GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — To work as a police officer, you have to take an oath to 'protect and to serve.' As an officer, choosing the days and times to live up to that oath isn't an option — even if the call to serve happens on the day you say, "I do."
"We were super excited," said Kelly Hoyer, referring to her wedding day and marriage to fellow officer Cole Hoyer. "When the day began, we felt like it was going to be smooth sailing."
The day was May 30, 2020.
"The last thing we were thinking of was some other challenge besides the pandemic," said Cole.
Several members of Grand Rapids law enforcement were attending the Hoyer's wedding.
The majority of the bridesmaids and groomsmen were police officers.
"I got ready with my girls and he got ready with the guys," said Kelly. "We had the ceremony; we got to take pictures, and then as soon as pictures were done, it all kind if blew up."
Every law enforcement member in attendance received a text from GRPD that said, "We need all personnel to respond immediately."
Protests in downtown Grand Rapids had started to escalate into a full-blown riot. Cars were being set on fire. Business windows were being smashed. People were starting to loot.
Downtown was quickly looking like a war zone.
"My maid of honor comes running up to me and says, 'Kelly, we got to go; we got the text message and we all got to go in,'" said Kelly.
Heartbroken, the Hoyers watched as most of their wedding party and friends in attendance got into their cars and headed into work.
"That was when we knew it was pretty serious," Cole said. "It was kind of bitter sweet. We were glad that we [didn't have to] be at work so we could spend our wedding night together, but the fact that all of our friends, and people we consider to be our brothers and sisters, were [in the midst of the chaos], and knowing what they were going through, it really wasn't a good feeling."
Kelly and Cole were told they didn't have to come in. Despite the majority of people having left the wedding, there were still people there — many of whom had traveled from long distances.
"Obviously we both felt called to go in and help, but just canceling the rest of the wedding wouldn't have been fair to those who were able to stay," said Cole.
The next morning, even though their watch commander told them they didn't have to come in, the Hoyers felt called to be cops first and newlyweds second.
"We didn't even have a conversation," said Kelly. "There wasn't a second thought."
Kelly and Cole Hoyer's first day of marriage was not spent opening gifts and decompressing from the stressors of a wedding day. Instead, it was spent in downtown Grand Rapids, making sure order was being restored to the fractured community.
"Sometimes you just have to step up and do the right thing," said Cole. "There was guilt that we weren't there for it."
Five months later, the Hoyers say they look back on that day and focus on the happy parts that were allowed to happen.
"The ceremony was absolute perfection," said Kelly. "We were able to have all the pictures of the wedding party taken, too, before everybody had to leave."
Cole says he knows how important a wedding day is for the bride, and he was beyond impressed with how his bride handled it.
"Obviously I found the right one," said Cole. "If she can get through that, then I know we can get through anything."
Since their reception didn't go as planned, the Hoyers say they hope to get all the members of their wedding party together, assuming the pandemic is over, on or around their first anniversary next spring, so they can finally have the celebration they were supposed to have.
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