Couple says "I do" in first ever space wedding
WASHINGTON (AFP) Aug 11, 2003
The bride, in a sleeveless white gown, had her feet firmly planted on the ground. The groom, in a blue flight suit with black bowtie, was almost over the moon.

When a judge pronounced them man and wife they blew each other kisses across the ether, in a ceremony being touted as the first wedding to be celebrated between Planet Earth and space.

The groom, Russian cosmonaut Yury Malenchenko, was aboard the orbiting International Space Station, hurtling some 400 kilometers (240 miles) above New Zealand, during the ceremony on Sunday afternoon.

His bride, 27-year-old Yekaterina Dmitriyeva, was in an auditorium at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas that had been decorated to look like a wedding chapel, according to a Houston Chronicle report.

Malenchenko and his best man, US astronaut Edward Lu, participated via video, appearing on a huge screen in front of the wedding party and some 200 invited guests.

Lu played a wedding march on a keyboard he brought to the space station as Dmitriyeva marched down the aisle on the arm of a family friend standing in for the Russian cosmonaut.

The two space compatriots had also arranged to have a wedding ring and tailcoat delivered on a supply vessel to the ISS, where they are on a six-month tour.

Malenchenko, 41, proposed to Dmitriyeva in December before blasting off for the ISS in April. The two decided they couldn't wait for his October return to tie the knot.

"My favorite moment was when the judge read the poem and when I got to read my poem to Yuri and just feeling the whole moment of it," the radiant brunette with gold star glitter in her hair told reporters at her wedding reception at a nearby restaurant.

"It was so cool. It was just straight to the heart. I almost wept," she said.

While guests enjoyed smoked salmon and borscht, she posed for pictures with a life-sized cardboard cutout of her new husband.

"As Yuri is the furthest away, we are the closest because of the communication that we have," she said.

"It was a celestial, soulful connection that we have."

Texas law allows a marriage to be celebrated when one of the parties is absent for valid reasons -- usually because they are in the military or in prison. US officials accepted a space mission as one such reason.

Malenchenko went ahead with the wedding despite the opposition of his Russian Space Agency (RSA) superiors, who saw the union as a potential breach of security.

The couple plans to hold a second, firmly earthbound wedding in a church in Russia when Malenchenko returns to Earth in October, and then spend their honeymoon in Australia.

Dmitriyeva, a US citizen who emigrated from the Soviet Union with her parents when she was four, plans to move to Moscow and open a vitamin store while her husband continues his space career, the Chronicle said.

In Moscow, a spokesman for the Russian Space Agency stressed that in future "space marriages will be forbidden" and that henceforth this would be made explicit in cosmonauts' contracts.