Tori and Steven have a very good reason to organise a vow renewal ceremony this year – a heartbreaking start to their marriage meant that life as newlyweds wasn’t all plain sailing.
They happened to book their vow renewal service for the same date as Harry and Meghan and Tori explains, “We chose the date as it is the same as our original wedding day, just five years later.
“We chose Las Vegas as the place to do it as it is one of our favourite places in the world. We got engaged in Las Vegas back in 2012. Actually, I really wanted to get married while we were there but Steven was being deployed on a six-month tour in Afghanistan with the British Army a few months later.”
The couple, from Stockport in Cheshire, decided not to defer the wedding as they didn’t want their families to miss out on the nuptials.
Tori, 33, adds, “Also, Steven said planning the wedding would give me something to do while he was away. So we set the date for 19th May 2013.
“Just seven weeks before the wedding, I had the worst news imaginable. Steven had been badly injured when the base he was living in was blown up by the Taliban. He was buried alive in the building debris and had to dig himself out.
“He spent the next week in hospital at Camp Bastion, while I thought how stupid I was to plan a fairy-tale wedding when he was in the most hostile place in the world.
“So many people thought we should postpone or cancel the wedding as our future was now so uncertain, but I knew going ahead was the best thing for us both – to know we had made those promises to each other which could get us through what life was about to throw at us.”
Upon 36-year-old Steven’s return home, his physical injuries slowly began to heal and he was feeling pretty good by the wedding day. The ceremony at Shrigley Hall in Cheshire couldn't have gone any better.
Tori adds, “Our day was perfect. However, towards the end of our honeymoon in the Maldives, it became apparent that his mental injuries were just starting to emerge.
“Over the next two years Steven stayed at home, attending therapy sessions and having regular check-ups. It was decided in May 2015 that his post-traumatic stress disorder was too bad for him to return to duty.
“His hearing had also been affected as a result of head injuries he sustained. After the medical discharge he was on his own, I honestly believe if it hadn't been for our marriage his story could have ended very differently – for better or worse, we were certainly being tested.”
Steven, who now works as a health and safety consultant, and nail technician Tori faced many challenges from the start of their marriage. But their love for each other just made them stronger.
Tori continues, “Fast forward to late 2017, when all the pieces were starting to fall in to place, and he was finally able to work again. His first ever civilian job! We knew his mental health was ever changing but he was finally able to control his reaction to situations and feel comfortable doing what most people consider normal!
“We decided to book a holiday to Las Vegas to celebrate our anniversary. One night (after a few proseccos) we started discussing a wedding renewal with Elvis, and some of our friends and I started researching chapels online.
“What started as a bit of a joke then became what we decided could be our fresh start, our new marriage and our closure on the last five years. We booked The Little Vegas Chapel’s vow renewal With Elvis package and my best friend (original chief bridesmaid!) and her husband booked to come and celebrate with us.”
While in Vegas the couple will be staying at the Luxor Hotel & Casino, and plan to see Elton John live, plus go on a trip downtown to Freemont Street. They want to squeeze in a few tourist attractions like Madame Tussauds and – of course – some gambling on the slot machines!
Tori says, “The day before the renewal we have booked a cabana at the Luxor pool so we can relax and get a bit of a tan hopefully! After the ceremony we are hoping to visit the Vegas sign for a few photos and go for a gondola ride at the Venetian. Our friends even booked a meal for the evening as a surprise for us!”
Although some couples wait many years before renewing their vows, Tori and Steven feel they gone through more than what most couples will ever face.
“For some, the renewal after just five years may seem unnecessary but the challenges we have faced are more than most people will go through in the entire lives together,” adds Tori.
“During all Steven’s turmoil we still had to deal with my own ever-changing health. I have a lifelong inherited condition called cystic fibrosis, for which there is no cure, and diabetes. I have faced many hurdles due to my health in the last few years, which Steven has helped me through as well.
“If we can get through that we can get through anything, and that's reason enough for us to have another celebration – and for me to wear another wedding dress!
“The only thing missing will be our dog – aptly he is called Vegas – but he can watch online with our families from the UK!”