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Troy and Norien LaFaye's journey from Facebook to WWII wedding

"Nothing was normal about any of this," Troy LaFaye says.

"Nothing was normal about any of this," Troy LaFaye says.

Troy LaFaye’s wasn’t exactly a shotgun wedding. More like a heavy artillery wedding.

The Fridley man is a big World War II buff. For the last 15 years LaFaye’s participated in WWII reenactments, typically portraying a combat photographer. At first it was a way for the filmmaker and video production teacher to score gear and extras for a short film he and his buddy made. Then he got hooked.

“A lot of people think it’s a weird hobby,” LaFaye says. “You mostly get reactions of, ‘Why the hell would you do that?’ If you study history and teaching history — or teaching anything for that matter — there’s a certain benefit to this three-dimensional immersion in whatever it is that you want to learn about.”

So when suddenly forced to plan his wedding about three months in advance, he turned to the time of Allies and Axis for inspiration and means of stress relief. In May, LaFaye got hitched and threw a WWII-era-themed reception in an old Naval air station hangar in South St. Paul. Refurbished military planes and vehicles decorated the tarmac and interior of the half-domed structure built in the 1930s.

The 47-year-old and his Filipino bride Norien LaFaye rocked period-appropriate clothes, and their 130-150 guests were encouraged to follow suit. “I’m sure a lot of them rolled their eyes at first and were a little apprehensive,” Troy says.

The couple Facebook met five years ago after they each commented on a mutual friend’s post. With Norien in her native Philippines and Troy in Minnesota, their love bloomed digitally — mostly over Yahoo! Messenger (“of all antiquated things,” jokes the history fan). Last fall Troy decided to put a ring on it and proposed while visiting Norien and her family.

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Early this year Norien made the move to Minnesota under the visa stipulation that she tie the knot with a red-blooded American in 90 days or less. With no time or money for a lavish wedding, the couple decided to do something different. It took some minor arm-twisting, but Troy sold his 27-year-old bride on the ‘30s and ‘40s theme.

“Nothing was normal about any of this," Troy says, laughing. "The courtship was weird. The wedding was weird.” 

The initial plan was for a public ceremony during a WWII “living history” event held at the Dakota City Heritage Village — a makeshift, old-timey town on the Dakota County Fairgrounds. Friends and random strangers would file into a rebuilt church to watch a reenacting serviceman marry a local woman he met during the war, except the vows would be real. But that was a little intense for Norien, so instead they opted for their more casual, civilian-clothed party.

Picking a theme in his historical wheelhouse turned what could have been a hellish, last-minute “chore” into a joy, Troy says. “Instead of banging our heads against the wall to do the ultimate wedding, why don’t we just have fun with it?” he says.

Given the visa-crunched timeline, the couple plans to have a more traditional ceremony late next year in the Philippines — a fact that liberated them to get creative with their legally binding first wedding. Although he didn’t make any full-fledged converts, Troy says the outside-the-box reception was a hit, even with his non-reenactor friends.

“It was a cool way of connecting to my friends and family in a way that they probably wouldn’t have thought of before,” he says.

Maybe we should all party like it’s D-Day after swapping vows.