Bridal tip number one: carry your bouquet in a backpack so your hands are free to grasp the rocks.
This is not what they taught me in wedding planner school. I have learned this and many other tips from years of experience. Anyone who is planning a wedding has read all the wedding etiquette books, the bridal magazines and the countless books on "writing your own vows." But for someone who is planning a non-traditional wedding, there is a noticeable absence of help on the subject. As a certified wedding planner and a wedding officiant, I have developed these useful guidelines on how to plan an "adventure wedding."
By adventure weddings, I am referring to outdoor recreation events involving the couples’ favorite sport such as bicycling, kayaking, horseback riding, rock climbing, skiing or hiking, etc. If this concept causes you to instantly have the alarming thought of Aunt Bessie having to paddle through a rapid to hear you take your vows, relax – it doesn’t have to be that way. I would like to point out to couples that it is possible to incorporate some elements of your favorite sport into your wedding without putting your guests at risk. It is just a matter of logistics, good planning and a creative mind. Why not have just the wedding party join you in paddling, then you pull up to a quiet shore, beach or dock where the rest of your wedding guests are waiting?
The following planning tips are all based on true experiences of my years officiating weddings and participating in outdoor recreation activities:
If you are going to be involved in a recreational activity while taking your vows, choose a sport that you both are already experienced with and good at. The last thing you want is to be learning a new sport on this most important day of your life.
Be careful when and where you exchange the rings. This is obvious – you do not want to take a chance on losing the rings in a rapid or the snow. Your ring-exchange should be done on dry land with both feet firmly on the ground.
And speaking of feet. Wear appropriate footwear for the activity, and be sure that your guests do too. This should go without saying. But you would be surprised at the inappropriate footwear I've seen - dainty white heels skipping over moss-covered rocks and shiny black wing tips on a sandy beach. Having the wrong shoes for the occasion is not only uncomfortable, but unsafe.
Have your adventure wedding in a location where that particular recreational activity is already done. In other words, don’t go kayaking on a river where no one has ever gone before and don’t sky dive in a place where it has never been done before. Have a ski wedding at a ski resort, so you have the advantage of chairlifts, etc.
When you call the recreation outfitter to inquire about using their facilities for your ceremony, don’t use the word “wedding.” This word will cause them to instantly envision a string quartet, catering trucks, tents and a big cake. Just say “can a group participate in this activity together and then be joined by others who are not participating? Can we stop and talk a while and then take pictures?” If the answer to this is “yes” then you’ve got yourself an adventure wedding site.
Don’t expect the outfitter or facility personnel to change what they normally do. For example, if you want to get married on a whitewater rafting trip, don’t expect the outfitter to raft in a different place or stop for you. And at a ski resort, don’t expect the chairlift operators to stop the lifts from running while you decide which groomsman is supposed to go with which bridesmaid. Figure all that out ahead of time and line yourselves up in the lift line accordingly.
To get some cooperation from outfitters, choose a date and time when that facility is at a low point in visitation. For a ski resort, that would be midweek towards the beginning or end of ski season. At times like this they are more likely to let the bride have a chairlift to herself if that is what you want.
If at all possible, you should have a “rehearsal” by participating in the activity as a group in advance, so you are fully aware of all the logistical concerns.
A good way to locate outfitters, parks and recreational facilities is through the local chamber of commerce, local recreation department or tourism bureau in the area you are interested in. If there is no local office that can help you, try the state department of tourism or parks.
Resorts are usually a good choice for an adventure wedding because they will have not only the recreational amenities, but also lodging, food service, parking, etc.
Have a sense of humor. If you want to get married on horseback, the horses might not be cooperative enough to stand still, and they might choose the wrong moment for normal biological functions. You have to remember that this is an adventure wedding and adventure sometimes translates “unpredictable.” You must be ready to accept whatever happens with grace and humor.
Decorate, dress up and have fun. This is where real creativity comes in. You can attach a veil to a helmet, put a bouquet on the bow of a boat, line your bicycle handlebars with flowers and lace or decorate your ski poles. Just remember to not wear white if you are getting married on a ski slope because your outfit will "disappear" in pictures against the white background. The same materials that would be used for any wedding can be adapted for your adventure wedding: flowers, tule, ribbon, or lace. In addition, you might need duct tape or bungee cords to hold things in place. And yes, you might have to carry your bouquet in a backpack.
Whatever you do, remember that this is your chance to reflect your individuality as a couple. It is a chance to mark this pivotal step in your lives while being true to yourselves. What a perfect way to start the greatest adventure of all – a married life.
Your online source for information and tips on weddings, wedding officiant, justice of the peace, elopement packages, destination weddings, beach weddings, mountaintop weddings, winery weddings, unique weddings, outdoor weddings, weddings in unique locations and more.