When talk of a U.S. strike on Syria inundated news headlines and President Obama deployed U.S. naval ships this year, 19-year-old Madison Meinhardt was heartbroken because she was forced to cancel her wedding to the love of her life, a Navy seaman apprentice serving in the Mediterranean.
“The idea was there, so it wasn’t too shocking, but it was definitely disappointing that we had to cancel,” Meinhardt told WND. “We saw it coming from watching the news. They weren’t really allowed to tell us anything if [his deployment] got extended.”
Meinhardt and her fiance, Dylan Ruffer, 19, found themselves with little time to re-plan a wedding and no venue. However, Ruffer has been given a six-day vacation and will return to the West Coast from the Mediterranean on Nov. 18.
The California sweethearts, who met at Chester High School, haven’t seen one another in 11 months and just want to be married.
“I had asked Dylan what he wanted to do,” she said. “At that point, he just said, ‘Let’s just get married as soon as we can.’”
But the couple had no idea so many kind strangers would coordinate a dream wedding for them at midnight just after Ruffer’s 11:30 p.m. arrival.
They considered a quick court or chapel wedding in Reno, Nev. But when Meinhardt began making plans to meet Ruffer at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, her husband-to-be asked her what she’d wear and whether he should dress up.
“I had told my parents that he’d been asking what I would wear, and my dad started joking, ‘Oh, you could wear your wedding dress!’” Meinhardt said. “We began laughing. Then they said, ‘You could get married at the airport!’ We were just joking about it the whole evening.”
Meinhardt soon found herself considering a midnight airport wedding.
“I thought, that’s actually really not a bad idea,” she said. “It would be cool and unique.”
So she contacted the airport that night. Airport officials emailed her back the next day, saying they wanted to discuss the idea.
But Meinhardt never responded because the couple faced another obstacle: They couldn’t get their marriage license signed in time to return to the airport for a ceremony.
“So we hit a wall there and thought that option was down the drain,” Meinhardt said. “Then, the next day I received another email from them, this time asking if we wanted to come meet with them.”
So she explained the couple’s marriage-license conundrum, and to her astonishment, the airport personnel generously intervened.
“Basically, they dealt with that whole piece and got in contact with the county clerk and got it all worked out so we could get the license beforehand and sign it there,” Meinhardt said. “It was really neat that they did so much for us – and are still doing so much for us.”
The airport officials were moved by the groom’s military sacrifice and the couple’s story that they offered to host and pay for the wedding reception, complete with decorated hall, DJ, catered meal and cake for 150 guests.
United Airlines stepped in and put Ruffer’s flights on VIP status, so the flights will have top priority for on-time departures and arrivals, and bumped him to first class.
“It was definitely a joke at first, but it turned out to be a blessing,” Meinhardt said.
When Ruffer arrives in Reno Monday, his young bride will greet him in the airport and the two will finally exchange vows.
Todd Dubord, chaplain of Chuck Norris Enterprises, is officiating the wedding.
“Dylan and Madison’s story is really a match made in heaven!” Dubord told WND. “We all started to pray and, as devoted Christians, Dylan Ruffer and Madison Meinhardt trusted their Lord for a sacred solution. And that’s when Reno International Airport’s executives – and in particular Executive Administrative Assistant Mary Lee Mansfield – heard of the duo’s dilemma and went far beyond the call of duty to help this military quandary transform into marital miracle come true.”
He added, “The Biggest Little City in Nevada is about to be blessed by hosting one of the biggest little weddings in its history.”