Teenage sweetheats to hold wedding reception at Barking and Dagenham College

Akira Johnson with her two children Ryan and Nicole

Akira Johnson with her two children Ryan and Nicole - Credit: Archant

A couple have decided to celebrate their wedding day where they first fell in love - a further education college.

Ashley Green and Akira Johnson first met as teenagers through a mutual friend outside the sports hall of Barking and Dagenham College one lunchtime in 2002.

But for the budding bride and groom - who will marry on May 27 - it wasn’t quite love at first sight.

“I found him very annoying to be honest, but as I got to know him I knew I would marry him one day,” the mum-of-two said.

Taking the first step, Ashley - who was 17 at the time - asked his future bride-to-be if he could have her phone number, but when Akira said no her determined suitor took her phone, deleted all her contacts and put his own number in their place.

“It was funny because that’s what drew us together,” Akira, 33, said.

Soon afterwards the pair went on their first date - to the cinema - after which romance blossomed to the point where on a family holiday to Devon almost 15 years later Ashley, now 31, proposed to his teenage sweetheart at the end of the Grand Pier in Teignmouth.

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“We were looking at the view and I turned around and there was this ring,” Akira said.

“I thought, ‘What the Hell?’ I just wasn’t expecting it. Everybody was looking and I was thinking ‘Oh my God’. I said yes straightaway,” she added.

Now the Dagenham couple are to marry at Akira’s church, St Albans in Ilford followed by a reception at their former college complete with a Caribbean themed menu.

Explaining the decision to hold the reception at her old college, Akira said: “I like to do things with meaning. We met there and had the best time there.”

And students from the Dagenham Road campus will be busy arranging the flowers, taking the photographs and organising a film for the special day.

“I thought it would be nice for the students’ portfolios. Everybody that helps is invited to the reception,” Akira said.

“I’m very excited, though stressed trying to get everything done with three weeks to go. But I’m looking forward to it,” she added.