A PROUD groom rose from his wheelchair and stood to take his wedding vows in a dream come true.
Tears flowed as Andrew Mullen, 39, defied the pain of a debilitating back condition to stand tall and say “I do” to the woman of his dreams, the Hartlepool Bride of the Year Deborah Langley, 44.
And as they shared a first tender kiss as man and wife, the couple realised why they had gone through five months of whirlwind planning - for a moment of sheer joy.
Their £12,000 dream day became a fantastic reality on board the HMS Trincomalee where they took their vows before friends and family in the Captain’s Cabin.
Thanks to the Hartlepool Mail and Robert Usher Photography, who jointly organised the competition, the wedding went ahead.
Afterwards, Andrew said: “It was everything I hoped it would be. My bride looked gorgeous, like a true princess, and I got to have a day I never thought would happen. I cant thank you all enough.”
Tearful bride Deborah said: “I am so proud of him. He must have been in pain to stand for his vows, but he did it without a second thought and it meant everything to me.
“This is a day I will never forget, never.”
Andrew was a fit and able bodied man when he first met Deborah, but soon after, he developed a string of debilitating conditions - degenerative spinal disease, facet joint arthritis, and nerve damage - which left him mostly confined to a wheelchair.
But devoted Deborah remained a constant support for him.
As his way of saying thank you, he entered her into the Bride of the Year competition - and the public took them to their hearts.
The new proud Mrs Mullen said: “If it was not for them, this would never have happened.”
The Mail was there to follow the couple throughout their wedding day.
Watch out for a full report and more photographs next Wednesday.