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Last Updated: Monday, 11 August, 2003, 11:57 GMT 12:57 UK
Stars in space couple's eyes
One of the most unusual weddings in history has taken place as planned with the groom orbiting the Earth and the bride on the ground in Texas, US.

Cardboard cut-out of Yuri Malenchenko and a real-life Yekaterina Dmitriyeva, AP
A cardboard cut-out helped the bride visualise her groom
Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, 41, has married his American girlfriend, Russian-born Yekaterina Dmitriyeva, by video link between the International Space Station (ISS) and the Nasa space control centre in Houston.

The bride, in an ivory wedding dress, was at the space centre with her bridesmaids and wedding guests, while the groom wore a bow tie with his blue spacesuit.

He was accompanied by his best man, fellow astronaut Edward Lu, who had the additional duty of playing the wedding march on a portable keyboard.

Because of our deep true love that we share, we just decided that this was the ultimate cosmic soulful connection
Yekaterina Dmitriyeva
"He was there in soul and he was there in spirit and I got to see him on the telly," Ms Dmitriyeva told the BBC. "So I was just thrilled - absolutely thrilled."

The couple set their wedding day before Yuri's mission aboard the space station was extended following the Columbia space shuttle disaster.

"Because of our deep true love that we share ... we just decided that this was the ultimate cosmic soulful connection," Ms Dmitriyeva said.

Under Texan law, they were allowed to tie the knot despite not being in each other's presence. A friend acted as a proxy for the occasion.

Objections

Colonel Malenchenko proposed to his 26-year-old girlfriend who lives in Houston last December, and they set their wedding day for early August.

In theory, he should have been back in plenty of time from his current mission.

Yuri Malenchenko and Yekaterina Dmitriyeva in Moscow, AFP
The couple will be reunited on Earth in October
But delays led to a rescheduled blast-off from Kazakhstan, leaving the groom still stranded in space on his planned wedding day.

Objections were raised by Russian authorities - who only learned of the arrangements three weeks ago - on the grounds that serving officers in the armed forces are barred from marrying foreigners.

But they were silenced by protests from ordinary Russians who thought the ceremony should go ahead.

The US authorities approved the long-distance ceremony on the basis that the groom had valid reasons not to be present in person.

However, Mr Malenchenko's parents, who live in rural Ukraine, were alarmed to hear about the marriage, only days before the ceremony.

Neither have met their son's bride. But the father put a brave face on the surprising turn of events.

"Now everyone will know the two Yuris - Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, and Yuri Malenchenko, the first man to marry in space," said Ivan Malenchenko.

No repeat

Recently divorced Colonel Malenchenko has had a tuxedo and wedding ring supplied for the service by a cargo spaceship.

When the astronaut does finally return to Earth in October, the couple plan to hold a ceremony in Russia and go to Australia for their honeymoon.

But this may be the only space wedding ever to take place.

The Russian authorities will stipulate in future contracts with astronauts that they cannot get married while on a mission, Russian space official Sergei Gorbunov told Itar-Tass news agency.

Ms Dmitriyeva, who was born in the then Soviet Union and moved to the US with her family when she four years old, lives and works in Houston.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Navdip Dhariwal
"The couple had set the date before Yuri's mission was extended"



SEE ALSO:
Final countdown to space wedding
05 Aug 03  |  Europe
Space couple can't wait to wed
18 Jul 03  |  Americas
Can Russia fulfil space role?
04 May 03  |  Europe


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