Strangers marry in a PR man's romance

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The Independent Online
WHAT WAS supposed to be a dream wedding had an inauspicious start. The bride, swathed in an ivory veil, glided through the swing doors into the hotel lobby. Then she stumbled, almost making a horizontal entrance to the ceremony. She whirled to snap "get off of it, would you?" at the chunky security guard who kept treading on her train.

Carla Germaine, a 23-year-old part-time model, had never set eyes on Greg Cordell, 28, until 12.12pm yesterday. Less than 10 minutes later she was married to him.

The couple were the winners - or, some might say, victims - of a "lonely hearts" competition organised by aradio station in Birmingham. They were selected from 200 entrants to marry each other on a blind date.

Today they are on their way to Bermuda on a free honeymoon; when they return they will live - in a free apartment - with the disapprobation of the church, relationship counsellors, local MPs and some of their relatives, who have accused them of cheapening the institution of marriage.

The three joint presidents of Birmingham Churches Together, the Bishop of Birmingham (Church of England), the city's Roman Catholic archbishop and a representative from the Free Churches expressed "profound concern". Their letter to the radio station, BRMB, read: "Marriage should be the celebration of one man and one woman's decision to commit themselves to each other for life. By contrast what you have arranged deliberately prevents the couple meeting and reduces a sacred and momentous decision to a media event."

A spokeswoman for Relate, Julia Cole, accused the radio station of cheapening marriage. She said: "This competition has devalued something that is very important to lots of people's lives."

Emerging from their civil service at Birmingham's Hyatt Hotel to speak to the media, the couple looked more confused than concerned. "I know what I like and this is very, very good," said Mrs Cordell, tapping her husband's left hand.

"Everyone expects us to split up, but we want to prove them all wrong," said Mr Cordell, a salesman from Amington in Staffordshire.

Mrs Cordell, from Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, looked like a dream wife or, at least, a publicist's idea of one. Mr Cordell, on the other hand, just looked delighted, like the slightly awkward bloke on television's Blind Date who gets chosen over two "Chippendale" types.

The ceremony had been due to be broadcast live but was delayed for 30 minutes after the registrar, David Williams, expressed distaste, saying he did not want it "turned into a media circus", a spokesman for the radio station said. The couple exchanged gold wedding bands engraved with the station's logo before attending a wedding breakfast with 22 family members and friends.

The organisers emphasised to the media how a third of marriages break up and how religion and adherence to traditional ceremonies can cloud the issues behind marriage. They did not expand on what these issues were, but presumably they include passing lie-detector tests and appealing to the tastes of the astrologer Russell Grant - as the wedding couple had to.

A similar stunt organised by an Australian radio station last year produced a marriage that lasted two months.