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Saturday, 20 July, 2002, 22:36 GMT 23:36 UK
Kennedy ties the knot
The Kennedys
The new Mr and Mrs Kennedy: "So happy"
Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy has married his fiancee Sarah Gurling at a private ceremony in Westminster.

The couple, who have been together for more than four years, took their vows in the House of Commons chapel.

About 150 guests attended Saturday's traditional ceremony, followed by a private reception in the Commons dining room.

A lone bagpiper played as Mr Kennedy arrived about 20 minutes before the midday ceremony, accompanied by his best man, Lord Razzall - the Liberal Democrat elections campaigns fixer.

Mr Kennedy, Lord Razzall and a piper
A lone piper played the Skye Boat Song
The groom posed for gathered photographers, telling the BBC he was "constructively nervous".

He returned outside just over an hour later to pose for more pictures with his new bride on the steps of St Stephen's Entrance.

He declared he was "delirious" with happiness, while the new Mrs Kennedy added she was "so happy".

The couple also released a statement which said they had been "looking forward enormously" to their wedding day.

Mr Kennedy proposed to Ms Gurling, 32, head of government relations at National Lottery operator Camelot, at his family's croft in the Scottish Highlands over new year.


Our marriage is based on love and friendship and it's a very private decision between two people

Charles and Sarah Kennedy
The couple had said they did not want their wedding to be turned into a "circus".

The guest list was said to be made up mainly of family and friends, including the groom's parents Mary and Ian Kennedy, and the bride's, Jill and Peter Gurling.

But some high profile figures also attended - including Prime Minister Tony Blair, who arrived seconds before the bride.

"He was there in a very much private capacity as friends of both the bride and groom, not as a party leader," a spokesman for Mr Kennedy said.

Apology

"He spoke to Charles and Sarah after the service, who told him they were fantastically happy."

Other guests included former Liberal Democrat leader Sir David Steele, Lord Jenkins, Baroness Williams, Scotland's deputy first minister Jim Wallace and the Labour MP Austin Mitchell, who has been friends with the groom for years.

Menzies Campbell, Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman also attended, and described the service as "tremendous".

The service itself, in the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft, was ecumenical, as Mr Kennedy is a Catholic while his new wife is Anglican.

The bride and groom after marrying
The bride wore a traditional dress made from duchesse satin
The bride, who comes from South London, is the sister of Mr Kennedy's best friend James.

The pair met while she was helping with the then Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown's election campaign in 1997.

In their wedding statement, the Kennedys said: "We met through politics and hope to find a balance between our public and private life.

"Our marriage is based on love and friendship and it's a very private decision between two people which, in the years to come, we shall try to keep separate from the political arena."

Earlier this week, BBC presenter Jeremy Paxman apologised for questioning Mr Kennedy too closely about his drinking habits.

Honeymoon

It followed House of Commons leader Robin Cook's complaint that many MPs were "taken aback and distressed at the degree of personal questioning" during Paxman's Newsnight programme, broadcast on Wednesday evening.

Mr Kennedy, MP for Ross, Skye and Inverness, rejected suggestions that he is a heavy drinker - but said on Friday he has never made a secret of the fact he is a sociable person who likes a drink.

In an interview with BBC Radio 4's Women's Hour to mark the couple's impending marriage, he again put suggestions he drank too much down to the Westminster rumour mill.

The couple will spend their honeymoon in the Far East.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Reeta Chakrabarti
"Both bride and groom looked radiant"
See also:

20 Jul 02 | Politics
20 Jul 02 | Politics
18 Jul 02 | Politics
20 Jul 02 | Politics
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