Mention that you’re significant other lives thousands of miles away and you better believe you’ll get a sharp intake of breath or a sympathetic: “that must be so hard!” But, when love runs deep, no distance is too great.

And, such is the case for Fernando and Rui. Their three-and-a-half-year relationship has been set in Fernando’s Canada and Rui’s Portugal. Despite the distance, these two found each other and recently said “I do” in an elegant wedding in Coimbra, Portugal.

But, let’s take it back a few years. Fernando, who was born in Coimbra, was spending the summer visiting. His academic schedule allowed him long periods of time to visit points far afield. Thanks to the internet and its social media outlets, these two found each other. And, while it might not have been “love at first click,” it wasn’t too far off.

“I quickly fell in love with the fact that he was from where I was born, that he was the father of two gorgeous daughters and knew where he was going,” said Fernando. Rui also represented for Fernando the possibility of a life fully out of the closet. While his friends and siblings knew he was gay, Fernando had not come out to his parents.

A year into their long-distance partnership, the couple made a firm commitment to each other to “remain willing to be on this journey together.” “We were in the beach in Nazaré. I had gotten rings and managed to dig them into the sand as we were telling each other how much we loved each other.” As they were, Fernando drew a heart into the sand around the spot where the rings were placed and managed to get Rui to discover them. “I told Rui that this moment was to solidify our relationship and to express how fully committed I am to you.” They cried knowing that they were on the path to a moment they’d never expected would happen.

A year later, Fernando knew the time had come to make it official. Having had his commitment ring engraved with “I love you, Rui,” and asked his daughters for Rui’s hand in marriage, Fernando planned a trip to Venice. He booked the “tabla romantica” at the Westin Europa & Regina. This table for two is set over the Grand Canal and makes an ideal spot to pop the question. One that Rui immediately answered yes to. And, one that set Fernando in motion to come out to his parents.

“Everything was beautiful once I told them. I only wish I had done so sooner.”

Coimbra would be the destination for their wedding last summer. Fernando had spotted an old, palatial building just above Coimbra and set out to make it their venue. “The building was so beautiful. European style, typical blue Portuguese tiles and an amazing view.” And, as is typical with many Portuguese venues, it was a one-stop shop: catering, flowers and the like, all came with! “Well, I did bring a lot from Canada,” said Fernando.

He had discovered a baker in his hometown that suggested making their place cards, cookies. “I knew nobody in Coimbra would have seen this before, so I said ‘let’s do it’ and I carried 70+ personalized cookies across the ocean!” And, boxes of truffles and yet more boxes filled with chocolate kisses. Theirs was definitely an indulgent affair.

“You know, there is always one person who is a bit more focused on the flair,” said Fernando, “but Rui took care of the menu and was the man on the ground.”

A city official presided over the daytime ceremony, which was followed by an evening meal, toasts and dancing into the night aglow with sparklers. For Fernando, his favorite moment of the wedding was when he said “I do.” “I had been struggling with the language, but when we said those words, it was magic. We teared up knowing that we’d achieved what we knew was meant to be.” Rui will be immigrating to Canada in the next few months.

When asked his advice to future grooms, Fernando quickly answered: “Enjoy every moment of planning the wedding. Especially the conversations between each other and the people around you.” He went on to describe the pride he had at his school when some of the much younger students came to understand and appreciate that it was possible for two men to fall in love and marry.  

No matter the distance, the age or the circumstances, when people experience and witness love, few are the challenges that can’t be overcome.