Sunday, October 2, 2011

Tying the Knot: Rock Climbers' Wedding

Mid July, the day has come when my climbing partner of three years asked me to marry him: on one of our climbing trips to Eleven Mile Canyon, while we were all sitting around a campfire, he asked everyone to turn their headlamps on, and said, "This place has been sacred to me," suddenly turned towards me, dropped on one knee, and pulled out a diamond ring. How could I refuse? I trust him with my life every time we climb. Can marriage require any more commitment?

So after a week or two of avoiding setting the date, I finally looked at my calendar and realized that if we wanted to get married this year, it would need to be at the beginning of October at the latest. We wanted to get married on the rock in Eleven Mile Canyon--one of the most beautiful canyons in the state. The canyon is located in Colorado, near a small town of Lake George, west of Colorado Springs, over 8,000 feet above sea level. This means that starting October the weather has the potential of turning to hail, sleet, and snow. It did not take me long to realize that if I did not want to wait until May of next year, I needed to plan a wedding within two months.

We knew the wedding would be for rock climbers. We were both married before, so we wanted an informal celebration. Also, we had monetary limitations: we'd rather spend the money on climbing equipment than on a wedding.

The Invitations:

Being a designer and art director, I opened up Photoshop, dusted off the scanner, and went to work. The obvious choice was to use the pun on “tying a knot.” The visual of a knot I chose was the double fisherman out of one of our climbing books, as it ties two separate ropes, just as a marriage ties two separate people. The invitations and the cards were printed on a store-bought pre-cut card stock from Hobby Lobby using a DeskJet printer for the total cost of $25 (envelopes included).

The Dress:

I knew I needed a dress that I could climb in. So I headed to David's Bridal with my climbing harness, rock shoes, and climbing pants to get fitted. The staff thought the idea was a riot. The dress had to be off-white, loose, and relatively short. The color was prescribed not only by our previous marital status and mature age (35 and 52) but also by the potential of getting dirty while climbing. I chose a strapless dress, just below the knee, layered with semi-transparent organza with a subtle leaf print. As accessories I chose a black belt and a cream colored vale with a black trim. Black was a natural choice: it is my favorite color, and it matched my climbing pants.

The Decorations:

My fiance was rather particular. He did not want any cut flowers: being part Native American, he was against "killing" plants. So I opted for a dried wheat bouquet tied with a black satin ribbon. For the hair, I chose a twig of natural wood flowers I found at Hobby Lobby. As the campground table centerpiece, a yellow bucket nestled in a fall door wreath filled with ice and wine bottles was both practical, seasonally appropriate, and pretty.

The Ceremony:

I did not get a chance to worry about climbing in a wedding dress, because I was too worried about the imminent rainfall. As we drove into the canyon, we were greeted with a huge rain storm with thunder, lightening, the works...  As we pulled up to the rock where the ceremony was to take place, it stopped raining. The rock was not even wet when we began the ascent. The four of us--the bride, groom, maid of honor, and best man--climbed up to a rather comfortable shelf about 100 feet off the ground. Climbing that rock proved to be easier than I thought. Then, as the music played John Denver's "Annie's Song," the groom descended with the best man. I followed with my maid of honor to the sound of "1 2 3 4" by Plain White T's.

In case you haven't noticed already, my attentive reader, we chose to forgo traditional Christian rituals and made the wedding into our own following our own secular spirituality associated with the love of nature in the spirit of Native American beliefs. The ceremony and the exchange of vows was performed on a boulder under the climb with our children reading short passages modeled on the Native American ritual. We both wrote our own vows and read them lastly (mine, of course, the product of an English major, were way longer with deep literary references that were probably lost on my audience... oh well). After the ceremony we all proceeded to our campground for the party around a campfire.

The Party Favors:

Since this was to be an outdoors wedding with a campfire reception, the idea for party favors came naturally: s'more kits for everyone!