sunetra sarker wedding

Exclusive: Inside former Strictly star Sunetra Sarker's star-studded wedding

The Ackley Bridge actress tied the knot in two ceremonies in the Cotswolds

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It was a unique wedding for an unconventional couple when Sunetra Sarker married Scott Carey. Bringing together two families and two cultures, the actress and company director had two ceremonies: one traditionally British, the other Indian, in a day that celebrated laughter, friendship and living by your own set of rules. "I’m a bit embarrassed that in all our wedding photos I’ve got this big, crazy smile," Sunetra, 45, who made her name in Casualty, told HELLO! in November 2018 as she exclusively shared her beautiful wedding album for the first time. "I was in a constant state of excitement."

Celebrity friends including wildlife presenter Steve Backshall and his Olympic rower wife Helen Glover, whom Sunetra first met when she and Steve competed on Strictly Come Dancing in 2014, were among the 115 friends and family gathered at the beautiful Asian-inspired Matara Centre in the Cotswolds for a day of celebrations, organised by Tailor-Maid Events, on 1 November. Fellow actress Jo Joyner, actress Louise Delamere and her actor husband Stephen Mangan and comedian and Mrs Brown’s Boys creator Brendan O’Carroll were also in attendance; groom Scott, 46, is a director of the tourcatering company Chef Aly, which works with the show both on BBC1 and on tour.

Sunetra Sarker and her Ackley Bridge co-stars

The first ceremony at 3pm was a civil service – at which the bride had not expected to cry. She surprised herself with tears, however, as soon as she started walking up the aisle to There’s Nothing Like You and I, accompanied by her father Bachi, her bridesmaids – stepdaughter Poppy and sister Sri – and three little nieces as flower girls. "Before the wedding, Scott kept saying: ‘I’m going to start crying as soon as I see you,’ and I kept saying: ‘I’m not,’" revealed Sunetra. "Then of course on the day I was in floods. I saw all the faces of everyone who had been in my life and felt such a wave of love from our friends and family. Scott says he had to turn round and have a big word with himself – ‘Come on, keep it together’ – and he did. As soon as I reached him he handed me the tissue he’d been keeping for himself."

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The couple exchanged rings and traditional vows – and original vows they’d written themselves in a bid to make each other laugh. "We wanted to give everyone a giggle at the end of the serious stuff," explained Sunetra, who starred as Dr Zoe Hanna in Casualty for nine years and more recently in the BBC1 hit drama Informer." “Scott said: ‘I promise to love and look after you and always fancy you,’ which got a big laugh. And I said: ‘I promise to stay with you through thick and thin and to laugh at the jokes that are actually my jokes that you’re repeating.’"

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Sunetra’s wedding dress plans changed at the last minute. She had originally chosen a dress months before from a local bridal gown store but, after losing a bit of weight, she found it no longer fitted around the bust. "We tried to alter it and add some padding," said Sunetra. "But I thought: ‘I’m a bit Dolly Parton here.’" Waking up the next morning in a cold sweat, with just four days to go until her big day, she walked into another bridal gown shop and said: "I’m getting married on Thursday – do you have anything?’" she laughed. "I thought: ‘What am I doing? Have I gone mad?’" But the dress, by Maggie Sottero, was perfect. An off-white, soft tulle sleeveless gown with a sweetheart neckline, it was adorned with Swarovski crystals and pearl beaded embellishments, crystal buttons and long veil. Her bouquet was arranged by Fiorella Florals (as were all the floral decorations). "I felt fab in it," she said. "A million dollars."

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Following the vows, an opera singer friend of the couple, Claire Bessant, sang Puccini’s O Mio Babbino Caro – “which brought the house down” – before the newlyweds signed the register. Sunetra’s Casualty co-star Jane Hazlegrove and Jane’s actress wife Isobel Middleton gave a reading of a poem they’d written specially for the couple, who at the end of the service walked back down the aisle to Jill Scott’s Golden while being showered with confetti made from olive leaves. Sunetra was then treated to a surprise live performance, organized by Scott, from singer and actor Shaheen Jafargholi of the Carpenters song Superstar.

Before Scott proposed, Sunetra admitted she’d never considered getting married or moving in with him. "I always used to say: ‘Why does everyone keep hammering on about us getting married? Why should we have to prove that we’re happy when we are just as happy as anyone can be?’" They were both settled with their children, whom they raised with their respective ex-partners, in different parts of the country and she saw no reason to disrupt everyone by sharing a household. So the couple – who first met at university as teenagers in 1991 but didn’t get together until 21 years later in 2012 – live separately; Ackley Bridge star Sunetra in Bristol with her son Noah, 13, and Scott in Kent with his children Sam, 17, and Poppy, 14.

Sunetra Sarker and Scott Carey on their wedding day

Spending half a week together is a perfect formula that works for both families, said Sunetra, describing their arrangement as "the best of both worlds". "I wasn’t going to leave Noah and live with him, and he wasn’t going to leave Sam and Poppy. We have half the week with our children and half the week together, and alternate weekends," explained Sunetra. Even though the couple are now married, they have decided to keep things as they were. "I said: ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’" revealed Sunetra. "What we have works for everyone, no one’s missing out, our children get on well, no one’s being compromised." They’ll stick to this arrangement, she believes, until the kids are older.

Scott proposed in December, getting down on one knee and hiding the square diamond engagement ring in a small box of hair bands (Sunetra is always tying her hair back). “My first thought was: ‘Oh my God, Claire’s Accessories have started doing rings!’” she joked. “I was already so happy in my relationship with Scott. I never wanted marriage to be seen as the proof of that, but now it feels more like an affirmation of our love and a celebration of our modern family.”

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It was Scott’s idea to introduce an Indian theme to their day. “He said to me: ‘Is there anything we can do to make our wedding more Indian?’” said Sunetra, who was born in Liverpool into a Hindu family originally from Kolkata. “He really wanted to merge our two cultures. I didn’t want to do the whole three-day Indian wedding thing – they’re such long, drawn-out affairs. So we did an executive-summary 20 minutes – the best bits – and called it an Indian blessing. It was something simple and symbolic to show a blended family."

Just before the blessing, Sunetra was whisked away by her aunties, who covered her head with a red shawl. In Indian ceremonies, red is the colour of marriage and the head has to be covered for decorum and respect. In a courtyard and with everyone gathered around a circle of flowers with an oil lamp in the middle, Sunetra’s mum Bisakha welcomed Scott and his children into the family. The newlyweds exchanged garlands three times and walked around the “fire” (or oil lamp) seven times. They also tied scarves around their wrists to symbolise their bond and fed each other sweets to ensure that they’d always say sweet things to each other. Finally, Scott’s mum welcomed Sunetra and Noah to their family. Guests then sat down for dinner – grilled Mediterranean vegetables with goat’s cheese followed by seared cod loin – and speeches were given.

Having first met and made friends at Brunel University, Sunetra is grateful that it wasn’t until many years later that they got together. “We both insist that we would never in a million years have been able to withstand going all the way from 18 to now,” she says. “This is the only way the Scott and Sunetra story could have ended as happily as it has.” Looking back to their first date in summer 2012, when they met up again after having lost touch for years, it was, Sunetra says, a magical moment. “That’s when the fairytale began – it was like discovering a new colour." And the secret to the success of their relationship? "I think I’m the lucky one and he thinks he’s the lucky one. That is it."

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