Marine and W&M law student hold outdoor wedding during snow storm

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(Courtesy Haley Morton Haines)
(Courtesy Haley Morton Haines)

While the Historic Triangle was grappling with its worst winter storm in decades, one couple stood outside in the elements to exchange vows and promise their lives to one another.

At 3 p.m. on Jan. 7,  Haley Morton, a William & Mary law student, married Matthew Haines, a sergeant in the Marine Corps, in an outdoor ceremony in front of the Governor’s Palace at Colonial Williamsburg. An article about the couple’s ceremony, penned by Morton, was featured on Colonial Williamsburg’s Making History blog. 

“We’ve never really conducted this relationship in the most conventional way,” said Morton, who took her husband’s name following nuptials. “It was a testament to how we don’t need any frills to commit to each other. We were both willing to disregard the storm and make our relationship a priority.”

The two met online while Haines was stationed in Spain with the Marines. It was the second semester of Morton’s first year of law school. Morton said the couple spoke via Facetime and text until they finally met in person about a month after they first started communicating.

For a meeting location, the couple chose Williamsburg.

(Courtesy Haley Morton Haines)
(Courtesy Haley Morton Haines)

“This is really where the foundation of our relationship has been established,” Morton said of the city. “One of our first dates was wandering around in Colonial Williamsburg.”

“So it just felt like a natural location for the ceremony,” Morton added.

Over the course of the two years the pair has been together, Haines said he has been deployed to various locations, including Romania and Guantanamo Bay.

For some of their relationship, Haines was closer to home, serving as a member of a Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team based out of Norfolk. He is now stationed with the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and will soon deploy with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The couple said the upcoming deployment was a factor in their decision to hold the wedding last weekend. 

“We thought we’d have to time to plan something for our parents,” Morton said. “But Matt has to leave soon, so we had a pretty short timeline and just decided to go for it.”

“Actually,” Haines added. “We decided the week before and said ‘alright, we’re just gonna do it on Saturday.’”

The two called the Williamsburg-James City County courthouse and were referred to a marriage commissioner named Gary McQuillen, who agreed to perform the ceremony.

The day of the wedding, as it turned out, would bring a storm that dumped more than a foot of snow in some areas of Williamsburg during one 20-hour period.

(Courtesy Haley Morton Haines)
(Courtesy Haley Morton Haines)

“We didn’t have a good idea about the storm until a couple days beforehand,” Morton said. “Gary was just so unphased by the oncoming storm. He was like, ‘Well, I’ve married people in the snow before, so this really isn’t a big deal.’ It made me think, we can do it, we’ll make it happen…Now he’ll forever be a special person to us.”

Despite the weather, the couple drove from the Williamsburg Inn, where they were staying, to the Governor’s Palace on Saturday afternoon to be married.

“I expected the roads to be plowed a little bit more than they were,” Haines said. “But I wasn’t gonna start stressing out about that then.”

The two exchanged vows beside the Governor’s Palace shortly before 3 p.m. A few minutes later, McQuillen pronounced the couple man and wife in front an empty streetscape covered in snow.

“I know people like to have big ceremonies and have a lot of people involved,” Haines said. “But I thought it was kind of special that it was just the two of us out in the snow. It was just a small thing, just for us, and that was really all it was meant for I guess.”