Kayaks replace limo for Lopez Island nuptials

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJanuary 6, 2014 

Mike Passo, who runs a sea kayaking business, paused for a kiss with his bride, Cheyenne Black, during their wedding day on Lopez Island.

GENARO PHOTOGRAPHY — COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Next to a secluded beach in the San Juan Islands, the newly married bride and groom, still dressed up from their ceremony, are the only souls on the water. As they paddle their kayaks around the point, loons and other seabirds keep them company. As they approach the shore, a beachside reception in their honor is already in full swing.

If this is starting to sound too much like part of a romantic movie, that's because Mike Passo and Cheyenne Black's story could have been stolen straight from a Hollywood writer's desk.

Cheyenne first started to notice Mike in the summer of 2011 at the Fairhaven Wednesday Farmers Market, where she runs Misfits Bliss Tea.

Mike, who owns and runs Elakah Expeditions, a company that operates sea kayaking trips in the area, was a regular, hanging out on the Village Green each week for his day off. After a summer of watching the mysterious man from a distance, Cheyenne worked up the courage the last day of the market season to talk to him.

She walked up with a note, told him not to say anything because she was too nervous, and handed him her phone number.

"If you want to go to coffee, or something, we should," she recalls saying, before trying to run away.

But Mike grabbed her hand and asked, "How about tomorrow?"

That's when the panic kicked in for each of them.

Mike was paralyzed in a mountain biking accident 22 years ago and uses a wheelchair to get around.

Cheyenne remembers going home and telling her oldest daughter, "I've never dated someone in a wheelchair before. Do I hold the door for him? Or he for me?"

Mike's moment of panic was about dating someone with three daughters. Cheyenne's girls are now 22, 19 and 8.

But when they went out, everything seemed to work out all right. They quickly resolved their fears, and the fact Mike needs a wheelchair was not a big deal in the long run, Cheyenne says.

"We spent a lot more time trying to figure out what to do with the 8-year-old and the dog," she says.

Six months after their first date, Mike proposed at the same spot they had their first kiss in Boulevard Park.

They married Sept. 18, 2013, the second anniversary of their first date, on the south end of Lopez Island at a small ceremony with family and friends.

Because both had been married before, they wanted their ceremony to be low-key and to focus on their promises to each other.

With help from her oldest daughter, Cheyenne made her dress out of lace, vintage doilies and a tunic. She wore bloomers underneath so she could easily sit on Mike's lap during the party.

The couple cooked all of the food and cakes the day before their wedding. A friend married the couple and Bellingham musician Amber Darland performed at the reception.

Mike and Cheyenne kayaked from the beachside ceremony to their reception at a house they had rented on the island. As the party gathered around the fire after dinner, they released paper lanterns into the moonlit sky, wishing the couple well in their new life.

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