Places

Abbie and David

Sharks and champagne? The Rolling Stones sharing your stage? Being a princess in a tower? You can make your wedding day one to remember in South Yorkshire.

It’s not your average wedding day check list: Speech (tick). Rings (tick). Giraffes (tick). But for one couple the biggest day of their lives was so huge that the world’s tallest mammals were invited to join the party.

Some brides might have been worried that 16 foot Bahansin, Jambo and Palle would literally overshadow her on the day but not Abbie Bowler, who became the first bride to say “I Do” at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park when she married David Merrett in 2014.

When the couple from Tuxford, Nottinghamshire, first enjoyed a date in a zoo eight years ago, little did they realise they would be rubbing shoulders with the majestic and rare animals for their actual wedding day.

“All I knew was that I wanted to have a small intimate ceremony,” said Abbie, 25. “When Dave proposed we knew we wanted somewhere outdoors, with a relaxed atmosphere. I wanted something that suited our personalities and we’d have felt so uncomfortable in a big church.”

Mesmerised by animals usually found prowling the African wilds, the couple regularly make trips to wildlife parks across the UK. And as annual ticket holders to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park near Doncaster, they broached the topic with staff.

David, 30, said: “They didn’t have a license at the time but said they were looking into it. The next thing we knew, it was going through!”

“All our guests got free entry into the park all day, there were several places you could touch the animals and we had the chance to feed the giraffes. We love giraffes so it was just fantastic to see them! We also got two foot away from a lioness – it was unforgettable.”

After the wedding ceremony at the park’s new Outlook conference centre, the couple had photos near to some of the rarest animals in the world before holding a zoo themed night do with animal cake, décor and photo booth.

Hog roast was served to the 100 guests who joined the 45 daytime guests.

“Our guests said it was the best wedding they have ever been to. In the evening with the view of the Wetlands it was a really exotic setting. It could have been anywhere in the world,” said Abbie. “The day was anything but ordinary - it was mind blowing!”