07/03/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT
Before the Backstreet Boys, before the 11 million-selling album Millennium, before the legions of screaming teenage fans, Kevin Richardson was just a guy in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle suit. On a break from his gig at Orlando's Disney-MGM Studios theme park in 1993, he met Kristin Willits, a dancer with the park's Beauty and the Beast show, in the employee cafeteria. "It's great he became what he is," Willits's mom, Susan Patton, 55, said in February. "But we knew him when he was a Ninja Turtle."
Now she knows him as a son-in-law. On June 17 outside Lexington, Ky., Richardson's hometown, the oldest Backstreet Boy, 28, wed Willits, 29 and now an aspiring actress, in a private ceremony for close family and friends. "It was a beautiful wedding," says the father of the bride, John Willits, 56, a chiropractor divorced from Patton. "It was very unique."
And perhaps inspiring. The couple managed to make it to the altar after years of living separate lives on the road—Richardson with the Boys, Willits at various theme parks and as a backup dancer with Cher. "They really stuck it out for each other," said Kristin's sister Tina Huet, 34. "I'm glad they were able to make it." After asking her father's permission, the singer proposed last December (Richardson's bandmate and cousin Brian Littrell, 25, got engaged a few days later). "They were made for each other," said John Willits. "They're both old-fashioned, both big-hearted. They've both done very well."