Couple Relocates Wedding to U.S.-Canada Border So Bride's 96-Year-Old Grandma Could Attend

Since March 2020, U.S. land borders have remained closed for Canadian visitors, resulting in the separation of loved ones and family members throughout the pandemic. However, one bride recently took matters into her own hands when COVID-19 travel restrictions threw a wrench into her wedding plans.

For New York state resident Karen Mahoney, the presence of her 96-year-old grandmother at the wedding was crucial to the event.

"She's my only living grandparent, the only grandparent I've ever known, so it was very important for me for her to be there to watch the happiest day of my life," explained Mahoney to CNN.

Mahoney's grandmother, however, lives just across the Canadian border, along with the rest of their family.

As the pandemic has worn on, travel restrictions around the globe have often been extended with little notice, making international events difficult to plan for: currently, restrictions on travelers visiting the U.S. from Canada via land crossings have been put in place until at least October 21.

Flying from Canada to the U.S. would be a possibility for Mahoney's fully vaccinated family, but due to her grandmother's age, the move felt too risky.

As the couple's September 25 wedding date approached and the countries' borders remained closed, it became clear that the 96-year-old would be unable to attend.

US Border Closed
A bride met her 96-year-old grandmother at the U.S.-Canada border so she could be a part of her wedding. A sign in Ontario, Canada saying that the US border is closed, March 2020. LARS HAGBERG/AFP/Getty Images

However, Mahoney and her now-husband Brian Ray were eager to get married as quickly as possible: the pair first met in 1985, when Ray taught Mahoney how to ski. The two remained friends for decades before reconnecting romantically. So, hoping to not delay the wedding, they devised a solution, along with the help of their friend who works as a border patrol agent.

"He was off-duty at the time and...let the other agents who were on duty know what was going to transpire," explained Mahoney to CBS News. "He arranged so that it would be uninterrupted."

The makeshift wedding ceremony took place at a fenceless stretch of the border, with Ray, Mahoney, and the other U.S. residents on one side, and their Canadian counterparts on the other. And, while they could not cross sides, Mahoney and her grandmother were still able to share a meaningful embrace.

"She was extremely excited," Mahoney told CBS News, referring to her grandmother. "I've seen her once in two years. So, it was very emotional; we both cried. And she expressed to me later that to witness the happiest day of my life is a moment she would never forget."

She added, speaking to CNN: "The most important part of the day for us was the promises we told to each other, and we wanted my parents and grandmother to witness that."