Watch: Transatlantic couple marry via Zoom despite never meeting in person
A couple have tied the knot via Zoom despite the fact they have never actually met in real life.
Ayse, 26, from Lancaster, Lancashire and Darrin, 24, from Detroit, Michigan, in the US, struck up a relationship during the coronavirus pandemic, after Ayse joined a Facebook group aimed at pairing up pen pals from around the world.
She started talking to Kenda, 56, who said her son Darrin was a similar age and would love to chat to someone from the UK.
The two began chatting as friends in July 2020, but became closer after talking on the phone to each other every night, even with the five-hour time difference.
After becoming an official item, Ayse planned a trip to the US in July to meet her boyfriend for the first time, but travel restrictions made this impossible.
The couple continued to share weekly date nights on video calls - ordering each other takeaway food and treats as a surprise each week.
And on 21 May 2021 Darrin took the surprises a stage further by proposing.
Knowing it would be a long time before they’d get to meet for the first time, the couple decided to get married via Zoom.
So on 19th August this year, supported by a small number of friends and family via video call, Ayse and Darrin officially became husband and wife, in a legal ceremony officiated in Utah, US.
While they are still yet to meet face-to-face, the newlyweds speak multiple times a day and are eagerly waiting for Ayse’s visa application to be accepted so they can fully enjoy life together as a married couple.
“I never imagined this would happen to me in a million years," Ayse says.
“I don’t think anyone expected this when we started talking last year.
“But we’re married and it’s all completely legal and official – I still can’t believe it."
Though Ayse says it has been hard not being able to meet her husband, she believes in the long run it will make the couple stronger.
“We just really love each other,” she adds.
When the UK went into lockdown, Ayse joined a Facebook group with the hope of finding a pen pal to alleviate her boredom.
She began speaking to Kenda, a carer, who mentioned she had a son who was a similar age.
“It’s funny that I met my mother-in-law before I met my husband,” Ayse says.
“We got on so well, so when she suggested speaking to her son, I thought it was a great idea.”
Kenda passed Ayse her son Darrin’s number, and despite feeling nervous she sent a message to introduce herself.
“I told him about my hobbies, how old I was, where I was from, that sort of thing,” Ayse said.
“I knew he was from the US so didn’t expect anything from it but thought it would still be interesting to chat to someone from somewhere else.”
Darrin responded and the pair began chatting frequently, before he suggested they call each other on the phone.
“I worried it might be awkward, but we ended up talking for hours,” Ayse says of the couple's first chat.
“We have so much in common, including both being terrified of thunder and lightning, and both having owl tattoos with blue eyes.
“I’m not a flirty person, but it came so naturally when I was chatting to Darrin – we got on so well straight away.”
The pair began chatting every day - via phone, video call and text - and each night would fall asleep while on the phone to each other so they felt closer.
“We’d be on video call and just be chatting when we fell asleep – then usually when I wake up, he’s still there sleeping," she says.
“It’s the closest we can get and might sound strange but it’s a huge comfort.”
Darrin asked Ayse to be his girlfriend in November 2020 and the couple began planning for Ayse to visit the US for them to meet for the first time.
Hoping the travel restrictions would be lifted by the summer, Ayse booked flights to Detroit for 23rd July 2021, for herself, and mum, Elaine, 67, and dad Nigel, 74, both retired.
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Unfortunately, the US was still restricting travel from the UK, which meant Ayse and her family weren’t able to fly directly.
The pair did try to get around travel restrictions with Ayse flying to Mexico for 15 days before flying to the US, but she was sent home by immigration.
“I think they thought that if they let me into the US then I’d never leave because of Darrin,” Ayse said.
“His address was listed as where I was staying on my tourist visa and they asked my relationship to him, so when I told them he was my boyfriend and they saw I’d been in Mexico for 15 days I guess they thought I’d try to outstay my visa.
“I would never have done that, and it was so heartbreaking to be so close to him in the same city, but not be allowed through the border.
“I was put on the next flight home and cried the whole way back.”
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Days after returning home, Darrin suggested a ‘special date night’ where they both got dressed up to spend some virtual time together.
“When he answered the call he seemed so nervous which was unlike him – but I soon understood why when he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him,” Ayse says of the special moment.
“I couldn’t believe it. He said he’d been planning to propose when I came to Detroit but couldn’t wait any longer to ask.
“Despite never meeting, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to marry Darrin.”
The couple’s engagement was fully supported by both of their families.
"My parents had reservations about it to start with, but I suggested they chat to Darrin on Skype and they saw straight away how crazy we both are about each other," Ayse explains.
“When Darrin proposed he spoke to my dad beforehand to ask his permission, which I thought was really sweet and know my dad really appreciated.
“In our heads, as long as our family and friends are supportive, that’s all we need.”
The couple initially planned to tie the knot when they finally got the chance to meet for the first time, but after reading about a new law passed that made international virtual wedding ceremonies legal in the state of Utah, they decided to go ahead straight away and are now officially husband and wife.
Despite it being an unconventional wedding, Ayse wore white and was accompanied by her proud parents, while Darrin was joined by his mum and wore a smart burgundy suit to deliver his vows.
“We’ll make sure we celebrate together when we can, but for now, this was perfect,” Ayse said.
“I miss Darrin every day but I know we’ll be together one day and it’ll all be worth it.”
Despite travel restrictions being lifted to the US from the UK this week, Ayse has to wait for another visa to be accepted before she can book her flights.
“We don’t know when I’ll be able to get over there but are trying to be as positive as we can while we wait,” Ayse said.
Darrin adds: "It’s not everyday you find your best friend and the love of your life in one, so I wasn't going to let her get away simply because we live in different countries."
Additional reporting SWNS.