When we created Adventure Rabbi, almost a year ago, one goal was
to have an article about AdventureRabbi appear in one of the secular
outdoor magazines. Well, here it is - and they called us!!
Want a ceremony that reflects your passion for the outdoors?
Here's everything you need to know to pull off a wilderness wedding.
By Dennis Lewon, BACKPACKER Equipment Editor,
Like all soon-to-be-married couples, Jen and I were sweating
over last-minute details the day before our wedding. We scanned
the list one more time. Pepper spray? Check. Backpack for my future
mother-in-law? Check. Extra fleece? Check. Three days of food and
wine for 25 people? Check. We didn't need a wedding planner. We
needed a Sherpa.
At this point you might ask (my mother certainly did): What sort
of bride and groom show up with an expedition-size mound of packs
and supplies to divvy up among their guests? The answer is simple...if
you're a backpacker who'd rather walk up a trail than down an aisle.
Alternative weddings have caught on in recent years. Couples exchange
vows while skydiving, scuba diving, skiing, and impersonating Elvis.
Specialty wedding planners coordinate marriage ceremonies with themes
ranging from Disney to the Renaissance. Couples routinely say "I
do" at spectacular, easily accessible places like Yosemite
National Park's Glacier Point and Grand Canyon's South Rim.
Large or small, formal or untucked, religious or county clerk-whatever
flavor wedding you opt for, the big day figures to be one of the
most memorable events in any couple's life. For those of us who
live and play in the outdoors, what better way to celebrate than
gathering friends and family for a hike?
weighing wedding politics (we'd have to trim the guest list to a
good-size hiking party) against what we really wanted to do (get
married in the wilderness), Jen and I had decided to tie the knot
in Montana's Glacier National Park. To that end, we booked beds
at an historic, hiker-only shelter in the park's backcountry; sent
out invitations with a packing list, a map of the Highline Trail,
and tips on avoiding grizzly bear encounters; and spent considerable
time humoring my mom, who was convinced that my 4-year-old niece
wouldn't make it (she did, with only one Barbie bribe) and my dad's
bad back would flare up (it didn't, thanks to a handful of painkillers).
Now we were at the Logan Pass trailhead on a blue-sky summer morning.
The wedding dress was packed, the guests assembled, the last bottle
of champagne squeezed into the maid of honor's overloaded Kelty. The
time had come to jettison our checklist and start hiking.
Sprays of late-summer wildflowers clung to the hillside like bouquets.
Marmots and mountain goats materialized in the thick mountain grass.
Sunshine glinted off distant glaciers. We felt like we were already
walking down the aisle. Only this aisle was nearly 8 miles long,
following one of the most spectacular trails in North America.
The next day started with an icy swim to wash off the trail dust.
After that, everything else went just like any other wedding. Rain
threatened. Mothers worried. The best man arrived late (with a heavy
pack). The sun came out. The pepper spray didn't. And our mountaintop
marriage unfolded like any good wedding: better than an anxious
couple could hope for.
Need a rabbi or minister with trail experience?
would come to me and say they wanted to do a backcountry ceremony,
but I couldn't because I had a congregation to lead," says
Rabbi Jamie Korngold, explaining what prompted her to leave her
synagogue job last year and hang out a shingle as the country's
first Adventure Rabbi.
"People who come to me are those whose spirituality is
awakened in the outdoors," says Korngold, a former wilderness
guide. Some folks need help with logistics. "Others,"
she says, "are experienced mountaineers who just need an officiant
who can keep up." Korngold performs Jewish and non-Jewish weddings.
Contact: (303) 417-6200; www.adventurerabbi.com.
Pastor Steve Hughes, of Yosemite's CrossWay Church, is happy to
perform backpacker weddings. "I did one ceremony on top of
Half Dome," Hughes recalls. "I had to leave the trailhead
at 4 a.m. to make it. I just hiked in shorts and put on my robe
when I got there." Hughes offers a few tips. "If you're
in the mountains, morning is better than afternoon because the weather
tends to be better," he said. "Do everything you'd do
on a normal backpacking trip. Then go behind a tree and change into
your wedding clothes." Contact: Steve Hughes, Yosemite's CrossWay
Church, (209) 379-2428. For general help with Yosemite-area weddings,
contact Yosemite Weddings, (209) 966-3231; www.yosemiteweddings.com.
The Backcountry Wedding Planner
Considering you own wilderness nuptials? Here are some field-tested
Choose a trail that's too difficult, and some cherished friends
or relatives might not be up to it. Make a list of who must attend,
then pick a destination that fits their abilities. Be conservative
about the total mileage, too, leaving plenty of down time to socialize
and deal with last-minute problems. Consider hiring local guides
to help with load-hauling and hike logistics; the money you'll save
on other aspects of the wedding will offset a splurge on hired help.
Pastor Hughes has seen people bring boom boxes into the backcountry.
If that offends your sense of wilderness, pack a few lightweight
instruments (and invite people who can play them). We managed two
guitars for our wedding. Other possibilities include mandolins,
flutes, harmonicas, and small drums.
Camp vs. shelter
Like your decision about how far you hike, whether or not you choose
to camp depends largely on your guests. Will Grandma Mary sleep
on the ground? Other options include dayhiking to the ceremony and
using backcountry shelters. Many national parks, including Yosemite,
Grand Canyon, Glacier, and Great Smoky Mountains, have wilderness
accommodations that allow you to have your wild wedding and granny,
too. Reserve well in advance (up to a year) for shelters in the
national parks (see Contact below). Need a minister who will join
you in the backcountry? See "Camping Clergy" on previous
Fresh-picked wildflowers are nice, but not always available (or
Leave No Trace-sanctioned). Check the regulations where you're going,
or bring dried flowers.
Sure, you can get married in fleece and sandals, but consider packing
formal wedding outfits. The added weight isn't great, and you'll
be amazed how good you look with a granite backdrop.