Fairytale wedding story began on the battlefield

Joseph Bulmer

Real life tale of North Devon couple who hit the wedding jackpot

A STORY that began life on an Afghanistan battlefield had a fairytale ending for a Combe Martin Royal Marine.

Lance Corporal Andy Thomas suffered serious injuries when he was dragged under the tracks of a Viking armoured vehicle in conflict during his second tour in Helmand Province.

He had already won the heart of girlfriend Karly Goodman, from Ilfracombe; but little did he know that his story would touch the heart of North Devon businesses offering a dream wedding package being put together for a deserving member of the armed forces.

The couple beat more than 30 entrants to win a one-off wedding package of goods and services worth in excess of �20,000.

They were chosen from a panel of judges representing more than 20 wedding firms that donated everything from rings, flowers and photographer, to cake, champagne and canap�s.

The spectacular event at Filleigh’s iconic Castle Hill last October provoked a clamour of national media interest as the couple made their vows to each other on a day they’ll never forget.

The couple said they were touched by the generosity of local North Devon wedding businesses.

“We couldn’t believe it – we could never have afforded a wedding like this ourselves,” said Karly.

“Andy’s mum Chris nominated us a few weeks after we became engaged and we didn’t hear anything so forgot all about it.

“I was having dinner at my dad’s on a Saturday night when I got the telephone call to tell me that we’d been chosen as the winning couple. I was hysterical when I found out and couldn’t even talk.”

The big day at the Earl and Countess of Arran’s stately home topped off what had been a whirlwind few weeks for the 23-year-old newlyweds, who celebrated the birth of Karly’s second son Leyton just nine weeks before.

“Things were really hectic and I have never been so busy in my life,” said Karly.

“I was worried that I wouldn’t fit into my dress after giving birth and it was nerve-wracking getting married in front of all the television cameras, but everything went smoothly on the day.”

The wedding gift grew from an idea by Kieron Freeburn, of Holsworthy-based Classic Carriages, who initially decided to offer his Rolls-Royce car as a small token gesture of appreciation for the work of local servicemen and women.

Mr Freeburn said the fairytale occasion was a fitting testament to the generosity and goodwill of businesses and individuals throughout North Devon.

“There was an outpouring of generosity from the business community of North Devon which saw the value in supporting and celebrating the armed forces and the work that they do,” he said.

“Almost every conceivable element of the wedding package was donated by local firms; it was a fairytale occasion for this young couple as well as a fitting testament to the generosity and goodwill of businesses and individuals throughout North Devon.”

After the ceremony and wedding breakfast, the couple headed back to Ilfracombe for a privately-organised reception.

The following night, they enjoyed an night at the Saunton Sands Hotel as part of the package but plans for a dream honeymoon had to be put on hold as Andy was due to report back to barracks for training this week ahead of a third tour in Afghanistan this spring.

“We’d like to say a massive thank-you to everyone who made the day extra-special; we couldn’t have done it without their generosity,” said Andy.

The business that contributed to the wedding are: Lady Arran (Castle Hill wedding venue); Classic Carriages (Rolls-Royce wedding cars); A and L Wedding Cars (Jaguar limousine wedding car); Frilly Frocks (designer wedding gown); Blue Hawk Photography (wedding photography); Posh Nosh Catering (canap�s plus catering brigade and serving staff); Filers Travel (two luxury executive coaches); R & L Digital Video (wedding video service); Sue’s Florist (flowers and floral decorations); Bovey Castle (wedding accommodation); Northcote Manor (wedding accommodation); Taittinger (fine champagne wines); Rosanne Hollowell (bespoke wedding cake); Mole Valley Farmers (sponsors of the wedding breakfast); Coombes Menswear (gentlemen’s outfits); Ambience Devon (decorative chair covers); Julies Mobile Hair and Beauty (bridal make-up and hair); Wish Upon a Star (wedding organiser); Deja Blue Jazz (music duo); North Devon Falconry (bird of prey display); Archant Publishing (glossy magazine special feature); Hand in Hand Designs (balloons and wedding favours); Catherine Bishop (wedding rings); Brend Hotels (wines for the wedding breakfast).