Stuart Watts - one of the 'Four Oarsmen' who completed their heroic transatlantic row in record time - has shared exclusive photographs of his wedding to girlfriend Laura Mann, which took place in Antigua at the end of the race. The wedding was planned in just two months with the happy couple deciding they would marry on the blissful Caribbean island just moments before Stuart headed to the airport to start the race. In an exclusive HELLO! magazine interview with the couple in January 2017, Laura said: "I'd always fancied a destination wedding, so we briefly talked about getting married in Antigua after the race. As Stu was getting in the cab to leave for the race I said: 'So are we actually getting married in Antigua?' And he said 'Yes, let's do it!' And that was it."
Against a backdrop of coconut palms and the turquoise Caribbean sea, Stuart and his girlfriend of three years married on the aptly named Love Beach. Bride Laura looked stunning in a white satin dress as she walked down the aisle on the arm of her father, Michael Mann, to the sound of steel drums, with her sister Victoria Shah as maid of honour. Laura, 31, told us that she looked at several dresses before finding the right one - with a little help from sister Victoria.
"She looked amazing," Stuart, 34, revealed. "I felt really lucky, I was pretty much in my own world for two years while I prepared for the row and the fact she was still willing to marry me after that is incredible." Laura, too, couldn't wait to tie the knot. "I was just so excited walking down the aisle to Stu. I hadn't really felt any nerves as I was just so happy with the setting and I knew he loved it too," she said. "I couldn't wait to get to him and kept telling my sister, who was walking in front, to speed up."
The couple exchanged vows with a humanist celebrant conducting the ceremony. "We had a charismatic Antiguan lady marrying us, she was very funny," Stuart shared. "It was all about love and respect and never going to bed angry, it was really nice and relaxed. It was fantastic standing up there seeing all our friends and family." He revealed that his fingers were so swollen after the epic journey across the Atlantic, Laura gave him a watch instead of a ring.
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After the ceremony, the wedding party enjoyed a long lazy lunch at Jacqui O's Beach House. "The food was exquisite," explained Laura. "I had lobster ravioli followed by coconut chicken masala and
Stu had the catch of the day. After lunch we played an impromptu game of beach cricket and then enjoyed espresso martinis while watching the sun go down - that was my favourite part."
Having completed the charity rowing challenge and beaten the race record by six days, raising more than £350,000 for mental health charity Mind and Spinal Research, newlywed Stuart is now looking forward to some time to relax. "I can't wait to get back to my life in London and my close friends. I've not been able to give them the time they deserve and I'm looking forward to getting back to that life again. We won't be doing another challenge that will take this length of time."
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