Few women can say they were able to marry the man of their dreams three times over, but Sarah Horne can.

Michael and Sarah by Elen Studio Photography

Michael and Sarah by Elen Studio Photography

The story of Sarah and Michael Payen begins in two continents: Sarah in the city of Bainbridge in Georgia, USA; Michael across the pond in Vivienne Westwood’s and Jason Statham’s home county, Derbyshire, England. Growing up with passions in graphic design (Sarah) and music (Michael), the couple’s paths crossed when both chose to pursue their ambitions at Georgia Southern University in the USA.

It wasn’t a conventional meeting, and in fact, if it wasn’t for the case of 25-year-old music teacher, Michael, being in the right place at the right time, he may never have had the opportunity to spend the last three and a half years with 24-year-old graphic designer, Sarah. She explains: “There was a big party being thrown on campus. I couldn’t go, but I encouraged my roommate to go along and enjoy the night enough for the two of us. We were Snapchatting throughout the night, so I could almost feel like I was there too.”

Michael added: “I somehow caught a glimpse of Sarah on her roomate’s Snapchat, and just had to know who she was! I was instantly attracted to her, and insisted that we were introduced.”

It didn’t take too much convincing and before long, the couple had met in real life. They hit if off instantly, sharing a love of movies and hiking. However, only 10 months into their relationship, their loved-up bubble was burst, flinging them back into reality when Sarah was diagnosed with Pseudotumor Cerebri. She comments: “I essentially experienced symptoms of a large brain tumour and went blind for 3 months; I was really very ill. We were  less than a year into our relationship, and my health issues were so intense. Michael could have easily walked away from it all, but he didn’t; he stayed right by my side and supported me every step of the way. It was then I realised this was the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. He supported me at my most vulnerable, so I was certain we could take on anything together.”

Having weathered the storms the condition threw at them together, it wasn’t long before things started looking up again for the couple. Two years after the diagnosis, Sarah’s luck began to change. She explains: “Things started settling down with my condition; I was over the worst of it, and Michael and I were back to building our lives up together again. Michael had decided to organise a day out for the two of us and a few friends. Ice skating! We’ve been a few times before, and I’ve never really been a big fan. He had put so much into planning this lovely day out for us that I tried to make the most of it.

“I tried really hard to enjoy the day but was having a really hard time on the ice, so I became progressively annoyed at myself and with Michael. Finally, we ended up leaving the ice and headed to lunch as I was starting to get hangry! I was walking ahead, Michael following me and my friends following him. Suddenly, we were in the city of Savannah’s stunning river street, and the scenary was gorgeous, with a beautiful gleaming river flowing right by us. Michael pulled me around in one swift motion. I then saw this diamond ring glistening up at me. I was so overwhelmed, I cried!”

Enjoying their newly-formed affianced bubble, it wasn’t long before the pair were thrown their next major obstacle. With only two weeks left before Michael’s Visa was set to expire, they were forced to make an important decision about their relationship. Michael explains: “We were put in a position where we had to decide between facing separation, or essentially fasttracking our nuptials. At this point we knew we loved each other, and wanted to spend the rest of our lives together, so it was a no-brainer. We had very little time to plan, but we managed to pull together a really intimate ceremony on 14 February 2016, with only 14 people in attendance; in true St Valentine’s style. Fortunately, my family was also able to be a part of the big day too, from over 4,000 miles away, thanks to an iPad screen.”

Sarah adds: “We were so pressed for time, I didn’t even get to buy myself a wedding dress! Luckily, my mother surpised me with one the day before, and things just fell into place from there.”

With family members and friends all regretting their missed opportunity to celebrate the nuptials, the newlyweds decided to hold a celebratory reception four months later. Sarah’s family and the couple’s friends all enjoyed a day of traditional home-cooked American foods, laughs and dancing, at Sarah’s local country club.

Wanting Michael’s family in Derby to experience a piece of the celebrations in person, it was decided that the pair would celebrate their union in the groom’s hometown the next year with an even bigger bash. Bravely leaving most of the planning in the hands of her in-laws, Sarah spent months scouring for her perfect bridal gown. With a gorgeous lace-sleeve gown and dramatic flowing veil in tow, Michael and Sarah embarked on their seven hour journey across the Atlantic, with no idea of what was awaiting them.

She said: “I had no idea how my UK wedding was going to unfold, until the actual day. The planning was left to Michael’s family, and we trusted they’d organise a day to remember. I spent most of the flight over worrying about how it would all  pan out. As soon as we visited the reception venue, Breadsall Priory Hotel and Country Club in Derby, a few days before the big day, I knew I needn’t worry. The venue was stunning, and the wedding team were so friendly and helpful. I knew from then that my 3rd  big day was in safe hands.”

The celebrations commenced on 28 April 2017 at Derby Cathedral, where the couple exchanged their ‘I dos’ for the second time, witnessed by Sarah’s parents and sister, and Michael’s more extensive entourage. Shortly after, the party was ushered to the reception venue, to pose for pictures.

Michael said: “Sarah looked so incredibly beautiful. It wasn’t until the car ride between the Cathedral and Breadsall Priory that I was finally able to catch a minute with her. I told her how beautiful she looked, and we talked for the entire car ride.”

With the celebrations pressing ahead, the remaining hours passed in a blur, as friends and family tucked into a buffet of typical English grub, before dancing the night away to some of the couple’s favourite tunes. Approaching the eleventh hour, the sleepy pair retired to their bridal suite to reminisce their eventful wedding journey.

Looking back on the day’s festivities,  Sarah said: “Everything was perfect. I ended up breaking my heel at one point in the day, but it didn’t matter because I was loving every minute of forming this magical union with my best friend. I tear up a little everytime I think about the big day in Breadsall. I just remember the look on Michael’s face when he saw me step out of the car for the first time. He had his usual cheeky grin on his face and I fell in love with him all over again. Everyday, I fall in love with him a little bit more. He truly is my knight in shining armour; my soulmate.”

The two now reside in Loganville, a beautiful suburb of Atlanta, Georgia with their two pups, TinkerBell and Freddie; and their kitten, Drogo.


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