As friends and relatives gathered for their reception in east London Saturday, 24-year-old Sean Murtagh, of London, and Natalie Mead, 30, of Australia, were stuck at their hotel in Dubai, delayed by the volcanic ash that has grounded commercial air travel since it began spewing last week in Iceland. Instead of missing their reception, the couple, who tied the knot in a civil ceremony in Brisbane three weeks ago, said "I do" again in the lobby of the Millennium Airport Hotel -- broadcasting it to their London relatives via webcam.
Caroline Black, who officiated -- online -- from London, told AFP: "It was just like any other wedding except the bride and groom weren't there."
Dozens of other stranded hotel guests sang the wedding march as the bride walked down a makeshift aisle in the hotel lobby, wearing a dress plucked from her luggage and purple flowers in her hair. The groom borrowed a shirt and trousers for the impromptu nuptials, which were broadcast via Skype on a laptop borrowed from the hotel.
"Hi Mom! Hi Dad," Sean and Natalie said -- loudly -- into the webcam in video captured by Gulf News. "Yes, it's wonderful. Thank God for modern technology!"
The hotel helped decorate the lobby and even made a three-tier wedding cake for the happy couple.
"We didn't think anything like this was going to be possible," Murtagh told Gulf News. "We had an amazing day and yeah, it's one day that we can't forget whether we want to or not."
While the Murtaghs managed to overcome their travel woes, the larger travel crisis continued today, with safety concerns forcing the closure of major airports across Europe and as far east as Bulgaria. Several European airlines, including Lufthansa, Air France and Royal Dutch Airlines KLM, reported they conducted successful test flights -- without passengers -- over Europe Sunday, urging a lift on the ban that has cost airlines up to $200 million per day.
"With the weather we are encountering now -- clear blue skies and obviously no dense ash cloud to be seen, in our opinion there is absolutely no reason to worry about resuming flights," said Steven Verhagen, vice president of the Dutch Airline Pilots Association and a Boeing 737 pilot for KLM, told The Associated Press. "We are asking the authorities to really have a good look at the situation, because 100 percent safety does not exist ... at some time you have to resume flights."
British Prime Gordon Brown said officials were working to reopen the British airspace "as quickly as possible," adding that European Union may be able to give compensation to the travel companies who have lost money.