London - Turning up to your first date in a wedding dress might be enough to send some men running for the hills.
But for strangers Sarah Elliott and Paul Edwards, this was far from being an ordinary first date.
They say that after making contact on a dating website and then chatting on the phone, they decided to meet for the first time at Gatwick airport two days later, on Christmas Eve – to fly to Las Vegas and get married.
Despite the unusual courtship and the disapproval of some friends, Sarah said she was determined to make the marriage work.
The 34-year-old nanny has been married before but it lasted only six months, while Paul, 36, was jilted by his previous fiancee four weeks before their wedding, leaving him £20 000 (about R360 000) out of pocket.
Sarah said that because those relationships hadn’t worked out, they wanted to try something different.
Incredibly, she is still living with her ex – and neither she nor her new husband have told their families, including his two teenage daughters from a previous relationship, that they have got married.
The new Mrs Edwards, who is from New Zealand but lives in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, said: "We get on so well and just thought, 'Why not have that commitment to actually making a marriage work from the very start?'. It’s traditional – older generations might have met their partner only once or twice before getting married."
The couple were matched on dating app Bumble on December 15 and instantly hit it off. They exchanged messages and then spoke on the phone for the first time on December 22, before talking for several hours the next day.
Sarah said: "I can’t remember who brought it up, but one of us said, 'We get on so well – maybe we should get married?'. "
Paul, who works in broadcasting and lives in Chichester, West Sussex, said: "I think the whole idea came about because I asked her what she was doing for Christmas. I said to her, 'How about we have our first date on Christmas Day? I’ll come and meet you'.
"Then I had another lightbulb moment and suggested, 'How about we go away on holiday for our first date?'. Life’s too short.
"The subject of marriage came up and Sarah said, 'I have always thought about going on that programme where couples get married at first sight'. I laughed and said, 'Let’s get married then'."
He said she called him later to tell him she had bought a wedding dress, when he asked: "Are you serious?". He said he later started having doubts but spoke to Sarah on the phone. "Within ten minutes she had calmed my anxiety down to the point it disappeared – no one has ever been able to do that before," he said.
The pair booked their venue, the Bellagio hotel and casino, and met for the first time at Gatwick on Christmas Eve.
He said it was her idea to meet in their wedding clothes. "I did warn her it’s a ten-hour flight and her dress might get a bit crumpled."
Paul surprised Sarah with a watch, a ring and flowers.
She said: "I know it’s totally crazy – a lot of my friends are disowning me. I haven’t told my family yet. As they’re on the other side of the world, we don’t talk as often as we should."
Paul said he planned to tell his daughters aged 13 and 15 over lunch when he returned, adding that his friends were glad he was happy again following his jilting.Daily Mail