A HAMPSHIRE restaurant, which is a converted church, has held its first wedding in more than 30 years.

Dave Gardiner and Vicky Baker tied the knot at their dream venue, The Vestry in Southampton, and have played a major part in bringing weddings back there.

The bride and groom celebrated their big day in front of family and friends at the Commercial Road restaurant.

Dave, who grew up in West End, and Vicky, originally from Sholing, have known each other for years as their families are good friends and Dave used to play football with Vicky’s brother.

But they met again when Vicky, 32, who is a project worker for the Society of St James charity in Southampton, was at a charity night at the West End Brewery, Dave’s local pub, two years ago.

Dave, who is a driver in the Royal Air Force, had just returned from four months in the Falklands and the pair had a couple of drinks and got talking, and their relationship went from there.

When Dave got down on one knee to propose and Vicky accepted, she showed him the venue that she had for years wanted to get married in – The Vestry.

“I just thought it was the most beautiful backdrop for a wedding and they have kept a lot of the original features like the stained glass windows,”

said Vicky.

“I didn’t want a conventional hotel, I wanted something a bit different.”

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The couple had had a few meals there and had their heart set on the venue.

But when they approached the restaurant they were told it was not possible because the venue did not have a marriage licence.

However, restaurant bosses said they would apply to get one if the couple paid half the cost.

They agreed and in return were guaranteed the first wedding there, and requests, according to the couple, have flooded in since from other engaged couples.

The building that is now The Vestry has been part of the city’s history for centuries.

In 1845, the 12th century building was converted into St Peter’s Church and in 1953 became a Grade II listed building.

But the church was decommissioned in the early 1970s.

It has been The Vestry restaurant and bar for the last three years and before that it was Joe Daflo’s restaurant.

Dave said as the couple were not regular churchgoers The Vestry seemed like the perfect opportunity for a church wedding without the church rituals.

“The fact that we’re the first people is amazing, it’s a claim to fame,”

said Dave, 30.

“It’s something we’ll be telling people in the future.

“The day was brilliant, we wouldn’t have changed a thing. I’m so glad she married me.”

Vicky added: “It’s nice to think we were the first.”

The ceremony was followed by a reception at the same venue and the couple are now on honeymoon in Jamaica.