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From tragedy, comes another chance at love

Unique wedding takes place on Rehoboth Bay sandbar
Joe Magaha and Stephanie Yates get married Sept. 23 in their favorite spot – at buoy 12 on Rehoboth Bay where they spend most of their summer weekends. RON MACARTHUR PHOTOS
October 11, 2017

It's not every wedding that ends with the bride and groom jumping into the water to greet and party with their guests.

Stephanie Yates and Joe Magaha knew they wanted to get married at buoy 16 in Rehoboth Bay near Massey's Landing, a favorite weekend hangout. Surrounding the Sand Dollar party boat for the Sept. 23 wedding were more than 25 other boats of all description, filled with family and friends attending the wedding. Many jumped in the waist-deep water to get a closer view.

The journey leading to the joyful day is one filled with heartache.

As family and friends talked about the couple, everyone agreed it was an extra-special day of recovery for Stephanie who lost her husband in a tragic automobile crash seven years ago.

Guests said her second husband, Zachary Yates, died in May 2010, when a drunk driver, who was also an illegal immigrant, lost control of his car at high speed, crashed into a school bus, rolled over three times and hit Yates' vehicle killing him instantly.

Four weeks after the crash, Stephanie found out that she was eight weeks pregnant with a son, Coleman Yates.

“Not thinking I would ever meet another man in my life, I allowed my ex-husband and his wife to raise my son, who I thought would never have a father,” she said. “Then two years ago I met Joe, an amazing man who has touched not only my life but my entire family. He has brought the best out of me every step of the way.”

She said after their first date in June 2015, she knew he was the man she was going to marry. Joe finally popped the question two years later on July 15, and plans were put into place to have the ceremony on the bay.

They had originally planned to get married standing on a sandbar near the buoy, but the tide didn't cooperate and was a little too high.

Stephanie arrived at her wedding on a jet ski driven by her first husband Michael Iannone Jr. The couple was married for 15 years before they divorced. “But we've remained close friends,” she said. The couple has two children, Joanna and Michael III Iannone, who they have raised together.

As the ceremony neared its 1 p.m. start, it didn't seem to bother anyone on the boat that the wedding rings had been misplaced, holding up the ceremony for more than an hour. With country music in the background, the party got started a little early.

After a frantic search at the best man's house, the rings turned up in a bag in a cooler on another boat. They were ready to literally tie the knot using strings as their rings.

One guest called the group the Red Neck Yacht Club, and no one in attendance seemed to disagree.

The couple lives in Middletown, but spend as many weekends as possible relaxing on the Rehoboth Bay. They met four years ago while both were working for SallieMae. Stephanie grew up in this area and Joe is from Baltimore.