HOUSTON – The bride blew the groom a kiss. He blew one back -- from about 240 miles above terra firma.
Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko (search) didn't let the fact that he's living aboard the international space station stop him from marrying his earthbound bride, Ekaterina Dmitriev, in the first wedding ever conducted from space.
The couple wed Sunday before family and friends in a private ceremony at Johnson Space Center (search) in Houston, where Malenchenko took part via video. Texas law allows weddings in which one of the parties is not present.
"It was very sweet," said Joanne Woodward, the wedding planner.
A life-size cutout of the groom greeted guests at the wedding reception, at a restaurant decorated with silver stars and mannequins dressed as astronauts.
The honeymoon will have to wait until after Malenchenko, who wore a bow tie with his blue space suit, returns to Earth in late October. They plan a Russian Orthodox (search) wedding sometime next year.
Dmitriev, who wore a cream-colored wedding dress, said the two had grown closer during their time apart, making them want to marry as soon as possible.
"As Yuri was further away, he was closer to me because of the communication we have," said Dmitriev, who turned 27 Friday. "It was a celestial, soulful connection that we have."
The two met at a social gathering five years ago and began dating last year.
He is a Russian air force colonel who stayed aboard space station Mir for four months in 1994. She left Russia for the United States with her parents when she was 3 and lives in Houston.
After their relationship began, Malenchenko, 41, returned to Russia to train for his upcoming space mission, but the two continued their courtship via telephone. The cosmonaut proposed in December.
Because Malenchenko was preparing for his mission and there was no time to plan a wedding, they decided to get married while he was still in space. The couple was issued a marriage license July 17.
Malenchenko, who blasted off to the station in late April with American astronaut Edward Lu, quietly arranged to have his tail coat and wedding ring flown to him aboard a cargo ship that arrived at the station in June. Lu served as his best man during Sunday's ceremony, and even performed the wedding march on a keyboard in the space station.
Officials with the Russian Aerospace Agency had tried to convince Malenchenko to delay the wedding until he returned to Earth, citing legal complexities and Soviet-era rules requiring military officers to get permission to marry foreigners.
The air force chief, Col. Gen. Vladimir Mikhailov, reportedly said a "cosmonaut mustn't behave like a movie star."
Russian officials ultimately gave their blessing but said other cosmonauts won't be able to do the same and such rules will be included in future preflight contracts.
In Russia on Sunday, Malenchenko's father, Ivan, told the state-run television channel Rossiya that the space wedding had made the cosmonaut's mother, Nina, cry and said "what is this needed for -- a sensation for the whole world?" His parents are pensioners in a Ukrainian village.
But Malenchenko's brother laughed and said his sibling will now be nearly as famous as cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first person to orbit the Earth.