Bride Dislocates Knee During First Dance, Then Returns to Reception After Hospital Visit

Paul Richter and Julie Benn were ready to dance the night away after their wedding — until Julie dislocated her knee during their first dance as newlyweds

Bride Dislocates Leg During First Dance and Is Wheeled Out of Wedding
Photo: Rebecca Barger for Rebecca Barger Photography

Anyone who has ever planned a wedding knows the amount of time and energy that goes into planning the big day, from selecting a venue, food for guests, and the perfect first dance song.

But no matter how hard you try, there are some things you can't plan for, as Paul Richter and Julie Benn found out during their ceremony over Independence Day weekend.

The couple, who have been together three years, have eagerly anticipated their wedding day following its postponement last July amid the COVID-19 pandemic. After so much waiting, Paul and Julie saw an opportunity and decided on a July 3 ceremony near their home in Philadelphia at a residence owned by a friend.

On the day of the wedding, the two exchanged vows in front of loved ones, and before the reception, things appeared to be going off without a hitch.

"I felt so much love and happiness there. And you're just seeing all these people you love and you're like, 'This is amazing,'" Paul, a second lieutenant in the Army, tells PEOPLE. "There was a couple of moments where I just wanted to stand back and just watch, it was so cool."

That is, until "the first dance happened and the day changed," he adds.

Shortly after the two began their first dance as husband and wife to the Dave Matthews Band hit, "Stay," Paul gently dipped his newlywed wife — that's when the trouble began.

"I can't watch the video of it," 32-year-old Paul says of the moment Julie's left knee dislocated on the dance floor.

"[Her knee] went out and Julie looked at me right away and she goes, 'I dislocated my knee.' Just like that, she knew," he recalls. "So then my mindset goes from like, 'Oh yeah, we're having a great dance right now,' to, 'All right, get her a chair.'"

Julie, 34, doesn't know what caused her knee to give way (she says she was even wearing flats instead of heels to play it safe while dancing). What she does know, however, was that she was in excruciating pain.

"He's holding my entire body weight and my dress, which is massive," she remembers. "And I'm like, 'I need to get a chair.' I'm simultaneously screaming. One of our dear friends is an orthopedic physical therapist, she works on knees. I saw her face, and I'm screaming."

Bride Dislocates Leg During First Dance and Is Wheeled Out of Wedding
Margo Reed for Rebecca Barger Photography

Another friend, a nurse practitioner, told Julie her knee had moved completely to the right side of her leg.

"[They're] holding my knee in place, supporting it, and it was blinding, searing pain," Julie says. "I have a lot of respect for athletes who play through their injuries. I never dislocated a knee. I broke a bone when I was a kid, but nothing else. So it was shocking, disbelief."

Emergency services arrived and took Julie to a local hospital where she remained for hours as doctors treated her injured knee. Hospital staff frequently came by to check out the bride — still in her wedding attire — waiting in the emergency room.

After being given a max dosage of pain medications, doctors placed Julie under light sedation and reset her knee around 8:30 p.m. The couple then returned to the reception to rejoin the others who stayed following their abrupt departure (their band agreed to play the entire event).

"All of our friends and family were standing there, cheering and shouting for us," Julie recalls.

"I felt like a professional athlete for a second. I got out of the car and there are people taking pictures," Paul adds. "I'm like, 'This is how they feel. I get it now.'"

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Today, Julie's knee remains swollen, and she does physical therapy on it three times a day. While the couple hasn't yet had the chance to make up their first dance, they're focused on enjoying their next few months together before Paul heads to Oklahoma with the Army until next year.

The dance mishap isn't the ideal way to begin their marriage, they admit, but the most important thing is they finally made the day happen — hospital trip or not.

"We have felt so loved by everyone," Julie says of the support she received after the accident.

"I can't imagine what it would have been like to have a normal wedding at this point," Paul adds. "But the love and support and everything we felt has been amazing."

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