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Strangers rally for couple’s makeshift midair wedding

Pam Patterson and Jeremy Salda took their vows as minister Chris Kligora officiated aboard a Southwest Airlines flight on April 24. (Kaitlyn Manzer)
6 min

Jeremy Salda and Pam Patterson had been dating for nearly two years and had plans to get married in Mexico in August.

But earlier this week, they got a crazy idea: a Vegas wedding. On April 24, they decided to hop on a plane from Oklahoma City to Las Vegas, where they would tie the knot — just the two of them — at one of the kitschy chapels for which the city is famous.

The couple already had their wedding attire, so in keeping with the spontaneity of the idea, they got dressed for the 2:33 p.m. flight — she in her strapless wedding gown and he in his black wedding suit.

But their plan hit a snag. Their 7:12 p.m. connecting flight at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport was canceled because of bad weather. There were not any flights leaving anytime soon.

“We knew we’d never make it to Las Vegas in time to grab a wedding license and make the last appointment at the chapel,” said Patterson, 52.

Chris Kligora, an ordained minister from Dallas who works in the software industry, was also at the airport headed to Las Vegas that evening. He said it was hard to miss Patterson’s worried expression as she paced in her lace gown and clutched her bouquet when the flight was repeatedly delayed.

“I could tell this was someone who really wanted to get married,” said Kligora, 46.

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He introduced himself to the couple and offered to help.

“If you miss your wedding time, I’d be happy to marry you out in front of the Bellagio fountain in Las Vegas,” Kligora said he told them.

He also helped them to look for flights on another airline.

“We found out there were three seats available on a Southwest Airlines flight going out of Dallas Love Field Airport that left in 50 minutes,” Kligora said. “So we all grabbed an Uber, told the driver to floor it and rushed over there.”

“In the airport, we made a mad dash for the plane, with Pam holding her long dress up with one hand and her bouquet in the other,” said Salda, 49. “I wish we had footage — it was quite the sight.”

When they stepped aboard Southwest Flight No. 2690 and saw flight attendants standing at the entrance with Capt. Dickson Gil, Pam’s idea for an impromptu Vegas wedding suddenly went out the window.

Instead, she wanted to get married right there, once they hit 36,000 feet.

“I said, ‘We’re not going to get to Las Vegas on time — how about if we just get married on the plane?’ ” Patterson said. “And Capt. Gil said, ‘Great — let’s do it!’ He was all in.”

“When I heard what Pam said, I wasn’t really surprised,” said Salda, noting that he met his bride on a Bumble date in Oklahoma City and this would be a second marriage for both. “She’s always up for anything — that’s what I love about her.”

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Following the captain’s lead, the flight attendants also went all in. Julie Reynolds fetched a bottle of champagne and downloaded the “Bridal Chorus” before takeoff.

Then she and another flight attendant, Amanda Sturm, hatched a wedding plan from their jump seats.

“It’s been a long couple of years with the pandemic, and we wanted to have some fun with it,” said Reynolds, 37, adding that it was her first in-flight wedding in 15 years as a flight attendant.

“We had limited resources, but we thought we could still make it special,” she said.

When the captain turned off the seat belt sign, the festivities began.

Reynolds and Sturm fashioned an altar out of toilet paper streamers and told the 60 or so passengers on board to turn on their blue call lights to light up the aisle.

Everyone was excited for the unexpected in-flight entertainment, Reynolds said.

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One customer offered up a mini powdered doughnut as a wedding cake, while another passed around a spiral “guest book” for passengers to sign with their congratulations and seat numbers.

She and Strum made a sash for Kligora out of snack bags, and a professional wedding photographer who happened to be sitting in the back of the plane volunteered to take photos on her cellphone. Kligora, who had some broadcast equipment in his carry-on, asked the passenger sitting in seat 1-C to videotape it all.

Reynolds offered to stand in as the maid of honor, then she cued the music.

“Pam was so beautiful as she walked up the aisle from the back of the plane,” Reynolds said. “Every single person on board was smiling and filming the ceremony with their cellphones.”

Patterson, who was minutes away from becoming Pam Salda, decided to ad-lib her wedding vows, telling her groom, “I’m happy to be the check to your cross-check” and “I’ll weather any turbulence with you forever.”

In turn, Salda said he told his bride that within 30 minutes of meeting her, he knew he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.

“It was all so romantic that I thought I was going to cry,” Kligora said.

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After he told Salda to kiss the bride, the happy couple danced in the aisle to Bruno Mars’s “Marry You,” and the entire flight erupted into cheers and applause, he said.

“For everybody on that flight, it almost felt like destiny to be a part of it,” Kligora added. “A lot of people came together to make it all happen, and I’m just glad I could play a part.”

Jeremy and Pam Salda said that by taking their wedding to new heights, they have found friends for life.

“Now we’re still going to go to Mexico, but this time, we hope to invite Chris and the crew,” said Jeremy Salda, who runs a graphic design business.

“The best part about all of this is that our wedding has brought so much joy to everybody,” added Pam Salda, who works in medical sales.

“If I can spread kindness around like confetti by being silly and wearing a wedding dress to an airport, then I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she said.

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