Wedding on ice
the associated press
JUNEAU, Alaska ” The bride wore a curvy, strapless, white satin gown sprinkled with sequins.
She also had on tights, sweat pants, rain pants and a pair of hefty hiking boots fitted with spikes.
The groom was charmed. “That’s the way she is,” said Ken Rose, “although the dress was a surprise.”
Ken and Dagmar Rose of Warrington, Pa., tied the knot two summers ago on an Alaskan glacier. In doing so, they joined a small but growing number of people who plan their summer nuptials on the Juneau ice field, a 1,500-square-mile expanse of jagged ice and rock that spills into nearly 40 glaciers.
For the folks back home, it might as well be the moon.
“Our families thought we were completely nuts,” said Rose. But for this couple, the decision to trade tradition for trekking was an easy one.
“The surroundings were unbelievable,” he said. “We couldn’t have been happier.”
“It wasn’t about the whole family atmosphere,” added his wife Dagmar. “It was about us and nature.”
It was also, surprisingly, about convenience, thanks to a small cottage industry that has developed around the trend.
Diane Pearson runs Pearson’s Pond, a bed-and-breakfast near the Mendenhall glacier. A certified wedding planner, she arranged for the couple’s helicopter flight and an ice field guide, who doubled as a photographer. She brought the cake, the Champagne, and the roses.
She hiked with the couple until they found the “perfect spot” next to an azure-blue glacier pond, and then she married them ” thanks to an Alaskan law that allows just about anyone to become a court-appointed marriage commissioner.
“My first glacier wedding several years ago was (for) a rocket scientist,” said Pearson. “She was awesome and her husband was an accountant. They were just beautiful.”
Pearson married 50 couples last year, 30 of those on a glacier, and she said the number of clients who say their “I do’s” on ice grows every year.
Tom Stewart moonlights as a marriage commissioner when he’s not crunching numbers for the state transportation department.
“It really adds a spice to life,” said Stewart, whose business is called Weddings on Ice.
He has performed about 50 glacier weddings in the last three years. Many of his clients fit their wedding in while on a cruise up the Inside Passage, having booked the event before they left through companies based outside Alaska like Royal Oceans Event, A Wedding For You and The Wedding Experience.
Stewart said most people want to escape the hassles of a big wedding. While some come dressed to kill, he’s also seen them get hitched in hiking gear or pledging their love in matching Norwegian sweaters.
He’s also seen brides flying in wearing hoop gowns so large “it was all the pilot could do to see the controls. We’ve even had them come in stiletto heels, thinking this would help them on the ice.”
Some are prepared to stay awhile, like the Roses. After the ceremony, the two spent the day trekking with their guide and rappelling into the blue crystalline depths of a glacier crevasse before camping on the ice to spend their wedding night under a sky resplendent with northern lights.
But couples off the cruise ships don’t have the luxury of a lot of time and most limit their helicopter rental to an hour ” 20 minutes up and back and another 40 minutes on the glacier.
Photographer Art Sutch, who’s has been shooting happy couples here for 20 years, has learned how to work with the challenges of the unique setting. “My job is, shoot rapid-fire and get everything they need as quick as possible and as well as possible,” said Sutch.
“The main thing is dealing with the light because you have a huge zone of compete whiteness,” he added. “On a cloud-free day it can be a nightmare.”
But cloudy days can be troublesome too, especially when the rain is blowing sideways. “I had one two years ago where it was raining and blowing so hard, I had to keep going up to the groom and pulling his hood back so I could get his face in the picture.”
In 2003, close to 550 couples traveled to Alaska to get married and a third of them chose Juneau. Lorene Palmer, president and CEO of the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the office fields plenty of calls from people asking how to get married on a glacier, but many choose other wild and scenic spots as well.
“People look for memorable places to commemorate their wedding and getting married in Alaska in and of itself is exciting,” she said. “Then when they start investigating further, they start looking at places to make that extra special.”
The Roses agreed it was memorable all right, even though their friends at home could not believe they were actually married. After all, they’d left Warrington with just their backpacks. But for Ken, the best part was just how low-key and personable it was.
“It was just a funny, surreal setting,” he said. “We laughed through the whole ceremony.”
If You Go…
MARRIAGE LICENSES IN ALASKA: Obtained through the Alaska Bureau of Vital Statistics; requires a three-day waiting period. For details, contact the Department of Health and Social Services at Records Processing Unit in Juneau, http://www.vitalrecords.alaska.gov or (907) 465-3391.
PEARSON’S POND: 4541 Sawa Circle, Juneau, AK 99801; http://www.pearsonspond.com/alaska”weddings”honeymoons.html or (907) 789-3772. Cost of a glacier wedding: $2,150, or $4,350 including trek and camping.
WEDDINGS ON ICE: http://www.alaskaweddings.net or (907) 209-7314. Cost of a glacier wedding: $1,975.
ROYAL OCEAN EVENTS: http://www.royalwed.com/roe”brochure.htm or (888) 475-5511. Cost of a glacier wedding: $2,595.
A WEDDING FOR YOU: http://www.aweddingforyou.com/alaska.htm or (800) 929-4198. Cost of a glacier wedding: $1,350.
THE WEDDING EXPERIENCE: http://www.theweddingexperience.com/package-juneau-glacier.html or (877) 580-3556. Cost of a glacier wedding: $2,150.
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