Phyllis Galbraith thought she was waiting for a family photo shoot on the waterfront in Wolfville, N.S., last Saturday when she saw her daughter walk toward her in a white wedding dress.
She immediately burst into tears, sending her husband Robert Galbraith into a panic.
"I'm looking in the opposite direction," he told CBC's Maritime Noon. "All of a sudden I turn around, look at her. What's going on, like what's the problem? And then I saw my daughter Iona through the snow in that dress."
The Galbraiths didn't know it at first but they were guests at their daughter's wedding.
The bride and groom had spent weeks quietly planning their nuptials so they could surprise Iona's parents from Montreal when they got out of their two-week self-isolation, a requirement for most people arriving in Nova Scotia from outside Atlantic Canada.
"It's just the most amazing surprise one could ever have," said Phyllis. "It took me a minute to realize that it was Iona, and once that happened, it was game over. The emotions just flowed."
About nine people gathered outside on the Wolfville waterfront for the ceremony last Saturday. It was freezing but no one seemed to mind the cold.
"It was just a magic time. It could have been 50 below, it wouldn't have mattered," Robert said.
Iona Galbraith and her new husband, Nick Mitchell, cancelled their original wedding date in October due to the pandemic.
With Iona's parents visiting for Christmas, they figured it was the perfect time to tie the knot.
"It turned out better than I could have expected, to be honest," Iona said. "It's a bit of work to pull everything together but it was priceless. It was so great walking down there and watching my parents' reaction."
Robert's reaction — first a look of deep concern and then unbridled joy — was all caught on camera and posted to social media where it's been shared hundreds of times.
"It's been a rough year for so many people and just seeing the happiness and the joy that it brought my family, and us of course, I think people are just happy to have something to feel good about," Iona said.
Sarah Anderson owns East Coast Pop Up Weddings and officiated the ceremony. She said it's something she won't soon forget.
While small pop-up weddings were catching on before the pandemic, gathering limits have made them even more popular in the last nine months, Anderson said.
"I think people had been kind of moving toward smaller weddings over the last few years, but you're kind of forced to go small right now so I have definitely seen an uptake in pop-up weddings and elopements in 2020."
Reunited, the Galbraiths are now looking forward to celebrating Christmas as a family — but it may be hard to top that moment in a snowy park in Wolfville.
"That was our world for that moment. Nothing else mattered," Robert said. "There could have been nuclear bombs going off in the backyard. It wouldn't have mattered."
MORE TOP STORIES