Border loophole for love: Canada-U.S. couples won’t let country lines get in way of weddings
Canadian Leah Bosello couldn't even keep a border from the love of her life, the American Nick Smith, even in the midst of a pandemic.
The couple visited frequently as Bosello lived in Burnaby, B.C. and Smith lived across the border in Blaine, Washington. But when Canada and the United States decided to close the non-essential travel border, Smith's cyber security work would commit to staying in the U.S., which means that neither of them can actually cross the border. At the time, the couple realized that it would probably take some time before they could be physically together.
However, love is fun and a few weeks later one of Leah's closest friends informed her of the meeting of couples on 0 Avenue, which is located at the Lynden-Aldergrove border crossing. The couple had found their outlet.
"It would drive through all of these cars, it was kind of weird trying to talk to each other as a big construction vehicle coming up in front of us," she said.
Construction vehicles weren't the only obstacles on the couple's path, as the border police closely watched the two to make sure there was no physical contact. There really couldn't have been since there was a clear ditch that marked the border.
"There were border patrols everywhere, it was good to see each other, but obviously not ideal that we can't cross this ditch and you just have to look at everyone and talk. It was a really strange experience," she said.
Leah and Nick took a picture of one of their first meetings on 0 Avenue.
It was only when an eavesdropping border guard found out about the duo's circumstances and told them that the Peace Arch Park would be reopening soon. Everyone who knows the area is aware that park visitors can park their vehicles nearby and, as long as they are in the park, are allowed to switch to the other country's end. When they found out, the two finally met on the American side of the park and two and a half months later, after the pandemic started, they finally hugged.
"Since it's open, we've been there at least once or twice a week, we had picnics, some of my friends would come. I gave birth to a puppy and brought our dog with me," she said.
The duo originally discussed marriage at Graben on 0 Avenue, but didn't know logistically whether this was possible, so the park was discovered at a convenient time. On June 6, Bosello and Smith closed the knot in front of a handful of friends and dozens of other Zoom fans at Peace Arch Park.
"It's a very strange comparison, it's like craziness and chaos happening all over the world, and then you celebrate your love and it's one of the happiest days of your life," she said.
The photographer Clint Bargen captured an intimate and sincere moment from the Smith Bosello wedding.
The couple met in South Korea five years earlier. They had spent every three weeks together, but fell in love before flying home, so it was no surprise to their families that they both chose a simple wedding.
"Nobody made anything difficult, it was just the easiest thing, it was perfect for us in the way people who looked after us were there, it went smoothly and it was beautiful and sunny," said Bosello.
It took up to two weeks for everything to be put together, and with the help of friends who did all of the food, decorating, and decorating, Bosello only had to order the silicone wedding rings from Amazon, yes, you guessed it. Even her wedding dress, which women can spend hours looking for to find the perfect one, simply didn't matter to Bosello.
"I had brought a dress for my friend's wedding that was unfortunately canceled, so I just thought chic enough," she said. "The original plan was actually tracksuits."
While wearing her famous white sneakers, Bosello tried to look like a bride with a veil, but after the photos were taken, the couple and their friends took off their formal clothes and put on tracksuits.
"I didn't want to wear heels or nice shoes, I also like sports and comfort. I bought a $ 10 veil from Amazon so I could look more bride," said Bosello.
Bosello and Smith are wearing their wedding training suits as they prepare to cut their cake.
Her wedding photographer Clint Bargen, who has been in the wedding industry for a long time, said he had never been involved in anything like this before.
"It was a bit surreal to celebrate in the no man's land, Peace Arch Park. We would take wedding photos and fully uniformed border guards would pass by casually," he said.
Bosello admits that Smith's parents and friends who were at home in Maryland weren't stopped by the glitz of the moment, but they plan a bigger reception for everyone if things are normal.
"It wasn't going to be that special because his family wasn't around, so we loosened it up and we're going to have a bigger party for everyone on the street," she said.
"It was the best day of our life"
While the Smith family could not be there to attend their wedding, Liz Peters' family drove nearly six hours from Canby, Oregon to see them on their wedding day.
