister and I were at the Baftas, both doled up to the nines. We spent ages trying to get the best possible photo of ourselves which we could then post on Facebook, to the point where we were laughing our heads off. As we deleted our nine hundredth attempt to both look half decent at the same time, we joked that perhaps next time we should just be done with it and bring a professional photographer with us.

We all do it though! We artfully cultivate how we want to appear on our Facebook and twitter. We present an image of ourselves as funny, busy people, carefully selecting the bits we want people to know about. Which is why this is so cool. Once that had dawned upon me, I was overcome with love and admiration for all the brilliant females who have been brave enough to take part. Brave enough to look down the lens and say, alright this is me, and this cause is so important that I’m prepared to reveal my naked self to everyone, even including any ex boyfriends who might be lurking.

This campaign is an ‘up yours’ not only to cancer but to a world where we are perpetually bombarded with airbrushed, unrealistic images of women who are plastered in make up and look unrealistically beautiful in a wholly unachievable and unnatural way. We instagram, we filter, we crop, airbrush and present images of ourselves which simply aren’t real and in part are an attempt to compete with what we see in the magazines the whole time. Perhaps this campaign will also lead us to question what our idea of beauty really is?

So, to anyone who’s still not convinced I urge you to go back to your Facebook and to really read what women have posted alongside their photos and then hopefully join in. The language is so revealing. Up Yours Cancer. F@#k you Cancer, Let’s BEAT this awful disease. It’s fighting talk. One of my best friend’s mother has had cancer, somebody else’s sister, somebody else’s best friend. These are the girls who look defiant, they are the ones who are particularly aggressive in their language because they know that beating cancer is a very serious battle. A photo then a text. It’s simple.

And it’s not just the girls who are getting involved.  Plenty of men have commented that they love their women make up free and every ‘like’ is a show of encouragement and a bit of reinforcement that actually we haven’t terrified the life out of them.

And for the cynics out there, to the miserable bleeders moaning that their timelines are being ‘cluttered up’ by these pictures, then I say, get a grip. This campaign won’t last forever and then it will be business as usual and we can return to being whimsical and amusing, to promoting ourselves and posting plates of food, stupid videos and edited selfies. In the meantime,who knows what the final figure will be for money raised and, looking at the bigger picture, maybe, just maybe, this is the start of a backlash which is surely on it’s way.  Wouldn’t it be nice just to look like us and know that that’s ok?


What happens the week before Publication!

And so, here it is…..PUBLICATION DAY!! The day when If You’re Not the One is officially out and can be found in shops and therefore can be read. By actual people. Eeek.


And I am so excited and proud because I love this one with all my heart. I love Jennifer, I love her story, I love the cover and I am finally ready to see whether other people do too.

pic I want



Now, I’m not having a launch party for this one. Not because I care about it less than my previous two books (quite the opposite) but because I would have had to have organised it prior to Christmas and I was too busy.

Also…… nope, actually there really isn’t another reason I can think of. It just sort of boils down to a lack of effort on my part really. I imagine it’s a bit like if you have multiple children. You have huge birthday parties for your first child, then with number two slightly run out of steam and by three just can’t be arsed. So the first gets a bouncy castle, tea for thirty and elaborate party bags, the second gets lunch at Pizza Express and the third gets a comparatively Mormon existence for the first six years of their life. Have a twiglet. Yes, I know it’s not fair but life’s not fair. Ha.

Anyway, just because I haven’t had an enormous blow-dry and we’re not gathered in a book shop drinking warm white wine doesn’t mean I’m not beyond excited or that I don’t want to thank loads of people. It also doesn’t mean that I’m not unbelievably grateful to all my lovely friends and family who support me by buying my books and being so incredible spreading the word on Facebook and twitter etc. It all helps enormously. Thank you!

There are more thank yous to come but before that I thought I’d try and give you a little insight into a writer’s life the week before publication. Here goes….

For any writer, ‘pub date’ as they call it in the book world (and no, it doesn’t mean a day set aside for being in the pub, though perhaps it should) is a special day. Pub – lication date is the day when you get to celebrate your hard work and to metaphorically wave your book off into the wide world, like a child you’ve reared and are now finally packing off to university. Or… something like that……And not just for me, but for all the people working away on my behalf. Again, more on them later……

The lead up is exciting, nerve wracking and fairly busy as you do your best to promote the book. Although I say that. It’s not that busy really, it’s just until it’s out I feel too distracted to do anything sensible, like work, so allow the book’s release to dominate everything. In all honesty I probably pretend it’s busier than it really is. Partly because people do ask what you’re up to and it doesn’t sound very exciting if you say ‘ Well, there have been bouts of activity but also a lot of just…..waiting really….. with a healthy side portion of intense fretting and googling Amazon to see if anyone’s written anything.’

Fellow writers who may be reading this, don’t pretend you don’t!

