SALT LAKE CITY — The idea of a picture perfect wedding has always looked a little different through the eyes of Elizabeth Weissman and Vinnie Ryan.
“We met online in a video gaming forum,” Weissman said.
They’re a couple who survived months of online dating and distance.
“She was in Oklahoma, and I was in Montana,” Ryan said.
But after finally moving to the same place, they were met with a new set of challenges.
“It’s been a romantic adventure, Weissman said. “Our bond has kept us afloat, and it will continue to do so.”
Following a yearlong courtship, Weissman, 21, and Ryan, 25, decided they never wanted to be apart again. Ryan proposed just after the couple moved into an apartment together in Montana. But shortly after they began to celebrate their lives together, Ryan’s life took a turn for the worse.
“A week and a half ago I started getting this cough. I thought it was pneumonia,” Ryan said. “So, I went and got it checked out, and they did an X-ray and found a big tumor in between my lungs.”
He was flown from Montana to the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City, where the cancer survivor learned his disease was back.
“It’s multiple tumors that are spreading out from there,” Ryan explained. “So, they went up to my lungs, my livers and my kidneys and spread out quite a bit.’
Doctors gave him a couple of weeks to live.
“I can’t even describe it. It’s pretty impossible to relay that, but it was definitely hard,” Weissman said.
But rather than just accept that Ryan may die, the two decided to start living.
“I wouldn’t want to have gone my life without, you know, making that commitment with him, no matter the end, honestly,” Weissman said.
One floor above his hospital bed, the staff at Huntsman began preparing for a wedding on Friday afternoon.
Nurses filled the rows of a small chapel, and thousands of miles away, Weissman’s family gathered around a computer in Pennsylvania to watch on Skype from home.
“Hey baby, you’re beautiful,” said Janae Weissman, moments before her daughter walked down the aisle.
“I love you,” Weismann called back.
Because the couple had to put the wedding together so quickly, Weismann’s parents could not make it in time.
“I want to hug her. I want to touch her. I want to smell her, but this was the next best thing,” said Janae Weissman. “She knew that the commitment would be for life, his life, maybe not hers, but definitely for his. And she loves him without abandon, she loves him.”
The two made a promise to love and to hold that neither Weissman nor Ryan knows how long will last.
“Life is hard and things you love can be taken away,” Weissman said. “And I just don’t know what I would do if that were to happen. But I’m trying to have faith and strength over the future, and conquer my fears.”
While the two aren’t sure what life will bring them next, they’re living theirs together, a way they never would have envisioned.