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Few couples expect to put their wedding vows to the test before the ceremony.
But when Hannah Patterson broke her pelvis and ribs in a car accident just five weeks before her wedding, she and her groom rose to the challenge to love each other, “in sickness and in health.”
Their commitment was on display in their ceremony, which began as Stuart Patterson lifted his bride from her wheelchair and carried her down the aisle.
"I don't think there was a dry eye in the house," said photographer Sarah Powell. "Stuart was so incredibly tender and protective towards Hannah that it moved everyone to tears."
When Hannah called to inform her about the accident and her injuries, which also included a punctured kidney, a concussion and some hearing loss, she let Powell know the wedding would move forward as schedule, but that she would be in a wheelchair for much of it.
“She was understandably saddened and upset. Yet, even then she was determined and there was going to be no delay to her marrying the love of her life,” Powell said. “It was never a question as to whether or not the wedding would go on.”
The garden ceremony took place Aug. 25 just south of Toronto, but photos from the event began circulating online earlier this month after Powell posted one to the Facebook page for her business, Sarah Grace Photography.
Hannah, 23, said the decision to be carried down the aisle was made at the last minute.
"At the rehearsal, I was upset as my daddy was wheeling me down the aisle and Stuart just said, 'I'll come and get you,'" she told TODAY.
The following day, her father pushed his daughter in her wheelchair down an aisle through a tree grove. Once he reached a clearing, Stuart, 25, walked up from the altar to meet the pair, lifted Hannah from her seat, and carried her the rest of the way.
“It just melted my heart. It was one of the sweetest things I had ever seen," Powell said. "It was definitely one of the all-time heartwarming things I’ve seen.”
The couple met in Sunday school as children in Northern Ireland but didn't date until they were teenagers. Stuart moved to Canada about five years ago, but Hannah was still attending college back home.
"We did long distance for years," she said. She finally moved abroad to join him two years ago.
Hannah has been steadily recovering from her injuries. She recently noted on Facebook that she can walk around her home while using a cane, said Emily Suzanne Harris, the photographer who videotaped the ceremony.
“She kept telling me, ‘Don’t worry about it if the wheelchair is in the shot. That’s fine. It’s part of my life now.’ And I thought, that’s really amazing,” she said.
Hannah was able to stand for some parts of the ceremony and afterward for posed photos, sometimes balancing on one leg or holding on to Stuart.
"She didn't complain once. I thought she'd feel upset about the pain, but she didn't make any comments. She was amazing the entire day," Harris said. "It was like everything was so normal. She was incredible. She didn't let anything stop her."
Harris said that despite the timing of the accident and the physical suffering Hannah has experienced, it was clear the wedding represented "normal life" for the couple.
"It was really them embracing true love," she said. "He was supporting her in every way. It was such an unconditional love they showed each other throughout the entire day."
Hannah said her recovery is going well and she won't have many permanent injuries. But on her wedding day, she was still suffering from a lot of physical pain, although it's difficult to tell from the couple's wedding photos and video.
"I was just so happy on my wedding day and it was worth all the pain," she said.
"It never crossed my mind to move the wedding during this hard time. I knew the Lord would give me the strength for the day."