Ashleigh Dopp and her girlfriends were in the pool at their hotel in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and gazing out at the sea when something else caught their attention.
“We eyeballed these guys at the bar in the pool,” Ms. Dopp said, “so we headed over to the bar.”
Among the men was Kelly MacDonald, whose group had checked into the Hotel Riu Santa Fe days before Ms. Dopp and her four girlfriends arrived in November 2016.
Someone in Mr. MacDonald’s party of seven was wearing a baseball cap with the word Toronto on it, prompting Ms. Dopp and her friends to break the ice by asking if he and his contingent came from Canada. (They did.)
Ms. Dopp, 38, stood out to Mr. MacDonald, 31, right away. “There was almost a halo around her,” he said. But he at first was too shy to strike up a conversation. “I couldn’t find anything to talk to her about.”
Fortunately, Ms. Dopp, a native of Buffalo, N.Y., was comfortable taking the lead. She asked Mr. MacDonald the question she posed to any potential suitor: “What’s your favorite football team?”
When Mr. MacDonald, a former high school hockey goalie, said that he didn’t have one, Ms. Dopp was relieved. “Oh good,” she recalled telling him. “It’s the Bills, then.”
Added Ms. Dopp, “I immediately told the girls I had dibs on him.”
For the next four days, the two didn’t leave each other’s sides. At one point, Mr. MacDonald purchased a Buffalo Bills sombrero from a vendor on the beach to impress Ms. Dopp, who was in disbelief over the feelings she was developing for a man she had known for less than a week.
“It was supposed to be a little fling,” she said. “Instead there was an instant connection.”
But when their vacations came to a close, reality set in. Ms. Dopp was returning to Buffalo, where she was between jobs at the time, and Mr. MacDonald to Calgary, Alberta, where he lived and worked as a firefighter with the Rocky View County Fire Department.
As they exchanged tearful goodbyes in Mexico, “I didn’t know if I was ever going to see her again,” said Mr. MacDonald, who handed her a Canadian one-dollar coin called a loonie.
The coins had become a symbol of good luck in his country ever since the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, when a Canadian worker placed one under the ice of the Olympic hockey rink ahead of the games, and both the Canadian women’s and men’s hockey teams later won gold medals.
When he gave the loonie to Ms. Dopp, “I was hoping for the same gold medal luck,” Mr. MacDonald said.
After returning to their respective countries, the two spoke by phone every day. In January 2017, Ms. Dopp visited Mr. MacDonald, and she took several more trips to Canada over the following months. While there, he led her on a hike in Banff National Park, took her to the honky-tonk restaurant Ranchman’s, which was featured in the movie “Cool Runnings” and has since closed, and introduced Ms. Dopp to his parents.
On every visit, Ms. Dopp also received a new loonie from Mr. MacDonald.
That April, he met her parents while visiting Buffalo. The month before, Ms. Dopp got a job with the audio video company Exertis. Then named Stampede, it had offices all over the world, including in Toronto. After training in its Buffalo office, she inquired about the possibility of working remotely in Canada, which the company agreed to.
By November 2017, one year after they met in Cabo San Lucas, she had relocated to Calgary. The following April, she moved into Mr. MacDonald’s home.
“Ducks were so much in a row through the whole entire thing,” said Ms. Dopp. Even when they were long-distance, the relationship never felt like work, Mr. MacDonald said. “It was so easy with us. We agree on everything, never fight, and it’s never boring with her.”
In late December 2019, the couple went to New York City to celebrate New Year’s Eve with some friends. On the morning of Dec. 28, they were ice skating at Rockefeller Center when Mr. MacDonald surprised Ms. Dopp by proposing on the rink. As people around them began clapping and taking photos, their friends, whom he had tipped off ahead of time, showed up to join in the celebration.
“All those lucky loonies I was giving her paid off,” Mr. MacDonald said of Ms. Dopp accepting his proposal.
The following September, Ms. Dopp and Mr. MacDonald moved from his hometown to hers. Ms. Dopp described the process behind the decision as “a slow progression,” adding that, in the years they had been dating, “Kelly visited a bunch and ended up loving Buffalo.”
Mr. MacDonald, who had never lived outside of Calgary, said that at first, “my parents were worried about health insurance and a job” for him in the United States. But they ultimately endorsed the move, he added, because “they knew how much we loved each other.” And the couple didn’t entirely uproot themselves from Calgary: they kept their apartment in the city as a place to stay when they visit.
Mr. MacDonald, who recently received a green card, plans to take the exam prospective firefighters must pass to get a job with the Buffalo Fire Department. Ms. Dopp now works remotely as business development representative for the brewing company Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis.
Their wedding, initially planned for 2021, was pushed to 2022 because of the pandemic. But all along, Ms. Dopp said the two knew they wanted to celebrate “where it all began” in Mexico.
On Jan. 21, they were married at the office of the city clerk in Tonawanda, N.Y., and on Jan. 28, they held a second wedding celebration at Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach Golf & Spa resort in Cabo San Lucas.
In Mexico, Matthew Baudo, a friend of the couple, led a ceremony on the beach before 65 guests, most of whom were vaccinated. They included Ms. Dopp’s mother and Mr. MacDonald’s mother; their fathers did not attend because of concerns about traveling and Covid.
Before the ceremony, one of Ms. Dopp’s bridesmaids delivered a bracelet from Mr. MacDonald to the bride, along with a note that read, “The first time we said goodbye to each other it broke both of our hearts and I told you, ‘Someday we’d walk along the streets of gold.’ I don’t really know what I mean by that but I knew it would be anywhere where we’d walk together.”
Mr. Baudo, who arrived to the beach in a robe with a Canadian flag on one sleeve and an American flag on the other, said in his remarks, “I don’t think anyone here is surprised that two people who passionately love to travel and have fun managed to find someone from a different country while visiting a country that neither were citizens of.”
Afterward, a reception was held at the resort’s Sky Pool Aquabar & Grill restaurant. Guests arrived to find shots of tequila sunrises in glasses made of Himalayan salt and, during a cocktail hour, enjoyed burgers served in wrappers that read MacDonalds.
“It was truly our party in paradise,” Ms. Dopp said.
Reflecting on their relationship, the bride said, “Who would have thought a firefighter and hockey goalie from Alberta and a beer rep and die hard Bills fan from Buffalo would ever make it work with all the odds and distance between us?”
On This Day
When Jan. 21, 2022
Where The office of the city clerk in Tonawanda, N.Y.
In and Out Ms. Dopp and Mr. MacDonald kept their legal union low-key. Both arrived to the city clerk’s office in sweatshirts and jeans. “It was sign the form, ‘I do, I do,’” Ms. Dopp said. “We didn’t want to make it a thing.”
Fortune Teller When Mr. MacDonald bought the Buffalo Bills sombrero after they first met, he had the friends she was traveling with sign it. One of them, Natalie Frost, wrote, “Go Bills and see you at the wedding.” At their celebration in Cabo San Lucas, they bought a second Bills sombrero and had Ms. Frost, who served as a bridesmaid, sign it again. “How did you see the future?” Ms. Dopp recalled asking her.