'It just flew at him, straight at his face and he fell to the floor' - Owl wreaks havoc on wedding ceremony, attacking bridal party
His job was to deliver the rings to the bride and groom
The congregation had fallen silent with nervous anticipation.
All eyes were on the bride and groom, Jeni Arrowsmith, 30, and Mark Wood, 29, standing side by side before their closest friends and relatives, about to make the most solemn of vows to each other.
Then, a beautiful barn owl, two rings hanging in a pouch attached to one leg, swept majestically down the aisle to a collective gasp of delight.
As it glided over their heads, below the ornate surroundings of Peckforton Castle, Cheshire, it landed, as intended on the outstretched arm of the best man.
Unfortunately, rather than unclipping the rings seamlessly from its claw, he struggled with the whole charade for a few seconds too long, clearly finding the task a bit fiddly.
The owl, meanwhile, started to get agitated. It turned towards the congregation and flapped its wings repeatedly.
Mr Wood, who could not believe his friend was unable to complete the relatively simple task at hand, could not bring himself to watch, laughing as he held his head in his hands.
But then, all hell broke loose.
For reasons unknown, the second of the three best men (the groom could not pick a favourite) who was seated in the front row and also happened to have an innate fear of birds, outstretched his arm.
As quick as a flash, the owl launched itself in his direction, flying straight at his face.
Chairs went crashing over he was knocked to the floor, grey suited legs and freshly polished boots flailing in the air.
For a split second, no one knew how to react. The stunned registrar stood at the front, hand clasped to her mouth in horror.
But then, taking their cue from the bride and groom, the congregation burst out laughing.
As the second best man tried to regain some composure, the owl, who was by now, without doubt, the star of the show, perched on the table used for signing the register and glowered at the congregation.
The falconer, Joe Cooper, from Nantwich, his face like thunder, swiftly walked down the aisle, scooped it up and disappeared outside, not to be seen again.
The bride and groom, meanwhile, and their friends and family remained in convulsive laughter, barely managing to compose themselves as the rings were finally exchanged.
The couple, from Wrexham, Clwyd, continued to giggle as they made their way out of the venue as man and wife.
The newly married Mrs Wood said yesterday: "It was absolutely hilarious. Peckforton Castle have never seen it before.
"It was an amazing day for us both, and has give us great memories we will never forget."
Wedding photographer Stacey Oliver was perfectly positioned to capture the kerfuffle in a series of pictures.
She said: “The best man was was just terrified. He's absolutely petrified of anything that flies.
“I think the one wearing the glove was meant to tap on it to give the owl the signal to fly back to its handler and he was signalling to him to remind him that was what he was meant to do.
“But it just flew at him, straight at his face and he fell on the floor.
“The whole thing had started badly as the owl took a while to fly off its handler’s glove in the first place. It felt like minutes but it was probably only seconds.
“It didn’t really feel like it wanted to play ball. Then it took a while to get the rings off it. The best man was very nervous and was fiddling with it for ages.
“It was certainly one I will never forget.”