Adventure Lovers Go to New Extremes to Wed

Two trends are tying the knot: adventure travel and destination weddings.

For some, a Caribbean beachfront wedding -- long the staple of destination nuptials -- has grown too tame. Too common.

"Couples are looking for any type of way to be original," said WeddingChannel.com senior editor Christa Vagnozzi. "They really want to showcase their style and originality."

So, while one in 10 couples now plans a destination wedding, according to a 2007 survey by WeddingChannel.com, a select crop of them are adding adventure to their nuptials, with ceremonies underwater, on skis and glaciers, in the stratosphere and the African bush.

Underwater Wedding

"To get married underwater, you have to really love the sport," said Karolin Troubetzkoy of Anse Chastanet Resort on St. Lucia. The 600-acre Virgin Islands estate hosts traditional destination weddings, as well as ceremonies near waterfalls, on mountains or amid historical ruins -- as well as underwater.

Anse Chastanet Resort on St. Lucia will bring your wedding under the sea for a $350 surcharge.Anse Chastanet Resort on St. Lucia will bring your wedding under the sea for a $350 surcharge. (Photo courtesy Anse Chastanet Resort)

And the couples Troubetzkoy has helped get married below the surface of the Caribbean have all been young scuba diving enthusiasts.

The tricky part is getting the registrar to the site of the ceremony.

"The registrars here are all a little more mature," she said carefully, adding that Anse Chastanet has put in a request to the government to employ a more "fit" registrar to accommodate the resort's more daring wedding itineraries.

For that reason, scuba brides and grooms are legally married either on the boat deck or the beach in the presence of the registrar, then slap on their oxygen tanks and dive masks and repeat the ceremony under the sea -- with the aid of slates, or plastic boards where they can write dialogue in waterproof pen.

The basic wedding package at Anse Chastanet is $895, which includes all planning services and legal fees, and the "underwater surcharge" is $350.

Click here to visit AnseChastanet.com and find out more.

On Thick Ice

At the other end of North America, in a rural area ouside of Juneau, Alaska, is Pearson's Pond Luxury Inn and Adventure Spa, where owner Diane Pearson marries anywhere from 15 to 30 couples a year on the neighboring glacier.

Bride and groom kiss amid the frozen glacier just outside of Juneau, Alaska. Temperatures on the glacier are usually only about 10-15 Fahrenheit degrees cooler than on land.Bride and groom kiss on the frozen glacier just outside of Juneau, Alaska. Temperatures on the glacier are usually only about 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than on land. (Photo courtesy of Diane Pearson)

"I have a passion for love," Pearson said. "And adventure. And glaciers."

Of planning glacier weddings and serving as the officiant herself, she said, "I've been doing it for eight or 10 years now. Glaciers are 100 percent the best, and being on one is one of the coolest things you'll ever do in your life."

Whereas the Caribbean weddings -- underwater and otherwise -- that Troubetzkoy described tend to involve a wedding party of 10 to 30 friends and family, Pearson said her glacier weddings typically are just bride, groom and herself.

"People who choose this don't want anything traditional," she said. "Instead of spending between $30,000 and $60,000 on the ceremony -- which is what an average wedding costs these days -- they can have a great wedding, a honeymoon, a down payment on a house, and not have to deal with all the family issues."

In the package, a helicopter whisks the couple from their luxury suite at Pearson's Pond right to the middle of the glacier. Surprisingly, it's only about 10 to 15 degrees cooler on the glacier than on the ground, Pearson said -- meaning around 55 degrees Fahrenheit for a summer wedding on the glacier.

Depending on the couple's preference, Pearson arranges the reception, cake, champagne, and even the first dance right there on the ice.

Click here to visit PearsonPond.com to find out more.

Wild Wedding

Of all the adventure travel weddings building steam, Vagnozzi said she suspects the African safari trend is growing the fastest. Maybe that's because there's so much to choose from, starting with which country.

Safari wedding planner Meregan Turner got married in the Kenyan bush herself. Here, Samburu tribe warriors give her away at the ceremony.Safari wedding planner Meregan Turner got married in the Kenyan bush herself. Here, Samburu tribe warriors give her away at the ceremony. (Photo courtesy of Meregan Turner)

Turns out, no matter what time of year you want to get married, somewhere in Africa can be quite accommodating.

"Where it could be raining in May in Kenya, it's a lovely time to go to Botswana," said Meregan Turner of Safari Drive, a London-based company that plans weddings and safaris throughout the African continent.

"Most of the weddings we do are in the bush -- not necessarily in surrounds of the lodge," said Turner, drawing attention to the difference between an African resort wedding and one that's truly in the wild.

