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Last Updated: Friday, 24 June, 2005, 19:17 GMT 20:17 UK
Owen 'springs marriage surprise'
Louise Bonsall and Michael Owen
The happy couple have been together since their school days
Footballer Michael Owen has married his childhood sweetheart a day earlier than expected, according to reports.

The Press Association said the Real Madrid and England star and Louise Bonsall tied the knot on Friday at an hotel near his north Wales mansion.

It quoted a "source close to the player" saying the couple wed just before 1630 BST at the Carden Park Hotel, Chester.

Plans for the wedding have been shrouded in secrecy for weeks.

They were both exemplary students at the school
Head teacher Michael Powell
Speculation about where and when the England striker was likely to tie the knot with his former hairdresser fiancée came as fresh reports linked him with a move back to the Premiership from Real Madrid.

The Carden Park Hotel has neither confirmed nor denied that the wedding took place there.

The ex-Liverpool striker's big event is the second football wedding within a week in north-east Wales.

Last weekend current Liverpool forward Djibril Cisse and Anglesey hairdressing consultant Jude Littler tied their own knot at Bodelwyddan Castle just a few miles down along the A55.

Guest list

The Owens, who met at primary school, were expected to hold their reception at their Flintshire mansion, Lower Soughton Hall.

England captain David Beckham and wife Victoria were thought to be among the celebrities on the guest list.

The marquee in the grounds of the Owen mansion
A marquee has been put up in the grounds of Lower Soughton Hall

On Friday, there was a 100-metre-long striped marquee in the grounds of the £2m house. The couple live there with their two-year-old daughter Gemma Rose when Owen is not playing in Spain.

Hordes of journalists have been camped outside the gates for around a fortnight, waiting for news.

Flintshire councillor Tony Sharps said earlier that he believed the wedding was to take place at the Carden Park Hotel in Chester on Saturday - but the footballer had kept people guessing by also booking another local venue.

Mr Sharps said Owen had brought in his own security people, and the fire service had been put on standby because some of the celebrity guests were expected to fly in to Hawarden airport.

We don't really know Owen. He doesn't get involved in the community
Local councillor Tony Sharps
Large vans and lorries - including some from Harrods - had been arriving at the house all week.

Earlier on Friday, the footballer joined fellow golfers on the Northop course neighbouring his property. Meanwhile, staff busied themselves with the wedding preparations and security staff kept prying journalists away.

Michael Owen and daughter
Michael Owen with his daughter at Royal Ascot recently
"It's going to be a small family service and a civic wedding there followed by the reception for guests who we believe will include Beckham and his wife at the house," the councillor said.

Even though Michael Owen grew up in the Hawarden area and his family live in his old street there, Mr Sharps said the local community felt largely excluded from the event.

"When Ian Rush got married in Flint years ago the whole town came out to support him.

"But we don't really know Owen. He doesn't get involved in the community".

One person who does know the happy couple is Hawarden High School head teacher Malcolm Powell.

Both the couple were pupils there - until the footballer left for a training academy after his potential was spotted in year nine.

"They were both exemplary students at the school. There was nothing negative about them," Mr Powell recalled.

"Obviously Michael left to go to football academy but Louise was always a happy girl, always smiling."

One of Owen's England shirts is proudly displayed at the school but Mr Powell was not on the wedding guest list.

"I'm looking forward to some peace and quiet (from journalists calling) when it is all over," he admitted.

Star Owen switches wedding plans
05 May 05 |  North East Wales
Jude is latest footballer's wife
18 Jun 05 |  North East Wales
Man Utd dismiss Owen speculation
24 Jun 05 |  Man Utd


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