Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Watch: The moment wheelchair-bound Inverness groom stands up for emotional first dance

Barry MacDowell, who has MS, was determined to be on two feet for the special moment with wife Emma and successfully fought big day nerves to do so.

A kiss that was a year in the making... Barry and Emma MacDowell at their wedding in April and at home in Inverness. Image: MS Society/Sandy McCook
A kiss that was a year in the making... Barry and Emma MacDowell at their wedding in April and at home in Inverness. Image: MS Society/Sandy McCook

Barry and Emma MacDowell only got married at the start of April, so have yet to tire of watching their wedding video.

There’s every chance they never will, considering what it shows.

The Inverness couple both have multiple sclerosis, but while Emma has a mild condition that mainly affects her grip, Barry’s MS has confined him to a powered wheelchair for the past five years.

Or at least, for most of the past five years.

After months of hard work with two physiotherapists – and to the surprise of his wedding guests who had no idea what was about to happen – he was able to stand for his first dance with Emma.

In footage that was perfectly captured by a guest, Barry held his wife in his arms and swayed to the music – the appropriately-titled Shut Up and Dance by Walk the Moon.

Emma and Barry’s magical moment captured on camera. Image: Supplied by MS Society

It was the first time since meeting in an online MS Facebook group six years prior that the two had stood next to each other. As moments go, it is as special as they come.

Until Barry starts talking about it, anyway.

“To be honest, I was crapping myself,” says the 49-year-old Inverness native as he recalls the night at Kingsmills Hotel in Aviemore.

“I was just hoping everything would go to plan.”

Training for the first dance on an anti-gravity treadmill

For Barry, wedding day nerves were compounded by the stress of knowing what he was about to do.

He couldn’t confide in anyone as the plan was a total secret. Not even Barry’s best man knew.

“I was worried that I would lose my balance and collapse to the ground,” he says.

Two people at the wedding were there specifically to make sure that didn’t happen.

Dave Powney and Jude Simms are from Move4ward, an organisation that specialises in neuro-physiotherapy and rehabilitation. After hearing about Barry’s wish to stand, they were determined to help him realise it.

Barry has been in his powered wheelchair for about five years. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

They tried a couple of tech-assisted methods including training on an ‘anti-gravity’ treadmill that was originally designed for astronauts.

Barry’s condition, however, meant that ultimately it was easier for Dave and Jude to support him manually.

Which is why the wedding video shows the pair – dressed all in black to be as inconspicuous as possible – quietly rushing in to help Barry stand.

“There wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” says Dave.

Barry’s take on the moment is typically less emotive.

“I was actually sick of hearing that song,” he says with a laugh. “I’d been listening to the song so much with my headphones on, trying to practice it in my head, I’m just sick of it now.”

Popping the question and living with MS

Emma has vivid memories of the night, too.

For her, the evening was the culmination of a long – and sometimes rocky – journey with Barry.

Emma is unusual in that both of her parents had MS. Barry’s father was also a sufferer, meaning both are clear-eyed in what the condition means for their quality of life.

It also means though they come from opposite ends of the UK – Portsmouth for Emma Inverness for Barry – they met in 2017 on a Facebook group for young people with MS.

Emma and Barry soon after they first met. Image: Supplied by Emma MacDowell

Barry had been diagnosed with MS for two years at that point and the two bonded over talk of the condition – and funny videos Barry shared.

Emma started coming up to Inverness with her son Corbhan, who is now 11 years old.

Eventually, Barry popped the question, though he didn’t go down on one knee.

The cheeky rogue did the deed over a messaging app .

“I’m a romantic!” Barry says now, tongue firmly in cheek.

‘I don’t know a life without MS.”

It hasn’t been all plain sailing. Barry has a significant amount of independence and despite being in a wheelchair is a whizz at unloading the dishwasher.

But both know the size of the challenge they face as a couple with MS, even though they often shield their concerns with a healthy dollop of humour.

“People ask me what married life is like and I say it’s just the same as before except I now get money when he dies,” laughs Emma, who moved to Inverness with Corbhan at the end of 2018.

Emma and Barry at home last week in Inverness. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

However, she quickly adds: “I’m not scared. I was brought up with the attitude that nothing is impossible. Both of my parents had MS the whole time. I don’t know a life without MS.”

Emma says her attitude contrasts with Barry’s, which she describes as more “stick your head in the sand”.

Barry, true to form, disagrees.

“The way I see things,” he says, “what will be will be, and what’s not, won’t be.”

What Barry thinks about the video now

There is one thing that Emma and Barry agree on – the impact the first dance at their wedding has had on their life together. Talking about it is a rare moment that Barry remains deadly serious.

“I achieved something that I never thought I would be able to do,” he says.

Later, the question of how often he’s watched it since the wedding crops up.

“I watch it every day,” he says.

“The whole thing with the dance. When the song changes to Walk the Moon, I’m just buzzing.

“Emma has come through a couple of times and she’ll say to me, have you been crying? I say, no. But I have been. Every time, it brings a tear to my eye.”

Watch the emotional video here:

Barry and Emma are sharing their story for World MS Day, which this year is about building community connection, self-connection, and connections to quality care. MS Society Scotland and The Oxygen Works in Inverness will host a hybrid in-person and online event on the day.