The story of the first ever space wedding, when a woman on Earth married a cardboard cutout of her astronaut boyfriend while he watched on from the International Space Station

  • The first space wedding took place on this day 16 years ago, when Ekaterina Dmitriev stood on the ground in Texas as her husband orbited in the International Space Station.
  • She married her new husband, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, by video link, walking down the aisle to a David Bowie song just as the station reemerged into the sunlight.
  • The couple decided to have a space wedding when Malenchenko’s time on the station was extended, and Dmitriev posed with a life-size cardboard cutout of him at the event.
  • Malenchenko’s best man was another astronaut, who played the wedding march on a portable keyboard beside them.
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On August 10, 2003, Ekaterina Dmitriev married the love of her life as he floated 250 miles above her in space.

It was the first-ever space wedding, taking place through satellite link while Dmitriev was at NASA’s headquarters in Houston, Texas. Her husband-to-be, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, dialed into a video link from the International Space Station.

Dmitriev wore a white dress and jewels, the picture of a typical glowing bride as she posed beside a life-sized cardboard cutout of her new husband wearing his space suit -and a bow tie.

“As Yuri was further away, he was closer to me because of the communication we have,” Dmitriev, an American, said, The New York Times reported at the time.

Ekaterina Dmitriev with a life-size cut-out of her new husband, Yuri Malenchenko, after her satellite wedding.

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Ekaterina Dmitriev with a life-size cut-out of her new husband, Yuri Malenchenko, after her satellite wedding.
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REUTERS/Richard Carson

At one point she blew him a kiss, and he blew one back.

Read more: Astronomers have discovered a potentially habitable world just 31 light-years away, thanks to NASA’s planet-hunting telescope

The ceremony wasn’t actually planned in this groundbreaking way, according to the BBC. Their wedding date was decided before Malenchenko’s time in space was extended, and they decided to have a space wedding instead, without the 200 or so guests scheduled to attend the original wedding.

And Edward Lu, another astronaut on the ISS, served as best man, playing the wedding march on a portable keyboard – something the wedding planner called “very sweet.”

Yuri Malenchenko, then a member of the International Space Station crew, at a news conference near Moscow in August 2016.

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Yuri Malenchenko, then a member of the International Space Station crew, at a news conference near Moscow in August 2016.
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REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev

Dmitriev said the couple had a “celestial, soulful connection.” The pair’s history was colored by space: they met at a party celebrating the first-ever manned space flight by Yuri Gagarin, who Malenchenko was named after, according to NBC.

Malenchenko, like his namesake, was an accomplished astronaut, making multiple trips into space and performing multiple spacewalks, as well as receiving awards like the Hero of the Russian Federation award, Russia’s highest honor.

The couple was used to having a long distance relationship as a result – they spoke by phone as Dmitriev lived in the US while Malenchenko trained for space flight in Russia.

Ekaterina Dmitriev with the cutout of Yuri Malenchenko on their wedding day.

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Ekaterina Dmitriev with the cutout of Yuri Malenchenko on their wedding day.
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REUTERS/Richard Carson

The moment that Dmitriev walked down the aisle to a David Bowie song was the moment that the ISS re-emerged into the sunlight, orbiting the earth just south of New Zealand, NBC reported.

Their achievement was also unusual as Russia gave them permission for the marriage, but said that other cosmonauts would not be able to do the same.

Malenchenko returned to earth, to see his bride, that October.