Couple separated by COVID spend what should have been wedding day on 'border date'

Abbotsford resident Savannah Koop and fiance Ryan Hamilton, who lives in Bellignham, Washington, had been looking forward to their May 8 wedding since getting engaged just over two months ago.

But instead of walking down the aisle and saying ”I do,” the couple spent what was meant to be their wedding day having an extra-special, physically distanced “border date.”

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Since the border separating Canada and the U.S. was closed to all-non essential travel — an effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19 — the couple has been stuck in separate countries. They've been making do by meeting up at a spot in the Fraser Valley, where two roads run parallel on either side of the border. They bring lawn chairs, blankets, coffee and snacks, and obey physical distancing requirements by staying firmly planted in their respective countries.

Sometimes, Koop will head out on her skateboard while he hops on a longboard, and cruise down the roads, separated only by a ditch. “There’s lots of couples and families along the way. It’s nice to see a community of people trying to make the best of a situation,” said Koop in a video posted to YouTube on May 5.

Koop has been documenting these dates on her TikTok account. To date, their videos have amassed well over 100,000 views.

“At first, it was just so hard, for so many reasons,” she says in a follow-up video. “Obviously, just not being able to see each other, we also had to change all of our wedding plans.”

They began by planning smaller and smaller gatherings, until restrictions made it clear it wasn’t a good idea to have any kind of gathering at all. “Now we’re kind of at the point where we don’t even know when we can have our wedding, because they’ve extended the border closure for another 30 days," she says.

@savannahjolayne

We were supposed to get married in two weeks. But are separated. ##fyp ##fiance ##togetherbutapart

♬ original sound - savannahjolayne

“We’re just kind of waiting to see what happens, and go from there."

The closure, agreed upon by both countries in March, is currently set to expire on June 21.

When Koop pitched the idea for these physically distanced meet-ups to her fiance after the border closure officially went into effect, “he didn’t really like it,” she says.

“I think it’s just really hard to see someone in person but not be able to touch them or hug them, especially when you’re going through something that’s really hard, but eventually I think we got really desperate and missed each other, so a couple weeks later we decided we’d try it.”

Koop, on the other hand, was more concerned with following the rules. “I was pretty nervous. I thought, ‘Oh no, like, are we going to get in trouble? What’s the border going to say?’ We weren’t going to try to cross or do anything stupid, but I was just kind of worried that it was something we weren’t allowed to do.”

When she finally saw Hamilton on April 1, “I cried, like, the biggest tears,” Koop recalls in the YouTube video. “It had been like a month since we’d seen each other.”

She adds: “We just hung out, and it was just so nice to see each other. Once we did that, we realized it was something that we could do and probably should do more often.”

As for Koop’s nerves about what border patrol might think of these dates, the couple has had no issues. “They drove by several times and just waved.”

She recommends anyone thinking of following their example to make the effort, but to ensure they respect local laws and regulations while doing so.

“Just do your part to be respectful of [border patrol] and respectful of the border line, we just want to preserve this right and privilege that we have right now, and we don’t want to ruin it for ourselves or for other families.”

“It’s really hard to be so close but so far, but it’s nice to have a little bit of hope in such a hard time, and it’s a little bit better than FaceTime.”

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