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#Shalieve in Love: An Exclusive Look at the Shaziers' Wedding

Ryan Shazier and wife Michelle Rodriguez never lost faith that they’d get their dream day. A year and a half after the Steelers linebacker suffered a severe spinal injury, he danced at his wedding.



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Photos by Joey Kennedy Photography
 

Five years ago, Michelle Rodriguez was a young woman in Texas who had never heard of Ryan Shazier, then a recently drafted linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

While on Instagram one day, Michelle “liked” a cute picture of a baby on her Explore page. She thought nothing of it.

But that cute baby’s father, Ryan, noticed a beautiful woman had liked a picture, and it caught his attention as it wasn’t one of his more recent posts. He decided to message her.

“I’m like, who is this guy?” Michelle says. “I was like, ‘Oh. He must be the dad of the photo I liked a couple days ago.’”

She waited a few days, then decided to respond, and a friendship began.

“We started off messaging each other by sharing ... passages from the Bible,” Michelle says. “We weren’t going into it like, ‘Oh. This could be my boyfriend.’”
But intended or not, a relationship blossomed long-distance. 

“Thank God for FaceTime,” Michelle says.
 


 

In April 2016, Michelle was accompanying Ryan to Arizona where he was training. One morning after his workout, he told her he was going to play golf with teammate Stephon Tuitt.

“That whole day Ryan was acting really weird, and I was like, ‘What is this guy up to?’” Michelle remembers. “He left me at the house all day. I was by myself, and I was like, ‘Dude, are you going to come back?’”

Ryan called and told her he wanted to go out for a nice dinner, and Michelle, who says she hates getting dressed up, tried to talk him out of it. He eventually convinced her, came home, and the two got ready.

While waiting for their table at the restaurant, Michelle noticed a girl posing for pictures under a tree. The photographer told Ryan and Michelle he was just starting out in his career and would love to practice with a few photos of them under the tree as well. Once they were in position, Ryan got down on one knee.

“I was in complete and utter shock,” Michelle says. “That whole time, he had it set up that that photo shoot wasn’t for them, it was for us.”
 


 

Within a few months, the couple had planned their wedding. They wanted to hold it in Miami, as Ryan is from Florida and Michelle has family in Puerto Rico, just a short plane ride away. Michelle had a wedding planner, a dress and a caterer picked out. Everything was set for July 7, 2018.

But then came Dec. 4, 2017, when the Steelers met the Cincinnati Bengals. Ryan went in for a tackle — and didn’t get up again. He had a severe spinal injury.
It’s now a well-known story. The man who had already inspired people by being open about his alopecia — a condition that causes bald spots and the disappearance of body hair — and supporting numerous charitable endeavors underwent extensive surgery.

And started getting better.

He entered UPMC’s Rehabilitation Institute and was discharged on Feb. 1, 2018, and transitioned to an outpatient therapy program. Within a few months, he was out and about without his wheelchair.
 


 

Michelle says there was never any doubt whether or not they’d get married, but they both realized the logistics were probably going to change.

“I told him, ‘Ultimately, it’s up to you. What do you want to do?’” Michelle says. “Because I knew at the end of the day, regardless, we were going to get married. I didn’t care if he was in a wheelchair, if I had to pull him down the aisle, whatever I had to do, we were going to get married.

“We had a long talk ... at Mercy, because I stayed with him at Mercy every night … and he was just like, ‘I don’t want to look back at my photos and be in a wheelchair. This is supposed to be one of the happiest days of our lives, getting married, and I don’t want to look back and think, if we had waited a little bit more, I would have been a lot better and I would have been on my feet, walking, dancing, jumping.’” 

They decided to postpone the July date. But another surprise was yet to come. In July 2018, Michelle and Ryan announced on Instagram they were expecting. Their son, Lyon, would be born in January.

It was around that time they again began planning a wedding in earnest. They were tired of waiting, and they decided to hold the celebration where it seemed to make the most sense: Pittsburgh.

Michelle enlisted Alexis Allen, a wedding planner with {SHE} who’s married to former Steelers safety Will Allen, with a seemingly impossible ask: Can you plan a big wedding in less than three months? 

“I follow her on Instagram, I know she does weddings, events … and I was like, ‘Ryan, I really like her stuff. I love it.’ And Ryan said, ‘OK. ... I’ll contact Will and see if she can meet up.’”

Allen says she didn’t hesitate to take on the task. In fact, she was “beyond honored” they thought to include her.

“They have a network that is broader than most people’s, and the fact that they trusted me ... with one of the most important days of their lives, meant more to me than they would ever even know,” she says. 

“It’s been amazing, and as a woman of faith to see how his faith has driven both of them … It’s really touching, personally, professionally, in so many ways.”
 

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