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Wheeled wedding unites couple with cerebral palsy 

The bride wore white and used a wheelchair; the groom looked handsome as he steered a Segway in his tuxedo.

Over the weekend, Melissa Crisp and Owen Cooper had a wedding on wheels.

Their wedding invitations asked guests to join them as they “roll into marriage.” “We had a roll theme going on,” Cooper told TODAY.com. “That was Melissa’s wording.”

As the couple shared their first dance (to the Plain White Ts’ “1, 2, 3, 4”), their family and friends were on their feet, cheering their spins. The couple had rehearsed their wheeled choreography thanks to 10 weeks of lessons at Axis Dance Company, an Oakland, Calif.-based touring dance company integrating dancers with and without disabilities.

“For the last part, I ditched the Segway and got on the end of Melissa’s armrest and she drove me around,” Cooper, 38, said. “That was fun.”

Cooper and Crisp both have cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that often impairs movement and varies greatly from one person to another: He walks with a subtle limp and she uses a power wheelchair — and their wheels help them get around.

The new Mrs. Crisp-Cooper, who is a freelance writer, wrote the program, including their vows. The couple took turns reading them and shared the last line: “I promise to roll across our uncharted future, get lost along the way, and discover all the beauty, surprise, and love inherent in our journey.”

That journey originated online, although they weren’t looking for love there at the time. In 2008, Owen, who had always wanted to get his driver’s license, came across a helpful post about driving with disabilities on disaboom.com, a resource for living with disability. He initially emailed the writer of the post — Crisp — to talk about driving. But then other topics came up.

“Driving was a goal of mine for a long time. At the beginning of our relationship, Melissa really supported me in that,” says Cooper.

“That’s just because I wanted a chauffeur,” Crisp-Cooper, 37, joked.

The couple, who live in Oakland, say their relationship strengthens each other. Cooper interprets for Crisp, who’s eloquent in the written word but speech-impaired due to her CP. She calls communication a perk in their relationship, along with his cooking (that’s why Cooper picked the food for their wedding).

They’re complementary, their friends told TODAY.com. “He is shy and I’m sure he’s always kind of held back. She is the adventurous one. They balance each other out,” said JoAnn Lyons, their yoga teacher at Piedmont Yoga Studio in Oakland, who married them. “They have a wicked sense of adventure.”

Together the couple have ventured to Yosemite National Park (which has accessible paths), flown in a hot air balloon, gambled in Reno, and toured the Pacific Northwest, where Cooper had planned a perfect marriage proposal — that never happened.

Crisp had been wondering for about a year what was taking so long. “She started pointing at her finger and asking, ‘Where’s the hardware?’” Cooper said. “I dodged the question a lot.”

Crisp caught on that Cooper was hiding something, and he eventually cracked, dropping down on one knee in their living room instead of his planned location at the Oregon Garden in Silverton, Ore. “Melissa and I are horrible at keeping secrets,” he admitted.

Although the couple played an eclectic mix of music at their wedding in Berkeley, Calif., they also compiled a Do Not Play List of sappy inspirational songs. People don’t overcome disability; they just work around it, the couple feel.

“We’re both really into going about our lives as the people that we are,” Cooper said. “It’s not all about disability all the time. It’s mostly just about living your life. Mostly, disability is second and life is first.”

And disability came in second during their wedding dance as well. During their first lesson, they discovered that they could hold hands while in their “body extensions.” Cooper learned to ride his Segway without hands, and Crisp-Cooper’s signature move — a graceful curvy maneuver — became known as the “fishtail.”

Their next adventure will be rolling around Hawaii on their honeymoon.

“We’re renting our first car!” Cooper said.

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