With guns holstered but eyes vigilant, a New Hampshire couple who traveled to Nevada to defend the ranch of Cliven Bundy exchanged vows last week.
The wedding of Hampstead resident Alex Bieniecki and Campton resident Ashley Rose Banyas took place last Thursday in Bunkerville, Nev., and drew about 50 people, including Bundy and some of his family members, said Jerry DeLemus, a Rochester resident who officiated.
DeLemus said the 30-minute ceremony was held atop a mountain overlooking the Virgin River. A reception was held at the makeshift chow hall. The wedding party and guests opted for sparkling apple juice over champagne.
"We want everyone to be as clear-headed as we can be," said DeLemus, a former Marine and leader of the Rochester 9/12 Project.
Last month's standoff at the Bundy ranch drew militia and others from across the country intent on intervening in the dispute between Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management over grazing rights on federal land.
The BLM backed away from plans to confiscate the cattle, and two weeks ago Bundy drew condemnation from some supporters when he questioned whether slavery was better for blacks than a life on welfare.
DeLemus said he, Bieniecki and Banyas remain at the ranch. Bieniecki does guard duty; Banyas works at the chow hall.
He said nine New Hampshire residents drove to Nevada. One has flown home, but the others remain.
"What we're trying to do is make sure the Bundys feel safe," DeLemus said. "To take the BLM at their word is not possible."
Efforts to contact Bieniecki and Banyas through Facebook were unsuccessful Tuesday. But their pages show photos of the ceremony. She was dressed in white, he in camo. Despite a number of firearms, the only shooting that took place was cameras.
In a post, Bieniecki apologized to New Hampshire family and friends and said the couple plan to have a wedding when they return to the Granite State.
"We just made our love official for the whole world to see under God, on hallowed ground," he wrote.
(DeLemus acknowledged there was no wedding license. "It's legal before God, that's what counts," he said.)
DeLemus, whose Marine credentials have given him a leadership status at the ranch, said the couple are happy.
"I tried to give them three nights at a hotel over in Mesquite, (Nevada)," DeLemus said, "but they only took one."