“IT was well worth the wait.”

Those are the words of a Hampshire couple who have finally tied the knot – more than a year after becoming embroiled in a visa battle that kept them apart for nine months.

Lionel Illgner, 50, and Alison Probert, 45, both of Milford on Sea, were planning to get married in August last year.

But Lionel had to fly back to his native South Africa to make new visa arrangements and was stranded there after his initial application was rejected.

He was eventually allowed to return at the end of last year following an appeal backed by friends, parish councillors and their local MP.

Now the couple have at last got married in a ceremony conducted by Alison’s father, the Rev Bev Probert.

Guests at the wedding in the parish church at Canford Magna, near Poole, included Lionel’s 85-year-old father, Lionel Snr, who flew over from South Africa.

Alison said: “We finally made it – and it was well worth the wait.

“The wedding was absolutely fantastic and lived up to all our expectations. I felt like Cinderella, never wanting the day to end.”

The ceremony was followed by a reception at the South Lawn Hotel in Lymington Road, Milford.

Alison added: “Everyone has been on a long journey with us and it felt special because of them. Friends, family and people from the village have been so supportive and we’d like to thank them from the bottom of our hearts.”

As reported in the Daily Echo, Lionel has lived in the UK for several years and used to run a hardware shop in Milford.

His original application to remain in this country was rejected after officials said he failed to submit enough evidence to justify a new visa.

But the decision was overturned by a review panel following a campaign led by New Forest West MP Desmond Swayne and county councillor Mel Kendal, who lives in Milford.

Speaking shortly after Lionel arrived back in the UK, Alison said: “It was torture waiting to find out if he was coming home.”