Anyway, reviews start to come in which are a great time waster. When they’re good they’re terribly important and make all the difference. The person writing them is a genius who should be revered. When they’re not so good, they mean nothing and the person writing them is obviously a complete idiot who should be sent into exile for having such STUPID opinions.
Anyway, joking aside (we all know I wasn’t joking) it’s exciting to see the first reactions and thankfully they’ve largely been really positive. *Friends and family breathe collective sigh of relief*

And now, here comes a potted version of what’s really been going on this week. With pictures.

Last weekend I was terribly over excited about impending publication so went out and drank oversize unnecessary cocktails to celebrate the boyf’s birthday. (Not on my own I hasten to add….that would be more a cause for concern than celebration.)Bunga cocktailThe next day I felt like this….hungover dogMonday came. Hooray, not long to go now. Things started to ‘hot up.’ (Partridge)

First came a lovely piece in Hello. This bodes well. I am ‘well’ pleased.

Hello smaller versionThen it was in Now –

Now smaller version

Then Heat, with a pleasingly ginormous picture to accompany the review. Wahoo.

Heat smaller versionAnd OK!

smaller OK

By the middle of the week I’d spent a lot of money on magazines and was thoroughly well versed on what Kate Middleton and Lee from Blue had been up to. They’ve had fairly different weeks it has to be said.

On Wednesday, myself and the lovely Sam from Cherish PR had a trip to Magic FM. This was a lot of fun, but I left (as I always do with these things) worrying that I’d talked SO MUCH. Still, I suppose that’s sort of what I was there for?!

Anyhooooo, it was great and there were no worries about dead air or anything. Man alive I can talk.smaller magic

What else? Well, as any fellow Londoners know, it rained A LOT and there were no tubes. I, like everyone else had some trying, rainy journeys, but you’ve gotta laugh – That’s me and my sister putting a brave face on things.

rain with sisAnd I managed to only have one night where I was an insomniac freak and felt like this the next day…….

No I have not slept well

Though I did LOOK like that. This rain is no good for anyone’s barnet.

On Thursday I wished it was Friday and actually did a bit of work. I write a blog for Tate so that kept me busy. Then I heard a rumour from my agent, the one and only Madeleine Milburn, lit agent extraordinaire and all round lovely being, that there may be a book deal in the offing from……..wait for it……..AMERICA.

god bless america

This is very exciting. I have always wanted to be published in the US. For some reason, and I mean NO OFFENCE to Lithuania, Poland, Italy or any of the other wonderful countries I’ve been published in, but America feels like a really big deal. They’re a tough market to crack so if this happens I’ll be one happy girl.Yeeehaaaa. Etc. To celebrate I try and fail to perform the opening sequence to Flashdance in my living room.

And now, it’s today, Friday 7th Feb and my book, which I am so passionate about, is like Tom Daley. Out and proud!

Today I am heading into Mira, my publishers, to make a nuisance of myself and to film a little interview with Lucy Campbell who is an amazing blogger. her blog is Family Affairs (and other matters). She was kind enough to say she’d like to post it on her site and I leaped at the chance as now it’s all about spreading the word as much as possible. Read it you mothers……for the love of god please READ IT.



And tonight? What am I up to? A posh dinner? A party? Standing outside book shops with a scary expression on my face, nose pressed against the glass (actually that’s tomorrow.) No, better than that. Tonight, me and my Lily and Freddie are having a celebratory takeaway. Probably Thai. Requests have been taken for Orange Fanta (come on it’s a special occasion let’s go crazy) and Mummy will be on the Prosecco. I can’t think of a nicer way to celebrate.

And now for the thank you’s. There are a lot of personal ones at the back of the book in the acknowledgements so ditto those again. But the following need another mention because it takes a team to get a book out there. Maddy Milburn, Sally Williamson, Cara Lee Simpson, Deborah Hooper, Nick Bates, Alison Lindsay, Elise Windmill, Shane Herrington, Samantha Allen and all the other wonderful people at Mira and Cherish and the Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency who have been marketing, designing, selling and who have made so much effort with this book. THANK YOU xxxx




Why a deal with Working Title Films was a destiny day for me.

Francesca, the protagonist in my first book, Me and Miss M, believed and spoke often of ‘destiny days.’ She said, and I quote…

In life there are a handful of days when we experience key moments that either determine or fulfil our destiny, depending on what you believe in. These days have two things in common. One is that at the time they seem utterly ordinary and it’s only ever with the luxury of hindsight that you realise you’ve had one. The other is that you never, ever forget them.’

Looking back at 2013 I realise Francesca may have been onto something, for I believe I had two destiny days last year and I certainly won’t ever forget either of them.

The first took place on a colder than it should have been, slightly drab, English Summer’s Friday.  My boyfriend and I both had a day off. Actually stop. That is a bare faced LIE. He had a day off. I was out of work. Every day was a day off. Prior to this period of nothingness I had been working at a shopping channel selling items ranging from window vacs to blenders. Not exactly the dream for someone who had many moons ago presented on proper telly, but it had been a job nonetheless and one that had become all the more precious when I’d split up with my husband and become to all intents and purposes a single mum.

Sadly for everyone who worked there, the channel had gone down the spout a couple of months before and to make matters worse/ more stressful, to date I had received nothing but rejections for my latest novel, which I strongly believed to be my best yet. Not that my opinion would equate to anything financially unless someone in publishing agreed.

