Sidmouth Parish Church has once again opened its doors for wedding ceremonies to take place for the first time since before the pandemic started.

Charli Ferrand Higgins, 38, and Ross Higgins, 39, from Ottery St Mary were the first couple to tie the knot at St Giles and St Nicholas church on Saturday, July 17.

Charli said: "I am so grateful that I was able to marry the love of my life with my parents, close family and most-loved friends present - whether that was in person or virtually. Despite the Covid-related stresses impacting our planning and the lead-up, our wedding day was just perfect. It was made even more special because it was the first wedding in such a long time - not just for the church, but also for many of our incredible suppliers. This just added to the incredible feeling of joy and happiness that beamed out of everyone on the day. It was so good to all be together again, and to have something to celebrate. We even had a crowd of spectators gathered outside the church, waiting to watch us go in and come out again!"

The wedding reception was held at Thorn Golf Centre in Salcombe Regis with 49 guests attending.

Ross said: "The day was perfect, despite the added stress of putting Covid-secure measures in place and even writing a risk assessment for our own wedding! We couldn't have asked for better weather and sharing such a special day with friends and family who could be there was magical. The church team, led by Rev’d Matt Selman, were all amazing and were very welcoming. As I waited, all nerves dissipated when I caught a glimpse of Charli coming down the aisle. She looked beautiful and I am a very lucky man and proud husband."

Despite the efforts of Charli’s best friend's husband (who works with Ross) trying to set the pair up four years ago, they actually ended up meeting each other when they matched on the dating app Bumble two and a half years ago and had their first date at Mocha Restaurant in Sidmouth. The rest, as they say, is history.

Sidmouth Herald: Rev'd Matt Selman led the ceremonyRev'd Matt Selman led the ceremony (Image: KYLE BAKER PHOTOGRAPHY)
Rev'd Matt Selman said: “What a joy to welcome Charli and Ross to be married in church! It has given everyone involved a huge lift. It was a privilege and delight to offer God's blessing to this wonderful couple and we feel very blessed by the new connection we have made with them. We're looking forward to keeping in touch and to holding more weddings very soon!”

Charli said: “Because of the ongoing pandemic, our guests were asked to wear face masks when inside the church, but were able to take them off once outside. A few people commented on how this felt like the ‘capturing of a moment in time’, as the country moved towards the easing of restrictions.

“The weather could not have been more perfect - blue skies, sunshine and a gentle breeze. Driving around Sidmouth in the 1965 Jaguar from Mr Bojangles Vintage Car Hire, first with my dad and then with my new husband, was just wonderful as lots of people waved and cheered as we passed by. There was an incredible feeling of joy and hope in the air, after such a difficult 18 months for many people.

“Finally, having my dad be able to walk me down the aisle and make the father-of-the-bride speech (co-written by my mum) four years after suffering a major stroke that left him unable to walk and talk, were also pretty special moments.”

Following the wedding, the newlyweds spent a relaxing honeymoon in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, one of their most favourite places in the world. Amber, their rescued four-year-old lurcher, stowed away with them.