HALIFAX — A couple who fell in love over long distance were married the same way: Over Skype.
Megan Radford and Rolando Barrientos were together in Bolivia for the ceremony, but most everyone else was in Nova Scotia, including the man officiating: her ordained father.
“We talk all the time about how Skype, WhatsApp and instant messaging made our relationship possible,” Radford says.
Radford, 28, met Barrientos, 31, during a work-related trip to Bolivia in September.
Radford, who was born in Newfoundland and lives in Toronto, was in the church relations department at World Vision, while Barrientos, a pilot and MBA student from Cochabamba, Bolivia, worked as a translator for the group part-time.
The attraction between the devout Christians was immediate.
“Driving back from a rural project, we began to talk — really talk — about our values, families and dreams,” Radford writes on the couple’s GoFundMe page. “Something was sparked, and continued that night over Facebook messenger.”
Dolled up in a skirt and lipstick, Radford gave Barrientos two lingering hugs as she boarded the bus to the airport. She says that’s what sealed the deal for her.
When Radford checked her phone during a layover en route to Toronto, she saw a message from Barrientos: “Don’t go. Stay with me.”
The relationship escalated quickly, in part, thanks to their high-speed online connection.
“We couldn’t really do the normal things that people who starting to date do,” Radford says. “All we could was talk … it was such a concentrated way of getting to know each other.”
“Skype just helped us know a little more about how we live, our conditions and how to express our minds,” Barrientos says.
That Thanksgiving, after a month of online courtship, Barrientos asked Radford’s parents for permission to ask for her hand in marriage — again, over Skype.
“I was a little surprised,” Radford says. “I guess never say something is crazy. I would have said this was crazy before.”
They say Barrientos’ family was initially taken aback — they had never heard of anything like it — but friends and family were supportive because their shared faith and love were obvious.
In February, Radford journeyed to Bolivia to tie the knot. Barrientos met her at the airport.
“We were sitting together in the taxi on the way back, and I kept thinking, ‘Wow. He’s really, like, solid,’ she says. “He had been a virtual person for so long.”
“I saw her, and I immediately fell more in love,” Barrientos says. “You just get to smell that person and grab her.”
The young couple exhausted their limited resources on flights, vendors and immigration fees, only to have their nuptials postponed by paperwork delays and bureaucratic red tape.
With Radford’s visa expiring and the couple’s bank accounts depleted, they feared it could be months until they finally said their “I dos.” The bride’s mother, Sharon Radford, proposed a creative solution.
On Feb. 14, Barrientos and Radford held a small wedding ceremony officiated by the father-of-the-bride, Willard Radford, over Skype from Nova Scotia, where he teaches at the Halifax Christian Academy. Radford’s mother and sister, and her sister’s fiance, served as virtual witnesses.
In the eyes of God and the World Wide Web, Barrientos and Radford were husband and wife.
But their digital vows had no legal bearing under Bolivian law, so Radford returned to Toronto alone.
“It’s a lot harder than the first time,” Radford says. “We finally got to do the things that other couples do that you take for granted. Things like watching Game of Thrones together. Or going out to lunch.”
The couple is now raising money to fly Radford to Bolivia so the two can complete their legal marriage. A GoFundMe account seeking $5,500 was set up by a friend of the family, and has raised $4,575 from 41 donors.