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A Hampshire couple from Waterlooville are celebrating winning a dream winter wedding at luxury New Forest venue Balmer Lawn Hotel & Spa in a national competition.
To celebrate its 1,000th wedding, the four-star New Forest wedding venue, launched the nationwide competition to give away a free winter wedding to one lucky couple. After whittling down hopeful entries to a top 10, the hotel opened it up to the public to choose the worthiest winner after reading the finalists' individual stories.
From more than 6,000 votes cast online, Kerri Vinall and Sam Stokes emerged as the winning couple with 33 per cent of the share – just over 2,000 votes for them alone. The win means the happy couple are now set to marry at Balmer Lawn Hotel next winter, under the guidance of Ruth Mundy, the hotel's dedicated wedding co-ordinator, who will ensure their planning goes perfectly.The second and third placed couples – Rachael Bailey and Beonard Kola with 20 per cent of the vote, and Emma Keyworth and Duncan Broomfield with 15 per cent – also won a £1,000 discount off a Balmer Lawn wedding.
Winners Sam and Kerri have been together for two and a half years after the first spark of romance was lit in the workplace. The flames were then fanned at a colleague's party, love blossomed and the couple have since got engaged. It might have been Sam's proposal which struck a chord with the voting public, as after re-enacting their first date (where they went rock climbing), Sam then popped the question on a rose-petal strewn blanket at Swanwick Lakes, using a scrapbook of their time together, with the final page reading, "Will you marry me?"
Commenting on their win, Sam and Kerri said: "We couldn't believe it when we were told we'd won. We're absolutely thrilled! It's so exciting to think we can start planning a wedding in earnest. The New Forest holds many happy memories for us, so we're delighted to invite our friends and family there to celebrate our big day."
They added, "Winter in the New Forest is a beautiful time of year, so we'll be hoping for some snowfall to add that extra element to our wedding photography. But it's wonderful to know our dream wedding can now start to become a reality."
The hotel invited couples to use 1,000 characters to outline why they should win, including some of their back story and their favourite song as a couple (along with the meaning behind it) to help present their case, with extra points awarded to those who submitted a Marryoke effort as part of their entry. The entries were then presented online for the public to vote. The winning prize covers the cost of catering for up to 50 guests, including arrival/toast drinks, a three-course meal, glass of wine per person, tea and coffee, evening buffet, and wedding video – adding up to a prize value of more than £5,000.
Michael Clitheroe, general manager at Balmer Lawn Hotel, said: "It's a fantastic feeling to give away a wedding and we're really looking forward to helping Sam and Kerri plan their big day. Given the size of their share of the vote, it's fair to say they're very worthy winners. We'll now start putting the appropriate plans in place to ensure they have a truly wonderful day when the time comes around."
Balmer Lawn Hotel & Spa is a four-star hotel and wedding venue in the heart of the New Forest, close to Lyndhurst. For more information about the hotel and its facilities, visit www.balmerlawnhotel.com
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