Basically things weren’t looking all that fantastic (huuuuuuge understatement, things were SHIT) but I was determined to remain positive in a Butlin’s redcoat kind of way. The other option was giving into the terror which was creeping up on me which in turn might lead to me doing something drastic I’d regret forever, such as marching into various publishing houses and refusing to let go of editor’s ankles until they gave me a deal.

So for now I was being fake cheery and had decreed to my boyfriend that we should go swimming. To the public baths. It would be cheap, fun, healthy and according to the forecast hot, so we could chill out in the sun. If we shut our eyes we might even feel like we were on holiday. I met him at the station. He didn’t look convinced. Probably because it was actually raining.

‘It’s nothing,’ I said manically. ‘It’s going to clear up any second.’

He sighed and by way of reply gazed up at the ominous, thick blanket of grey cloud cover.

I was having none of it though. ‘Come on,’ I said ‘Only I just need to pop in here first to get some suntan lotion.’

‘Why? Can you get burnt by rain?’

I ignored him. Things had been so rubbish lately. I had been so worried about everything that frankly I was at a stage where I thought that if I just willed it to, the sun would come out, bathing everything in its optimistic light and warming my tense bones with its rays which in turn would put everything in perspective.

With hindsight there’s a definite possibility I’d gone a bit mad.

One hour later and my boyfriend and I were sat sheltered under a tree with our jackets on over our swimming costumes. We were the only two human beings at the vast outdoor pool apart from one lifeguard who was wearing a coat. He was sat glowering at us from the other side of the pool probably because we were the only two things standing between him and a hot shower and a nice cup of tea.


‘This is shit isn’t it?’ I finally admitted.

‘Yes,’ said my boyfriend ‘can we go to the pub please?’

‘Yes,’ I shivered, getting up to wring out my towel. For a fleeting moment I thought I might cry and then my phone rang.

It was my book agent. Ringing to tell me that Mira books at Harlequin wanted to offer me a two book deal.


There might as well have been fireworks. As I said goodbye to my agent, having thanked her a million times, I realised my heart was pounding and that my whole body was shaking with adrenaline, with relief and with happiness.

That phone call changed everything.

Suddenly the rain was romantic. Suddenly, my boyfriend who had managed to glean what was happening, picked me up and swung me about, feeling far far less inclined to kill me.

‘Pub?’ I squealed.

‘Yeah, let’s get out of here now,’ he agreed, giving the life guard an apologetic thumbs up, and off we went, only not to drown our sorrows but to celebrate.

And that was my first destiny day of 2013. The second was to arrive just before Christmas.

By now, my agent had been to the Frankfurt Book Fair with my book, If You’re Not the One, and there was a bit of interest from various film scouts. Previous experience told me that in reality, although this was encouraging, it didn’t really mean much, as getting past the ‘ooh there’s a good idea in here’ stage is nigh on impossible unless you’re a huge name writer.


However,  a while later I found myself visiting the offices of Working Title Films for a meeting with a development producer who I hit it off with instantly. She was dynamic, bright, nice, and best of all loved my book. Hooray. This was all lovely and flattering but I knew there were many more hurdles to get over before anything would actually happen. And so the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months and all the while we were getting closer.

I started to feel a bit mad again because  I could feel the hint of a possibility turning into genuine interest. Then interest was coupled with some action at which point I began to realise it could actually happen and how absolutely brilliant that would be. And yet nothing could be said or celebrated until that offer came in in writing.

And then, one day (December 12th at 19.37, ha, told you you never forget) it did.


It was finally real and I am so happy and proud and excited that Working Title Films have liked my book enough to option the film rights. That in itself feels like a huge accomplishment especially given that I am such a massive fan of so many of the downright brilliant films they’ve made.  Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral,  Bridget Jones and Elizabeth are all firm favourites and that’s just the tip of their production iceberg.

And now I wait. But in a happy, non- tense way, content to let things take their natural course. I know only too well that these things can take years and the most important/ exciting thing now will be to see what people make of the book come 7th February, when it’s out.

But whatever happens, what 2013 taught me is that if you stick at things long enough, keep the faith and don’t give up, things can change in a heartbeat and so undoubtedly there will be a few more destiny days in store. For us all.

Oh…. it taught me something else as well. Don’t go swimming in the rain in England. Because it’s cold and shit and your boyfriend (and the lifeguards) won’t thank you for it.



Wedding Reading…… with a Twist

My sister, Isabel, and her brilliant husband, Paddy, were married at Rise Hall back in July. A while ago they asked if I’d do a reading but left what I did entirely up to me. Now, Isy and Paddy are two of the funniest, most creative and unique people I know so reading a dull passage no one would remember would never have done. Plus, the amount of organising they did to pull off what was ultimately the best wedding I’ll ever go to, meant they were so on top of every tiny detail, I thought they’d appreciate a surprise. And so it was that this white, middle class, middle aged, mother of two decided to do a rap. See what you think………….Wedding Rap