They did it! Lady Mary and Matthew finally make it down the aisle… as the future of Downton Abbey is threatened in shocking first episode
00:48 GMT, 17 September 2012
Viewers have been enthralled in the will they won't they storyline between Lady Mary and Matthew and tonight saw the pair finally walk down the aisle in the first episode of series three.
And what a way to kick off the highly-anticipated new series with the joyful and uplifting union of the couple in the wake of news that the future of Downton and the Crawley family is under serious threat.
The series begins by informing viewers it is now the 1920s and the family are preparing for Mary and Matthew's big day.
About time too: Lady Mary and Matthew finally tied the knot in the first episode of series three of Downton Abbey
While the pair are head-over-heels in love they are also distant cousins and their union will secure the future of Downton – the dashing young men is the closest male heir to Lord Grantham.
But the road to inheritance does not run smoothly and when Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) makes a urgent trip to London he is told he has lost almost all of his wife's fortune after investing it in the Canadian Grand Trunk Line, a company about to be declared bankrupt.
Here comes the bride: Lady Mary was seen in her wedding gown for the first time, viewers had not been treated to a sneak peek in any of the trailers
Captivated: Lord Grantham managed to forget his money troubles when he saw his daughter in her wedding gown
'If there is not enough money to run it Downton must go', the accountant advises.
The head of the house returns to the grand home he faces losing to learn that a new footman has been employed, an extra wage that the family can now not afford.
Ahead of their daughter's wedding Grantham breaks down in tears as he confides in his wife telling her he has lost almost all her money.
The wedding we have all been waiting for: The nuptials ended the will they won't they storyline
Big star: Shirley Shirley MacLaine makes her big debut on the show
Cora takes the news that her huge pot of money is now all but gone astonishingly well and tells her husband: 'We have a wedding to celebrate' before adding: 'If it is to be our last it will be a wonderful last.'
While Lord and Lady Gratham show the strength of their devotion Mary and Matthew's relationship is soon called into question.
Matthew learns he may well land a huge lump of inheritance himself but says he neither wants it nor will he give it to the Granthams which leaving Mary labeling him 'disappointing' before calling off the wedding right at the last minute.
Tense times: The wedding was very nearly called off when Matthew told Mary he didn't want to help the family should he receive a large inheritance
Kissing and making up: The pair put their differences aside for a cheeky pre-wedding bedroom kiss with their eyes closed
Of course the pair do eventually make it down the aisle after a touching reconciliation bedroom scene, thank to the cunning of best man Tom Branson, the Irish chauffeur turned Sybil's husband who doesn't fail to highlight how uncomfortable he feels mixing with the upper classes at Downton at every possible opportunity.
The episode also sees the debut of Shirley MacLaine on the show who makes a grand entrance upstaging all the other characters with her breezy modern views and dislike for the English stuffiness.
As for the others Bates is still in prison, Thomas, is now Mr Barrow but still as conniving and Daisy attempts to go on strike after failing to get a promotion.
It seems the latest episode went down well with fans of the show many of whom took to Twitter to praise the first episode of the new series.
One fan posted: 'That was glorious!! Welcome back @DowntonAbbey! Cannot wait for next Sunday's episode! 🙂 #downtonabbey'
Another tweeted: 'HOW great was #downton I actually applauded when Matthew asked Branson to be his Best Man. 🙂 :-)'
It appears that even celebrities weren't immune to the Downton bug with HArry potter star Tom Felton posting: '#Downton pure indulgence'.