What started as a joke turned into a memorable weekend wedding ceremony at Royal Inland Hospital for a pair of nurses whose initial plans were thrown off by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On May 16,, critical-care nurses Amanda McKay and James Futerko were married in the centre of the roundabout outside the hospital, where they both work and met, surrounded by a small group of colleagues and family members.
In April, the couple cancelled their original wedding plans, set for May 16, due to physical-distancing requirements that have scuttled large gatherings. They began looking for an alternative.
The date was non-negotiable as it held special meaning for McKay, who has grandparents and great-grandparents who were married on that date.
“I was very determined that we were going to get married that day no matter what, so, as the pandemic was exploding, I had actually gone to the government office to get a backup marriage licence just in case we weren’t allowed to leave Kamloops,” McKay told KTW.
Plan A had been to get hitched at James’ parents’ farm near Chilliwack and ride a tandem bike to their reception at a nearby community hall, with about 100 guests in attendance.
Instead, they considered just doing a ceremony with their two witnesses and an officiant in Chilliwack — or Kamloops, if travel became more restrictive.
That’s when the couple had a light bulb moment.
In March, one of their colleagues had joked that a large white tent found in an ambulance bay could be set it up in the parking lot for all the nurses with wedding plans impacted by the pandemic.
The ribbing cracked people up, but it also got McKay and Futerko thinking.
“We were like, what about that hospital joke?” Futerko said.
They proposed the idea to hospital administration in mid-April, and RIH brass made it happen.
McKay credited RIH hospital director Richard Jewitt for taking care of all the details, describing him as their unofficial wedding planner.
“This request escalated to the CEO of Interior Health, who said yes, but we didn’t get official word until two weeks ago, so it’s been a bit of a scramble putting things together. But it’s been great,” McKay said.
One of the reasons they chose to marry at the hospital was because, if they couldn’t celebrate with their parents, the two nurses wanted to at least be in the company of their work family.
Luckily, parents of the bride and groom were able to make last-minute arrangements to attend the wedding in person, but the couple also learned how to navigate Facebook Live a few days before the event so more family and friends could attend virtually.
“It was really important that my grandma’s able to watch us, too, because she was really honoured that we were sharing her wedding anniversary and I’m actually wearing her wedding dress, as well,” McKay said.
The newlyweds said they are thankful to fellow hospital workers who volunteered their time to help with the wedding.
A nurse was their photographer, another made them a wedding cake and a third did McKay’s hair and makeup.
Some hospital managers also volunteered for traffic control duty and to ensure physical distancing among the 20 attendees who watched from the sidewalk and parkade.
McKay and Futerko met by chance when they each moved to Kamloops in 2017 to work at the hospital.
Futerko had transferred from Edmonton, while McKay had moved from the Kootenays.
They met in RIH’s intensive-care unit when McKay, having some issues with a piece of equipment, asked Futerko if he could lend a hand.
“It turns out it was operator error, so that was a little bit embarrassing for me, but I joked and I told him he should come back and check on me at the end of the day to make sure I was still doing OK,” McKay said.
Sure enough, he did, and the two became friends. They began dating in the summer of 2018.
“Turns out we had a lot of similar interests,” Futerko said.
“We both ski, we both mountain bike, we both like rock climbing — so it was just super easy to hang out and hanging out led to dating, eventually, and dating led to getting married now.”