Mark Clairmont |

BRACEBRIDGE — They said stay at home.

So Dave Ramer and Michelle Harbridge got married in their driveway Tuesday.

Then again in Hespeler four hours later.

The next day, Wednesday, April 8, the essential workers were back on the job — he as a paramedic with Muskoka Paramedic Services and she as a Correctional Services Canada officer at the Beaver Creek prison in Gravenhurst.

The two tiny — family-only — weddings weren’t the big spring exchange of vows they dreamed of last summer when they got engaged.

But nonetheless they were as loving — and definitely more intimate — than the 150-person gathering they had planned before COVID-19’s curve ball.

And with a lot more social distancing — the bride was walked down the driveway by her 13-year-old son, Nolan Harbridge, with each holding an end of a six-foot length of white boat rope.

Michelle called it “a blessing,” in Facebook post the day after.

“There is so much more to this story & I can’t wait to share all the crazy details at our renewal of our vows ceremony where we can celebrate with all of our family & friends,” she wrote while sharing photos of their extraordinary day.

“Please enjoy the photos! Knowing that Tuesday April 7th 2020 was a blessing.”

Originally they were to be married April 18, but then the shutdowns began and the rush was on.

“That’s when we got a little worried,” Ramer told Saturday.

“We had to do a little high steppin’.”

They already had their application in to the Town of Bracebridge for a marriage licence — and “they were very understanding,” he said.

A week ago Friday he went to the town hall and on the sidewalk out front provided I.D., signed some papers and walked away with the licence.

So they thought they’d get married on Sunday — two days later.

But Michelle’s friend, justice of the peace Gloria Kovach had to wait until Monday to find out if she could perform the ceremony.

When Kovach emailed the all-clear that morning, Ramer and Harbridge decided Tuesday was to be their wedding day.

“We had about 26 hours to put it all together,” said Ramer.

“It’s not even close to what we planned. But I wouldn’t change it for anything.

“It was a great day. We had an amazing time. We’re just really thankful that we were able to get married.”

They plan a celebration later, in “a year or maybe six months,” said Ramer, when life returns to normal and they’re allowed.

Meanwhile, he said “we’re having a homey-moon.”

It makes for a great story and an anniversary date they’ll never forget.

The whirlwind day began at noon, with Nolan roped into walking his mom up the driveway.

“We couldn’t even shake hands when he handed her over,” said Ramer.

They were joined by their four kids from their previous marriages: Hayden Ramer, 19, and Camden Ramer, 14, and Nolan’s sister, Hannah Harbridge, 17.

Harvest Church pastor Kaj Ballantyne performed the “spiritual” ceremony, which was “important to both of us,” said Ramer, “because we’re both Christians.”

But because Ballantyne is not ordained, to make it legal they had to go to friend Kovach, a J.P. in Kitchener, who couldn’t travel.

That meant a quick goodbye to their families and it was off to nearby Hespeler, where Ramer’s brother Al and his wife live.

They knew of a small patch of “green grass” — on “the side of the road” along a riverbank and under a tree — where the legal exchange of vows took place at 4:30 p.m.

And as a bemused man watched from afar, while fishing next to a train trestle.

“We couldn’t go to a park or a public place,” said Ramer.

Maid of honour Nancy Hannah met them there and returned to Orillia right after the ceremony.

The couple returned north after the service ready for work the next day.

But not before Ramer pulled out his guitar and sang Luke Combs’ Beautiful Crazy country ballad for Michelle.

“It just speaks to us,” said Ramer, “listen to it” here.

Michelle is “happy as a clam” with their memorable marriage, says her husband.

And with the coronavirus still a threat for the two front-line workers — who are both essential workers — it was indeed blessed day.

Especially since they have been separated from their kids for the past month.

Nolan and Hannah are staying with relatives for the time being — as both parents are employed in high-risk health workplaces.

But they’ve been able to have “driveway visits” each week with them, said Ramer.

Hayden, who just finished helicopter training at Canadore College in North Bay and only needed a 10-20 more air hours and his final flight test to graduate, had a job lined up this summer through the school to fly tourists in Tobermory. But that’s on hold.

Dave Ramer and Michelle Harbridge tied the knot at home Tuesday after COVID-19 forced them to speed-up and pare down their original wedding plans.
Nolan Harbridge kept his social distance with a rope as he walked his mom Michelle Harbridge up the drivieway to meet Dave at the first wedding Tuesday.
Hannah and Nolan Harbridge helped at the first of the two weddings of their parents’ home on Tuesday.
The newlyweds took the plunge a second time, in Hespeler, the same day to make it legal. (Facebook photos)

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