Liz, a registered nurse, was born in Oregon, but lived and worked in British Columbia, where she fell in love with her current husband, Matt Peters.
The couple lived in Abbotsford, BC when the pandemic broke out. Their wedding was scheduled for May 9, but their venue had canceled the event due to the restriction of BC's meetings.
While it was a slap in the face at the time, the couple knew they wanted to be together, and instead of waiting, they married on their original wedding day in Arnold, British Columbia.
"We didn't want to wait to get married, we pulled it back, it was going to be the best day, it's just about the attitude behind it," said Liz Peters.
Matt and Liz Peters got married on the originally planned day, but reduced the celebrations due to the ongoing pandemic.
The decision to make the shotgun-style wedding felt right for the couple when Liz found that all the extras of the wedding (the big party, the glamor, an elaborate venue) fell by the wayside, but the couples did mutual commitment could be the focus.
"It removes the extra parts of a wedding and reminds you why you're trying to get married," she said.
After their wedding was held in Arnold while their parents were expanding their wedding ceremony as they drove I-5 down to the American side of Avenue 0, they finally looked at their daughter in a wedding dress.
"Never in a million years would I have thought that I couldn't hug my parents on my wedding day, that my father couldn't guide me down the aisle, but seeing them at that moment was perfect," she said.
Liz and Matt Peters are on the Canadian side of 0 Avenue, while Liz's family are on the American side to celebrate their wedding.
Rather than worrying about the moments lost, Liz's parents encouraged her to focus on the moment of togetherness that even a border and travel restrictions couldn't stop.
"My parents kept saying that it wasn't about mourning or grief about what was lost that day, but about celebrating. They were so happy for us," said Peters.
Border guards hawkishly watched over the families and allowed them to spend time together, but warned them not to touch physically. Both parents were making self-made signs for the moment, and finally a photo of the two families that became one was taken on the border of neighboring countries, separated by a ditch.
"It was not the perfect moment for a picture I was hoping for, but it turned out to be perfect for the moment we are in. It is a perfect picture in my eyes," she said.
The Liz and Matt Peters family celebrate their wedding with homemade signs on the Canada-USA border.
The day was doubly special for Liz, who had been working on the front of the ongoing pandemic for two months. In retrospect, the wedding she wrote down was a break from her current reality, in which the couple and loved ones could take a day to celebrate as originally planned.
"It felt surreal, all the stress that rose from work and worked in the medical service during a pandemic is insanely stressful ... it felt so exciting and so relieving to get to the end point," said Liz Peters . "It was the best day of our life, it was perfect in every way."
Moments of escape
BC's 33-year-old Erik Buddingh had been months since he saw his girlfriend, 26-year-old Morgan Bergren, who lives in Indiana. The couple had been separated since the pandemic started, and when they heard about Peace Arch Park, they knew they had to take advantage of it.
"When we found out that the park existed, we were almost incredulous, it almost sounded too good to be true. It is a no man's land where people can gather. We were thrilled when we found out that it was real Thing was, "he said.
The next thing they knew was that Bergren had booked a flight from Indiana to Seattle, where she would head north to the town of Bellingham and stay with friends. Bellingham is only 30 minutes from the park, where the couple met for nine consecutive days. Buddingh admits that the timing couldn't have been more perfect since the pandemic had really strained their relationship.
"It added to the normal difficulties of a long-distance relationship ... but now, at this time, it was a game changer that helped us a lot," he said.
Erik Buddingh and Morgan Bergren spent nine days in Peace Arch Park after being separated for months.
When the couple spent hours there, sometimes having small picnics and sometimes just watching what was happening, they began to observe that the park had become a place for all kinds of cross-border love.
"You see literally every kind of person and many of them, and everyone is united for different reasons, sometimes with the family, sometimes with big picnics or couples, maybe just with friends smoking a cigar together," he said.
When he thinks of Peace Arch Park during COVID-19, when the borders were closed to prevent relatives from seeing each other, Buddingh admits that these moments of escape from the pandemic are valued forever.
"It's really nice to see people from all walks of life for different reasons who only have a positive time," said Buddingh. "It will be a unified place, a real ray of hope."
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