Serving soldier who missed his sister's wedding makes sure he was there in spirit thanks to a six-foot-tall cardboard cut-out
14:41 GMT, 29 October 2012
A soldier who missed his sister's wedding as he was away in Afghanistan appeared at the venue as a life-size cardboard cut-out of himself.
Lance Corporal Ben Smith, 24, was devastated when he discovered he couldn't attend the big day so his family came up with the novel idea.
They had a recent photo of him enlarged to 6ft tall and then cut into a human figure before it was taken along to the wedding of sister Michelle to Aaron Jackson.
Soldier Ben Smith couldn't attend his sister's wedding so sent a life-size cutout instead
The cut-out figure of Ben was placed on the bride's side of the congregation at the wedding ceremony in a pavilion at Parley Manor in Christchurch, Dorset.
He was then taken outside and placed next to the bride and groom for the wedding photographs and even incorporated into the group pictures.
As he couldn't be seated, 'Ben' remained stood up during the main meal but was carried on to the dance floor during the evening reception for people to dance around.
Ben also recorded a video message that was played to the guests on a laptop
A video message that Ben had previously recorded from Afghanistan was also played to the guests on a laptop.
Ben returned to his home in Wimborne, Dorset, last week after his seven month tour with the Kings Royal Hussars.
He said: 'I knew the date of the wedding for a while but I wasn't able to get my rest and recuperation time to fall over the same week.
'I was gutted because I really wanted to be there and before I left we spoke about maybe getting a cardboard cut out.
Ben's sister Michelle and her groom Aaron created the cutout using a recent picture of the Lance Corporal
'Ben' was a key part of the group pictures and was even carried on to the dance floor during the reception
'When I came back in July for a few weeks my family took some photographs of me and got them enlarged when I was back in Afghanistan.
'I also decided to record a video message which was played to my sister and then left next to the guest book so people could watch it.
'It was nice to be a part of it in a way although I would have preferred to have actually been there myself.
'It's great to be back and see the family and to see Michelle and Aaron as a married couple.'
Michelle, a 22-year-old trainee teacher, said: “When Ben came back for his rest and recuperation we got him to pose for some pictures.
'I then got one of them made life-size for the wedding, which was nice as it was fun and quirky.
'I would have preferred him there of course but he phoned a few times and made me the video message which was lovely.'
Ben's cutout took pride of place behind his beloved sister in the group wedding pictures