Edmonton

Mud, string and gumboots: Alberta couple gets hitched in Fort McMurray floodwaters

The couple arrived in the bed of a mud-caked pick-up truck and exchanged vows as the knee-deep water flooding their property lapped at their blue jeans.

'We just needed something positive. We've been through so much together'

Brianne Shacklady and Randy Ringheim have been together four years. (Brianne Shacklady/Facebook)

The bride and groom wore matching green gumboots.

The couple arrived in the bed of a mud-caked pick-up truck and exchanged vows as the knee-deep water flooding their property lapped at their blue jeans.

Even a natural disaster couldn't keep Brianne Shacklady and Randy Ringheim apart.

The newlyweds were married on Sunday as the waters from a devastating flood in and around Fort McMurray began to slowly recede. 

Shacklady said they knew the weeks to come would be difficult. A wedding seemed the perfect way to acknowledge that they would deal with the challenges ahead together.

"We just changed our minds and thought, let's just do it right away before we have to deal with this," she said in an interview Monday with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM. 

"We just needed something positive. We've been through so much together and we're going to get through this." 

With no time to shop for wedding bands, the newlyweds tied the knot with pieces of string. (Weddings By Ash/Facebook)

Like so many in Fort McMurray, Shacklady and Ringheim are no strangers to disaster. 

The couple became an item four years ago just as a wildfire forced thousands of people to flee the community.

The rental property Shacklady owned in Abasand burned down. She had no insurance. 

In August, having rebuilt their savings, Shacklady and Ringheim bought a property they considered their dream home.

Following last week's flood, the home overlooking the Clearwater River in the Draper area south of Fort McMurray is uninhabitable.

The property was inundated with water and mud as a massive ice jam in the Athabasca River triggered the worst flooding seen in the community in more than a century.

The couple was woken early on April 26 with evacuation orders and got out with their dogs and parrot and little else.

She was pretty happy and I got out of buying a suit.- Randy Ringheim

Ringheim raised the prospect of a proposal on Friday and the pair went to pick up a marriage licence, thinking they would get married later this month. They had initially planned to get married next year. 

On Saturday afternoon, after inspecting the damage to their property for the first time, they realized they didn't want to wait.

Their home had been filled with water almost to the ceiling.

"It was pretty surreal to be able to step onto the property after six days and start pulling out some family mementoes that we could hopefully preserve," Ringheim said. 

Shacklady and Ringheim's home in the Draper community was among the worst hit by recent spring flooding. (Brianne Shacklady/Facebook)

Shacklady and Ringheim had spent hours digging through the wreckage when they got a call from a neighbour. 

The water was flooding their driveway and threatening to cut off access to the road.

They climbed back into their truck and attempted to navigate the rising water.   

"We start driving out, and in the middle of the flood waters, Brianne, the love of my life, was kind of getting frantic and kind of anxious as she was videoing us dropping into the water," Ringheim said.

"I said, 'Hey honey, why don't you turn that phone this way?' And I proposed to her right then." 

'I'm the captain'

Ringheim hit the brakes and popped the question as his truck sputtered and churned in the mud. 

"It kind of took her mind off the deepening waters that were surrounding the truck and I said, 'Honey, if you answer me really quick, I think I'm the captain of this vessel, I think I can probably do the ceremony myself. 

"She was pretty happy and I got out of buying a suit."

After their home was flooded, Shacklady and Ringheim decided to get hitched. (Brianne Shacklady/Facebook)

After tracking down a proper wedding officiant, the pair got hitched on noon Sunday in a field overlooking their flooded home. 

No wedding bands were exchanged during the spur-of-the-moment ceremony. They literally tied the knot. 

"My friend, whose house I went to take a shower at, she had some string so she cut some pieces of string and her son was our string bearer," Shacklady said. 

"But the rings didn't matter. We don't even need engagement rings now. We were only engaged for 24 hours."

Family members around the world watched the ceremony over a live feed on Facebook. Neighbours and strangers came to watch from a safe distance. 

"All of sudden there were a few of our neighbours that we'd never met who showed up out in front of our field and are hanging 'congratulation' signs out of their truck windows," Ringheim said. 

"It was an amazing, so unplanned event. It just kind of came together and it allowed people to smile and just forget about everything else for a few moments. 

"That's what all of Fort McMurray needs and we just needed it so strongly ourselves. And I'm just glad that it's bringing joy to people."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Wallis Snowdon

Journalist

Wallis Snowdon is a digital journalist with CBC Edmonton. Originally from New Brunswick, her journalism career has taken her from Nova Scotia to Fort McMurray. Share your stories with Wallis at wallis.snowdon@cbc.ca

With files from Pippa Reed

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