The newlyweds kiss after being pronounced husband and wife at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport on Nov. 18 in a midnight ceremony. Photos courtesy Tony Cordero
Sometimes, fairytales can come true.
When Navy Seaman Apprentice Dylan Ruffer heard Pastor Todd DuBord say, “You’ve been waiting 11 months for this. You may kiss your wife,” nearly a year-long separation from fiancee Madison Meinhardt ended.
Madison and Dylan, both 19, were forced to cancel their Oct. 12 wedding when Dylan’s deployment on the USS Gravely off the coast of Syria was extended.
Madison had nearly given up hope of marrying her Chester High School sweetheart when she learned that her fiance would be flying into Reno on Nov. 18 for a week’s vacation before resuming duty in Norfolk, Va.
After her father, Kevin, joked that she should wear her wedding dress to greet Dylan at the airport, Madison emailed airport officials to ask if she and Dylan could get married in the airport terminal.
Madison’s mom Gwen said that although her daughter received a reply from the airport, she didn’t want to open it, convinced there was no way officials would agree.
But when the second email came, Madison and her family were ecstatic to learn that airport officials were eager to accommodate the young couple.
Madison and Dylan Ruffer stand in front of TV cameras after taking their vows.
The bride-to-be was on the verge of listing her wedding party favors for sale on Craigslist when airport officials contacted the Meinhardts to say they would love to give the couple a real wedding.
“They made dreams come true,” Gwen said, “that my daughter basically had put aside.”
The airport and its business partners created a wedding “chapel” and reception hall worthy of a storybook wedding — all of it generously donated by the airport and its business partners.
Dylan’s flights from Norfolk were put on VIP status to help facilitate the midnight wedding. When his United flight landed at 11:23 p.m., Dylan made his way excitedly toward baggage claim. As he approached the top of the escalator, his arrival was announced throughout the airport.
Dylan hurried through the beautifully decorated area and walked down the stairs where Madison waited, resplendent in a beautiful white wedding gown, on her father’s arm. (A video of the storybook wedding tale, created by the Reno Gazette Journal, may be viewed on Facebook.)
The wedding party and more than 200 people watched as Todd DuBord, chaplain of the Chuck Norris Enterprises, officiated the emotional midnight wedding ceremony.
As TV cameras rolled, the young couple took their vows, shared an award-winning kiss and afterward enjoyed a fully catered reception in the transformed baggage claim area with family and friends.
A DJ provided music amongst white tulle decorations, flowers and the nearly sold wedding party favors.
Kevin Meinhardt said he was impressed by the overall hospitality, but what really affected him was the support of the Blue Star Moms. He said military people they didn’t even know came out to support the newlyweds, even giving them gifts of cash.
The couple was interviewed by several TV and radio stations, including a spot on CNN. Dylan, a 2012 Chester High School graduate, was due to return to Norfolk yesterday, Nov. 26.
His wife Madison, a 2013 CHS grad, plans to follow in December. The couple hopes to get an apartment off base and settle into married life.
Madison said she plans to enroll in college either this spring or next fall. And Dylan is still exploring the options available to him in the Navy.
Against all odds, a young soldier from Hamilton Branch traveled all the way from war-torn Syria, across the deep blue sea and the friendly skies of North America to meet his bride-to-be, who hails from Westwood.
From the depths of despair to the national spotlight, sometimes there are happy endings.
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