When he wants someone on the wing, Manchester United star Rio Ferdinand normally turns to team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo.
But Rio has found an even more talented star to help out on his wedding day: an owl.
In a scene that could have come straight out of Footballers’ Wives, Ollie the barn owl will swoop down to deliver the rings when Ferdinand marries fiancee Rebecca Ellison in August.
Something flew: Ollie has been trained to swoop down with the ring in a velvet bag tied to her leg
Carrying the rings in a velvet pouch, Ollie will be released by her handler the moment the registrar asks the 30-year-old centre back: ‘Do you have the rings?’
She will fly down from the minstrels’ gallery in the Great Hall of Peckforton Castle in Cheshire, to the best man who will be wearing a falconer’s glove for her to perch on during the vows.
The bird has already acted as ring bearer for six other couples – and has, so far, stuck to the script.
Happy couple: Rio and Rebecca
Peckforton’s head falconer Mike Roberts has been training Ollie every day since she was acquired by the castle last year. Whoever acts as Ferdinand’s best man will also have to be trained before the ceremony.
‘It will take about half-an-hour’s training,’ said Mr Roberts, who will be standing nearby with a morsel of turkey to attract Ollie. ‘The first thing he will have to learn is not to be nervous and to stand still. It is Ollie who does all the work.
‘She will simply swoop down and land on his arm and he will be able to take the pouch containing the rings from her leg. I will be standing behind him and then the bird will hop on to my arm and the job will be done. It’s never gone wrong yet but one never knows.
‘When she flies down above the heads of the congregation, I’m sure they will be amazed. The feathers of an owl do not make a noise like other birds’ and she will swoop above them in absolute silence.
'The rings will be attached to what we call jesses – part of the leatherwork on her legs.’
Ollie is one of more than 20 birds of prey at Peckforton. A golden eagle called Elfie is available to greet guests, likely to include footballers Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Wes Brown, David Beckham, Joe Cole and Ashley Cole.
Ferdinand is also said to have invited actors Mickey Rourke and Danny Dyer, DJ Chris Moyles and rapper 50 Cent. Ferdinand’s mother Janice will travel from her home in Peckham, South London, along with his brother Anton and cousin Les, both footballers, who are expected to be ushers.
Causing a flap: Ollie has already acted a ring bearer for six couples
Rio and Rebecca’s children – Lorenz, two, and six-month-old Tate – are also likely to play a part.
A source said: ‘The details are being planned as we speak. It won’t be quite as lavish as the Rooneys’, but it will be a day to remember. Security will be tight as the castle is very private, at the top of a long, winding lane. It’s amazing inside.’
A spokesman for Rio Ferdinand said: ‘We do not comment on players’ private lives.’