When they sat next to each other on a flight over four years ago, Stephani and Jeff Hamilton had no idea what awaited them on their journey together.
It was a Southwest flight from Indianapolis to Boston, March 18, 2018. Jeff had forgotten to check in for the flight that day, so although he usually tries to sit in the front From the plane, by the time he arrived, his choices were limited.
Stephani works in higher education and Jeff works at a truck dealership, and both live in Fort Wayne. But on this day in 2018, they were strangers.
“He was one of the last people on the flight,” Stephani told IndyStar. “And so, the moment he got on the plane, he had no choice but to sit in the middle, and he chose to sit next to me.”
Just as Stephani was about to put on her headphones, Jeff asked her why she was going to Boston.
“I’m sure we were super annoying to everyone around us because we talked the whole flight from takeoff to landing,” Stephani said.
When they arrived in Boston, Stephani offered to drive Jeff to his car.
“We went out to dinner and exchanged phone numbers and we’ve talked every day since,” he said.
On July 15, Stephani and Jeff tied the knot where their romance began: Indianapolis International Airport.
“Everything was fine”
Originally, Stephani and Jeff were going to get married in a grand ceremony in Fort Wayne in November with friends and family.
But Stephani’s son is in the Air Force and was deployed in June, which would have prevented him from returning home in November.
The couple still wanted to get married this year, so they decided to elope.
They explored the idea of recreating how they met, Jeff said, and that included flying back to New England for the weekend.
“We will return to the restaurant where we ate the first evening,” he said. “We’ll visit friends and family and tell them what we did and we’ll kind of go home to New England.”
The idea evolved and the idea of getting married at the airport was born.
“Thinking about it, we thought the airport would be a really good fit, because that’s where we met,” Stephani said.
The two tied the knot on the morning of July 15 at Indianapolis International Airport’s Civic Plaza.
“It was lovely and it was very quiet and very intimate,” Stephani said.
The airport and the airline have been accommodating, Jeff said. Airport staff helped Stephani put on her dress to walk up to Jeff, pointed out photo locations and even helped them perform their first dance song: “Forever” by KISS.
“We’ve both been married before, but this was the first time I felt like everything was okay,” Jeff said.
A wedding takes off
Their flight to Baltimore, their first stopover, was scheduled to depart around 10:30 a.m.
Southwest presented the couple with a bottle of champagne, along with a homemade cake, and they were able to board the plane first with upgraded boarding.
Stephani wore her white dress on their first flight, she said.
“After that, I was like, ‘I have to take these shoes off,'” she said.
Stephani said it was “the most perfect way” for the two to get married.
“It just ties our whole story together with a beautiful arc,” she said.