When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, a Canadian bride and her American husband had no choice but to shelve their original wedding plans — instead, they were married in a quaint ceremony straddling the border, surrounded by family on either side and under the watchful eyes of border guards.
Davina Finn and David Hecht were supposed to have their big day in her hometown of Ottawa last year in the presence of hundreds of loved ones from both countries.
But after two months of closures and the health crisis surging, the pair who met in New York decided they needed to find another option so that their parents and siblings could be with them for their wedding.
“If you told me two years ago this was our plan I would have thought you were crazy,” Hecht said, adding that he wouldn’t change a thing.
The couple took to scouting potential locations where their immediate families could be present at a safe distance. They were looking at border crossings on Google Maps but most of them are on bridges or places where they couldn’t stand on either side. With his family in Washington, D.C. and hers in Ottawa, they also needed a makeshift border venue accessible by car.
That’s when Finn’s brother suggested the small Quebec town of Stanstead that sits across from Vermont.
“It’s only separated by flower pots, a line of caution tape and some rocks,” Finn said. “It’s as if you’re in the same space … just over a garden.”
“It was as perfect as perfect could be under the circumstances.”
Finn and Hecht were only able to visit the day before their wedding. They had to contact border authorities, too, to tell them that they had a small ceremony planned but with COVID-19 restrictions in mind. There would be no crossing country lines to hug her family and each side brought their own picnic.
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The event was small, with only their siblings, parents, a close friend officiating the ceremony and photographers taking part.
Union Eleven Photographers’ Andrew Geddes said he wouldn’t have thought it was possible to have a wedding straddling two countries in the midst of a pandemic.
“It’s just about the last place you would think of having a, you know, momentous occasion such as your wedding ceremony,” he said.
With Stanstead located three hours away from their office in Ottawa, Geddes and his team weren’t even able to scout out the location as part of their usual preparation. Aside from capturing the big day with photos, they were also tasked with livestreaming it for the couple’s extended families and friends that couldn’t be there.
“We were surrounded by everyone we would have wanted to be there,” Finn said of the added livestream.
Geddes admits he was a bit nervous. Union Eleven Photographers has photographed more than 500 weddings, but nothing like this. Border patrol was relaxed and easygoing and the ceremony itself was “fun, different and exciting.”
“Everyone was so happy and it was a beautiful day,” Geddes said.
They made it as fun as it could possibly be despite pandemic restrictions, according to Finn. She described it as a “happy, perfect day” — there was even music for everyone to dance to on either side of the border.
“We were just so excited to make it happen,” she said, adding that it also gave her the chance to see her parents and brother since the pandemic started.
Finn and Hecht, who have been married for a little more than six months now, relocated to Washington, D.C. after their wedding. They both work from home due to COVID-19, which has brought them closer in what Hecht described as a “silver lining” of the pandemic.
“Married life is great,” Hecht said.
The pair also has no intention of holding a second ceremony or wedding reception as restrictions loosen and cases drop in Canada and the United States.
The September 2020 nuptials at a border crossing wasn’t the plan, but they are delighted with how it turned out. They also consider themselves lucky given the circumstances.
“We’re really happy,” Finn said. “We feel really good and we’ll have many more events to celebrate in our lifetime.”
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