A groom who uses a wheelchair spent a year having physiotherapy to be able to stand for his first dance with his wife on their wedding day.
Barry MacDowell, 49, and his wife, Emma, 36, from Kinmylies, Inverness, Scotland, both have multiple sclerosis (MS) and met on an MS support platform, bonding over their similar sense of humour.
In 2021, Barry - who has been using a wheelchair since 2018 - proposed to Emma and the couple began planning their big day.
Barry was determined to stand and join his bride for their first dance on their wedding day on April 8, 2023, but the pair decided to keep their stunt a surprise for their guests, with just a team of neuro-physiotherapists involved to make it happen.
Not only were their guests amazed, but Emma was shocked that Barry, supported by his physio team, was able to remain on his feet for the entire song - a medley of 'Thinking Out Loud' by Ed Sheeran and 'Shut Up And Dance' by Walk the Moon.
"Barry could walk when we first met in 2017, but since then he's only been in a wheelchair," Emma, a former hairdresser explains. "Because of that, I would always have to be behind him pushing him, because at the start he couldn't self-propel.
"So the dance gave us a different type of closeness. Until then, I never even knew he was taller than me. Now it's done, it doesn't feel real - I want to do it again."
Barry, a former BMW technician adds: "My legs were sore for two and a half weeks after the wedding - but it was worth it of course."
The dad-of-three was diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS (RRMS) in 2015, while Emma was diagnosed with the same condition after a bout of meningitis aged 29.
She is still able to walk, but suffers numbness in her hands, bladder issues and memory problems.
Both single parents at the time, Barry and Emma got chatting online in 2017 through an MS support group on Facebook.
They met in person for the first time at their MS group's Christmas meet that December and ended up spending the whole weekend together because they got on so well.
After that they began visiting each other every few weeks, travelling between Portsmouth, where Emma lived, and Inverness.
But after becoming official Emma and her son, Corbhan, 11 moved in with Barry in September 2018.
In early 2021, Barry proposed - but in July that year Emma lost her dad, Robert Townsend, 64.
"His death put things into perspective - for a while, I didn’t see the point in marrying because my dad wouldn’t be there," she explains.
"But when Barry suggested instead we have a quiet wedding, I realised I did want to share it with lots of people after all."
In early 2022 they booked their wedding venue and the countdown was on for the big day.
Barry's wedding dance journey
With a year to go, Barry had an idea about undergoing special physiotherapy to help him learn to stand so he could properly dance with Emma on their big day.
The couple enlisted the help of Move4ward - an organisation that specialises in neuro-physiotherapy and rehabilitation.
"I told them about the wedding first dance, and they said ‘yeah, we'll get you to do this’," Barry explains.
Over countless sessions practicing walking on parallel bars and a zero-gravity treadmill, Barry's progress was slow but steady.
They tried to get Barry vertical using leg braces, but it was too painful, so the plan was for his physiotherapists to hold him up for the dance.
Dressed in black and wearing balaclavas to avoid stealing the limelight, as the music for their first dance began, the physios slipped discreetly onto the dance floor and helped get Barry on his feet.
He remained standing for the entire dance - one minute 30 seconds - the longest amount of time he'd ever stood up for before.
"It was amazing to dance with him," Emma says of the moment, while Barry describes feeling "so proud" of his achievement.
"The dance was amazing," he says.
"Every day now I sit and watch our wedding video.
"I just can’t stop watching it."
Speaking about the moment he helped Barry to his feet Move4ward's Dave Powney adds: "We loved [Barry's] attitude and determination and were only too pleased to help him.
"We managed to achieve his first independent stand with us just a few days prior to the wedding.
"On the day, myself and my colleague Jude Simms assisted Barry to stand and then dance with Emma.
"There wasn’t a dry eye in the house."
Additional reporting SWNS.