LAS VEGAS – A U.S. Navy sailor married his high school sweetheart on Tuesday in Reno-Tahoe International Airport, just moments after returning from an 11-month deployment off the coast of war-torn Syria.
Seaman Apprentice Dylan Ruffer and Madison Meinhardt, both 19, tied the knot just after midnight under a tulle-covered arch in front of the arrivals escalators. More than 200 invited guests, passengers and others looked on.
"Seeing her for the first time, it was amazing," Ruffer told reporters.
A reception followed in the baggage claim area.
"We were expecting a little wedding in the corner," Meinhardt said. "This is definitely more than we could have ever asked for."
The couple, who met at Chester High School in Northern California, initially planned to marry in October but had to postpone the wedding when Ruffer's deployment was extended, according to KOLO-TV.
The bride had inquired about an airport wedding about three weeks earlier, saying Ruffer wanted to get married the moment he laid eyes on her after returning from his Navy assignment.
Businesses and community members rallied after hearing about the plan. The Peppermill casino offered a spa package so the bride could prepare, while the Eldorado casino donated a honeymoon suite and limousine.
The airport catering service prepared food for the reception, which was held in a fully decorated section of the baggage claim area and featured a DJ.
"A lot of people were absolutely stunned to see a wedding in the terminal," airport spokesman Brian Kulpin said. "It's not something you see in the airport every day."