"I actually got married in Kenya. We had a ranger to keep elephants away," she said.

Of her own safari wedding, Turner said she was given away by Samburu tribesman, whom she had come to befriend during the time she spent in Kenya.

"They asked me if they could give me away. It was an honor," she said.

In fact, arranging for Samburu warriors to witness a wedding is one of the details she can arrange.

Her team at Safari Drive organizes weddings in remote bush locations in Zambia, Kenya, Namibia and Tanzania. They handle everything from the red tape that ensures your marriage is legal, to the camel on which you depart from the ceremony.

"Our aim is to provide proper weddings that are legal, rather than getting married in the registrar's office and then having a blessing out in the bush," Turner said.

Though it varies, depending on the options a couple may want, the basic cost is about $9,000, Turner estimated, which includes the ceremony itself, reception, any legal fees and the basic honeymoon package.

White Wedding

Nearly every ski resort is happy to host a mountain wedding. But a smaller crop of them -- ranging from high-end destinations, like the Arrabelle in Vail, Colo., to surprisingly affordable packages in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains -- actually offer an option to ski down the aisle, so to speak.

After a mountaintop wedding, these newlyweds prepare to celebrate the moment with a ski downhill.After a mountaintop wedding, these newlyweds prepare to celebrate the moment with a ski downhill. (Photo courtesy of Frankee Love, Blue Ridge Weddings)

Clad in white gown and classic tux, adventurous brides and grooms seal the "I do" moment with an inaugural downhill ski.

"A lot of people ask about it," said Frankee Love of Blue Ridge Weddings in Virginia. "But most don't end up taking that option."

Why the high interest with little follow-through?

"A lot of times, it seems to be because of family members," Love said, referring to the pressure to plan a more traditional wedding.

Love, who has organized snowboarder weddings, as well, said it's usual for the entire wedding party to follow the bridal couple down the slope. But, apparently, that's less common on Vail Mountain.

Rock Resort's John Dawsey helps make weddings possible at a number of resorts on Vail Mountain, including the Arrabelle at Vail Square, where couples can ski right into their reception.

Despite that option, Dawsey said, "More couples get married in summer here than winter. Either way, we have the Wedding Deck that overlooks Holy Cross to the west. It's a naturally carved cross into the landscape below -- very spiritual."

This Wedding Deck is 9,500 feet up on a peak called Eagle's Nest, and can be reserved through several resorts surrounding Vail Mountain, Dawsey said.

While packages in Vail vary greatly, depending which property you choose for your reception and stay, the basic package at Blue Ridge Weddings is $1,025.

Click here to visit BlueRidgeWeddings.com for more information.

Wedding With Atmosphere

Mike Kijak has been flying hot air balloons through California's Sonoma Valley for 15 years.

Though the wedding party is limited to eight, the sky is the limit for hot air balloon weddings at Up and Away in Sonoma Valley. Owner Mike Kijak, center, pilots the balloon and performs the ceremony.Though the wedding party is limited to eight, the sky is the limit for hot air balloon weddings at Up and Away in Sonoma Valley. Owner Mike Kijak, center, pilots the balloon and performs the ceremony. (Photo courtesy of Steve Lowry)

"You would hear about it," he said of hot air balloon weddings. "It's marriage proposals we'd see a lot of. Then one day someone asked, 'Can you marry us?' And I thought, 'Sure, why not?'"

So, Kijak looked into it and can now legally marry couples in the state of California. Of course, he's also flying the balloon, so ceremonies stay relatively simple.

"We have an average of five [weddings] a year, and 80 percent of them are just the bride, groom and me up there. But we have a balloon that can fly six people, and one that can take eight to 10 people," he said.

Though the weddings are simple, they have a personal touch. The whole affair is managed by Kijak and his wife, who handles the cake, flowers and post-wedding brunch at Sonoma's nearby Kendall-Jackson Winery.

"It's for couples interested in doing something completely different. And it's probably one of the most relaxing things you'll do in your whole life," said Kijak, who has a perfect record with not one accident in 15 years.

Wedding packages at Up and Away, Kijak's company, run $950, which covers the 75- to 90-minute flight, ceremony, cake, flowers and winery brunch.

Click here for more information from Up-Away.com.

These are just a few of the adventure options couples are discovering for their destination weddings. Vagnozzi said she has also heard of rain forest weddings and mile-high weddings, with couples walking down the aisle of a plane.

"It's still a marginalized choice," she said. "But it's getting a lot more popular for couples looking for any type of way to be original."