Going to the chapel — and viral on TikTok — for Metro Detroit newlyweds

Alex Harring
The Detroit News

It was a typical post-wedding photoshoot on Saturday for Detroit photographer Faith Rowley, owner of Faith Rowley Photos. Then, the unexpected happened.

There was the backdrop of Dodge Park in Sterling Heights. Friends of the bride and groom, Thomas and Santina Connolly, blocked entrances to a bridge so Rowley could get the perfect shot overlooking Clinton River. 

Thomas and Santina Connolly

As they were wrapping up the shoot, a group of kayakers heading toward the bridge broke out in song, belting the Dixie Cups' popular '60s tune "Going To The Chapel of Love." 

"It was a moment where you'll never forget it for the rest of your life," Rowley told The Detroit News.

The moment itself, as the photographer and newlyweds describe it, was both incredible and chaotic. Just moments before, an older couple approached the couple and told them they would now share an anniversary, making the performance extra emotional.

Rowley said she has never seen a scene like that in her five years of photographing.

But despite the unique situation, she knew to get it on camera. "It was also, though, a moment where you knew, 'If I record this, it's going to get big on TikTok,'" she said. "So I opened up my bag quick and grabbed my phone before they went by because it all happened so quick."

It did, in fact, go viral. As of Sunday afternoon, Rowley's TikTok has accumulated more than 2 million views.

In the video, Santina and Thomas looked surprised by the serenade. While Thomas didn't recognize the song, Santina did — as if it was fate, she had heard it scrolling through TikTok herself.

Commenters also weighed in with their stamps of approval. They called the scene "blessed," "enchanted" and "so cute," to name a few of the hundreds of comments left on the video.

Rowley placed text over the video asking if the couple's wedding day was actually a romantic comedy. Thomas, similarly impressed, told the group "I should have hired you for the DJ" as they were passing by.

"It was a nice icing on the cake there," he said.

Thomas and Santina, who met four years ago while both students at Grand Valley State University, said their whole wedding day was full of strangers extending compliments. It was a nice way to ring in their special day, which has been a year in the making.

The pair is from Metro Detroit, making it important to them to have their wedding in the area, Thomas said.

And Thomas said he was thankful to be able to have the wedding with no public health restrictions. But they did not book a honeymoon yet, feeling too worried about the state of the pandemic to plan a trip months in advance. They will be taking the next week off work and then having their honeymoon at a later date.

For now, they are still basking in the feeling of being surrounded by friends and family — and some singing strangers.

"Definitely, the kayakers caught us off guard, but in a good way," Santina said. And, "They were actually really, really good singers, too."


Twitter: @alex_harring