Paralyzed Veteran Surprises Bride With Wedding Dance

Maggie Parker
The bride and groom shared a special dance. (Photo courtesy Kiersten Downs)
The bride and groom shared a special dance. (Photo courtesy Kiersten Downs)

Thomas Martineau was willing to do whatever necessary to give his new wife, Kiersten Downs, the first dance of her dreams — even if that meant achieving the medically impossible. Martineau became paralyzed from the waist down in 2008 in a motorcycle accident, and although he uses a wheelchair, he surprised his wife by getting to his feet for their first dance on the night of their wedding last month.

Photo courtesy Kiersten Downs
Photo courtesy Kiersten Downs

“We had talked about how we would dance, but never really came to any conclusions about it,” Downs tells Yahoo Style about the surprise. “I just figured we would improvise like we always do. Sometimes I sit on his lap, or we spin each other around just as I would if he was on two feet. There are lots of ways to dance in a wheelchair or with someone who uses a wheelchair.”

That may be the case, but their wedding not was not a time to “do what they always do” in 32-year-old Martineau’s mind. The Air Force veteran worked with his friends to figure out a way he could dance on his own two feet come wedding day. And when Downs, who is also an Air Force veteran, walked into the Plant City, Florida, barn where their wedding reception was held, she saw her new husband waiting upright to dance with her, thanks to a system of wires and pulleys their friends built to suspend Martineau from the ceiling. It seems like a pretty big production to hide, but he pulled it off.

“He is a sneaky guy like that,” Downs gushes. Luckily, she was a bit preoccupied with her dissertation — she’s getting a Ph.D. in applied anthropology at the University of South Florida in Tampa — to notice (we’re guessing wedding planning distracted her too). “Between that and work, I stay pretty busy, and I just never forced the issue of inquiring about it. I figured we would just do what we always do … and that is have fun!”

Photo courtesy Kiersten Downs
Photo courtesy Kiersten Downs

Martineau, who lost feeling in the lower half of his body in a motorcycle accident in 2008, said the plan wasn’t difficult to hide from his soon-to-be wife. He worked on it with his trainer at Stay in Step Spinal Cord injury rehabilitation center in Tampa. “Steve was running around up until the very last minutes during the ceremony rigging up the suspension system,” Downs recalls. “He wasn’t sure it was going to work, but his plan came together in the end.” After the ceremony and pictures, Downs noticed her new husband had just disappeared — never a good sign. “I started to get nervous when we all lined up for our grand entrance,” she remembers. “Thomas was not there with me. Michelle, the wedding planner and owner of Wishing Well Barn, told me he had to go to the bathroom and that he would meet me in the reception area. I just went with it and didn’t think much about it.” Clearly, Downs was a very easygoing bride.

Photo courtesy Kiersten Downs
Photo courtesy Kiersten Downs

“‘Sign, Sealed, Delivered’ by Stevie Wonder was playing and since that is one of my favorite songs, I just started dancing by myself,” Downs says about her entrance. “When I trotted in, I had to adjust my eyes. There was definitely an ‘oh my gosh!’ moment when I realized he was suspended by the ceiling and standing in a upright position.” Pretty understandable!

But in the end, it really didn’t matter that much. Sure, it was a bonus, but it didn’t really change things. “The thing is, I would dance with my husband regardless of any of this. I fell in love with this man because he challenges me to be better and he pushes me to complete my goals. We have built a really beautiful life together. And this is coming from someone who four years ago said she would never get married! I’m the lucky one.”

Photo courtesy Kiersten Downs
Photo courtesy Kiersten Downs

However, the magical moment further proved to her something very important about her new husband: that Thomas will go to any length to make her feel special … “to make the seemingly impossible possible.” She insists that’s just who he is! Lucky lady. “Our dance was super special and it was something I will never forget,” she said. However, she wants him to know that it wasn’t out of the norm for him to make her feel special. “He makes me feel special every day by being such an authentic and caring person,” she said. “I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Watch the dance below and let us know in the comments how much you cried.

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