Passengers on a red-eye woke up to an announcement more interesting than the typical "fasten your seatbelts" as they approached New York early Thursday: Two men had gotten married on board overnight when the captain briefly flew over Canada, where gay marriage is legal.
"The head flight attendant made the announcement on the P.A. 'While you were sleeping, we had a little wedding in the galley. The captain diverted us over Canadian airspace so he could marry two gentlemen,'" said passenger Ryan McManus, who was returning home to New York.
The captain of Virgin America Flight 28, which originated in San Francisco, officiated the wedding, McManus quoted the flight attendant as saying. "We'd like to wish them the best and offer them a round of applause," he quoted the attendant as saying, noting that the passengers applauded on cue.
Virgin America confirmed to msnbc.com that one of the normal flight paths for Flight 28 does go over Canada.
"We don't yet have any confirmation or more details" about Thursday morning's flight, Virgin America spokeswoman Abby Lunardini said. "Believe it or not, we've actually had a wedding onboard before."
That wedding was in October 2007, on a flight from San Francisco to Las Vegas, and was performed by Virgin Group Chairman Sir Richard Branson.
"The flight attendants on Virgin are very playful and really good at conversation, so we weren't sure if they were having fun with us. But we could tell at the end he was being genuine," McManus said of Thursday morning's loudspeaker announcement.
"I was traveling with two other co-workers and we had to sort out what happened. We were like, is that a service they offer?"
Matt Mullenweg, the founding developer of blogging software WordPress, was also on the flight. He was sleeping during the ceremony, but told msnbc.com that he asked the flight attendant if the announcement was accurate as he was leaving the plane.
"I didn't understand what he had said or that it was even possible," he said.
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San Francisco resident Laura Piper was asleep for most of the five-hour flight, too. "Actually had no clue it happened until we landed in NYC," she tweeted after landing at John F. Kennedy Airport.
In July 2005, Canada became the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriages. New York City currently offers same-sex commitment ceremonies, which fall short of offering full marriage rights. In California, activists are appealing Proposition 8, the state's gay marriage ban, which defines marriage as being only between a man and a woman.
Matthew McGill, a D.C-based attorney who is representing the plaintiffs in a Prop. 8 case, said he had never heard of an in-air marriage. "I'm skeptical of the whole story," he told msnbc.com.
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