A brave marine injured in Afghanistan yesterday married his childhood sweetheart in a lavish £20,000 dream wedding – after locals donated their services for free.
Happy couple Lance Corporal Andy Thomas and Karly Goodman, both 24, met at school and decided to get married last year.
But Andy, who has survived two tours of Afghanistan despite being seriously injured on his second, was unable to foot the massive bill.
And locals were so touched by his plight they chipped in and spread the £20,000 bill between them for the big day.
Businesses dug deep and clubbed together to donate everything from rings and Champagne to a custom-designed cake and dress for the big day.
A Rolls Royce was donated to ferry the couple to and from the wedding and Canapes, luxury coaches for guests and even a bird of prey display was given.
And yesterday, hundreds of guests turned out to watch them tie the knot during a lavish ceremony at a stately home near Barnstaple, North Devon.
Andy’s mum Chris, 46, from Barnstaple, said: ”The wedding is amazing and it’s so nice to see everyone supporting our troops and making something positive.
”We’ve been really touched by the generosity of local residents and businesses and I know both Andy and Karly are over the moon at their big day.”
Andy, from Barnstaple, Devon joined the Royal Marines six years ago and embarked on his first tour of Afghanistan aged just 19.
But his first trip was cut short after he was run over by a British Viking tank, leaving him with a broken arm, serious bruising all over his body, and haemorrhages in his eyes for three months.
Chris added: ”When I got the call that Andy had been injured it was every mother’s worst nightmare – but thankfully he was one of the lucky ones.”
Andy returned to the country for a second time in 2008 with the Chivenor-based Commando Logistic Regiment, and has since been stationed in Norway to undergo training in freezing conditions.
He met Karly, who has a child from a previous relationship and gave birth to Andy’s son eight weeks ago, at Ilfracombe Comprehensive school.
The pair courted but became serious three years ago when they were 21.
Andy planned to propose to her but was worried about the cost of a huge expensive wedding and held off until ‘the time was right’.
But last year mum Chris spotted a piece in their local newspaper offering to pay for a Rolls Royce for a ‘deserving nominee’.
She put Andy’s name forward and a host of other businesses were so moved by Andy’s plight they offered an array of gifts totalling £20,000.
And yesterday, friends, family and well-wishers joined the couple as they wed during a lavish ceremony.
The Earl and Countess of Arran offered her Castle Hill Estate near Barnstaple as a venue and local businesses gave everything from accommodation, free Champagne and wine, suits for the guests and even covers for the chairs.
Chris added: ”The fact that so many people have donated their services to make their day perfect is just amazing.
”It’s really nice to see everyone here today, especially what Andy has been through.
”Although Andy recovered well from his injuries, it was the shock and emotional recovery that took the longest.
”He could easily have been killed and I think that really shook him.”
Kieron Freeburn, of Classic Carriages, who helped organise the event, said: ”People were only too keen to demonstrate in some way their appreciation for the work of our Armed Forces.
”This is a landmark event for North Devon and we hope that people can make the effort to celebrate the start of married life for this wonderful young couple.”
List of local businesses who donated:
Classic Carriages – Rolls Royce wedding cars
Frilly Frocks – Designer Wedding Gown
Blue Hawk Photography – Wedding photography
Posh Nosh Catering – Canapés 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 – Champagne and wine
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
Hand in Hand Designs – Balloons and wedding favours
Catherine Bishop – Wedding rings
Brend Hotels – Wines for the wedding breakfast