When Sarah Cooper and Greg Astin decided to get married, they wanted to celebrate their love in a way that involved all of their family.
From bunting to bouncy castles and curry to cups and saucers, the Astins made sure their special day on September 21 would go ahead with their family in mind.
‘We wanted it to be special for everyone, not just us,’ explains Sarah, 29.
‘Everything was so personal.’
Sarah, from Hayling Island, met Greg, 31, from Bournemouth, on dating website Plenty of Fish and arranged to meet up.
She smiles and says: ‘We decided to meet up at a cafe in Lyndhurst and went for a walk in the New Forest. I remember it just poured with rain.’
Four years later, the heavens opened and the rain poured on yet another special occasion for Sarah and Greg, who works as an NHS 111 call handler.
‘It was Valentines Day, 2018, and we were down in Dartmoor,’ explains Sarah.
‘I have been going to Dartmoor since I was about six months old so I love it there. Greg took me on one of my favourite walks and then he knelt down on one knee.
‘He had brought a bottle of prosecco and it was pouring with rain again – just like our first date. It was very romantic, we were drinking prosecco in the rain.’
She laughs and says: ‘Everyone knew about the proposal but me. Greg asked permission from my mum, dad and brother.’
The couple originally planned to save a date in 2020 but in September, they decided to bring it forward.
However, neither knew what was around the corner. Sarah, who works as an admissions officer for the University of Portsmouth, says: ‘I unexpectedly had a stroke in April. I am still recovering but am slowly going back to work now.
‘It gave me perspective on life. It was a shock to everyone and made me realise life is too short, so we kept going with the wedding plans.’
The couple married on September 21 at St Peter’s Church, Hayling Island, and held their reception at Sarah’s mum’s house at Hayling for their 70 guests.
‘The whole wedding was a big family effort. We didn’t want a hotel affair so we did a lot of it ourselves,’ explains Sarah.
‘The reception was in my mum’s back garden in Hayling. We brought everything from charity shops and car boot sales – cutlery, cups, saucers and more – and then took it back afterwards so other people could enjoy it.
‘We also gave some of the cups and saucers to my granddad's care home. He couldn’t be there on the day but we felt it was some way of including him.
‘We grew the church flowers and the flowers to decorate the house at my nan’s allotment and my uncle was the DJ and cooked a big pot of curry for the reception. He also set up a bouncy castle for us.
‘We bought hay bales from Sam’s Sunflowers’ Farm for people to sit on at the reception and he allowed us to use his field for people to park.
‘My mum’s neighbours set off fireworks for us.’
Despite their poor track record with big occasions and weather, the sun came out on their wedding day.
Sarah adds: ‘Members of my brother’s band played music for me to walk down the aisle. They played True Love Ways by Buddy Holly –
it’s one of my grandparents’ favourite songs. I walked down the aisle to the Everly Brothers – I think that was one of my favourite bits.
‘It was so special to look round and see everyone having a great time. A lot of our guests said they had never been to a wedding quite like it.’
The newlyweds honeymooned in Tintagel, Cornwall, for four days.
‘Greg’s always very caring and he doesn’t just look after me but everyone around us,’ adds Sarah.
‘My stroke earlier this year came as a shock to all of us, but especially him. But he helped so much. He’s my rock.’