The bridesmaids wore masks: Colombian couple meets, marries in coronavirus shelter


BOGOTA (Reuters) – The wedding was traditional – a white dress for the bride, a suit for the groom and a large entourage of around 240 guests.

But the circumstances were anything but.

Maria Cecilia Osorio and Alfonso Ardila met just a month ago, in a shelter for people made homeless during Colombia’s nationwide coronavirus lockdown.

Osorio, 39, does missionary work and found herself without money to pay rent when the quarantine began in March. She accepted a spot at a shelter in Manizales, in Colombia’s coffee region.

Ardila, 72, works in construction and, like many informal laborers in the Andean country, saw his work dry up. Unable to pay rent and suffering the after-effects of a head injury he got at work, he too sought refuge at the shelter.

“I came to this place where nobody looked at me or greeted me but here I found someone who loved me and worried about me,” he told Reuters, adding that hourly seizures caused by his injury had stopped since he met Osorio.

“I have my medication and now I’m reducing my intake. They are blessings, very beautiful blessings.”

Though last week’s outdoor wedding – with chairs and an altar set up by other shelter residents – occurred in unusual circumstances, it featured the usual jitters.

“They told me the ceremony would start at 4 p.m. and I should be there at 3 p.m. to get ready and all that, at noon I still couldn’t believe it because it was my husband who arranged everything,” Osorio said.

“I was a little scared – even though I was dressing and everything I still didn’t believe it.”

Osorio’s white dress was accented with a blue sash, its train held by two bridesmaids wearing purple dresses and green face masks.

Both husband and wife are committed Christians and have taken strength from their faith in the midst of the pandemic. “We aren’t afraid,” said Ardila.

The pair now share space in a tent at the shelter and are looking ahead to the end of quarantine, scheduled for May 11.

“We’ll leave here without work, we don’t know what will happen with the shelter,” said Ardila. “To leave here without knowing is scary, but God will provide.”

Whatever happens, the couple is determined to enjoy another wedding tradition.

“We’re waiting for the moment when we can have a happy honeymoon,” he added.

Reporting by Javier Andres Rojas and Herbert Villarraga; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; editing by John Stonestreet