The special Sunderland couple who share their silver anniversary with the city

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The City of Sunderland isn’t the only one celebrating 25 happy years today.

Rob and Kim Atkinson were the first couple to tie the knot at Sunderland Civic Centre on the day of the city status announcement.

Rob and Kim Atkinson with Mayor of Sunderland Coun Alan Emerson

Rob and Kim Atkinson with Mayor of Sunderland Coun Alan Emerson

These days Kim, 52, and 48-year-old Rob live in Derbyshire, but they have been back on Wearside to visit family before jetting off to Marrakesh today and were invited to the Civic Centre as guests of Mayor of Sunderland Coun Alan Emerson.

Kim, from Thorney Close, and Rob, from Silksworth, met through mutual friends.

Related: Sunderland’s silver jubilee: 25 people, events and changes that shaped a city

It had been Rob’s idea to tie the knot on Valentine’s Day, but he admitted it was a pragmatic, rather than a romantic, decision.

I decided to get married on Valentine’s Day - I knew I had to have an anniversary date I could remember.

Rob Atkinson

“We got engaged in September ‘91, and then married in February 92,” he said.

“I decided to get married on Valentine’s Day - I knew I had to have an anniversary date I could remember.”

The pair admit that in all the excitement of planning the wedding, Sunderland’s bid for city status passed them by until they found themselves featuring in the Echo and its weekly sister paper.

“We didn’t have a clue, but our photographer on the day said ‘I will send the pictures in to the Echo and the Sunderland Star - the Star put it on the front page,” said Rob.

Rob and Kim Atkinson

Rob and Kim Atkinson

Unsurprisingly, their memories of the day focus on their wedding, rather than the city status unveiling: “It’s all a bot of a blur,” said Kim,” though Rob does remember coming out of the registrar’s office to hear people talking about the announcement.

The couple have three daughters - Victoria, Hayley and Elisabeth - and have lived in Derbyshire since Rob’s work took them away ten years ago. Now he works for Derbyshire Police and Kim is a school secretary.

“The anniversary has kind of crept on us,” said Rob.

“All of a sudden, it is 25 years.”

Rob and Kim Atkinson celebrate 25 years of marriage

Rob and Kim Atkinson celebrate 25 years of marriage

Coun Emerson said: “February 14, 1992 is a very special date for Kim and Rob and it’s also a very big day for Sunderland.

“As Mayor of Sunderland I’m tremendously proud of the city and its people and I’m delighted that Kim and Rob have chosen to come back here to celebrate.

“Twenty five years is certainly a milestone to be proud of and it was lovely to meet them and to hear their fond memories of that special day.”

Rob and Kim Atkinson's wedding report as it appeared in the Echo

Rob and Kim Atkinson's wedding report as it appeared in the Echo