Celebrating 10 years

Photography by Photo Arts by Janna

10th Anniversary

After a decade as Alaska's top wedding guide, we've seen thousands of great ideas carried out by creative local couples. As we celebrate our milestone anniversary, we couldn't help but look back on some favorites that we feel stand the test of time. Some are straight-up money savers and some are down-right divine details, yet all have one thing in common: they're about making a special day extraordinary. Go ahead, steal some of these ideas and make them your own.

Great Arrivals

Why arrive at your wedding by car or limo when you can arrive atop a fire truck with sirens wailing? That’s just one of the many unique arrivals (and departures) we’ve seen. Others include a golf cart, sea kayak, dog sled, horseback, snowmachine, floatplane and, yes, even a dumptruck (the groom owned a demolition company). But who can’t smile thinking of the one ceremony that began with the groom, best man, and bride’s two young sons riding up in a 1950 Chevy truck to the theme song from the “Dukes of Hazzard.” The adorable little boys also drove remote control monster trucks, to which the rings were secured, up the aisle with huge smiles on their faces.

Happily Ever Laughter:
Lighter moments from real Alaska weddings over the past decade

Best moments of confusion

• "During the ceremony, Scott and I forgot our lines, so Scott said 'line please,' " remembers Amy. "I turned to the crowd and said 'sorry, this is our first time' and everyone in the audience laughed."

• During the ceremony, the pastor asked if Jill and Shane had tokens to signify their love. The two just looked at each other thinking, "What is he talking about?" Then the pastor quickly whispered: "The rings!" and the whole bridal party started to laugh.

Best surprise

• Throughout the engagement, Christian had been teasing Marta saying that he wanted to have a pirate-themed wedding, describing in detail what it would look like. Marta had different plans, of course, but she got the last laugh by presenting Christian with a pirate ship cake as the groom's cake. The groomsmen were in on the joke, too. "They presented the cake wearing pirates' hats, eye patches and swords, pulling Marta out on a rope and yelling as any pirate would," Christian fondly recalls.

Most adorable ring bearers and flower girls

• During one ceremony, a 4-year-old ring bearer heard the pastor mention the honeymoon. "His voice resonated over everything else as he asked, 'What's a honeymoon?' After quietly being told it was a vacation, he loudly announced that he wanted a honeymoon and the 4-year-old flower girl next to him demanded that she wanted a honeymoon, too! Of course, the entire place roared with laughter."

• "The ring bearer, our dog Nuch, dropped for a belly rub in the middle of the ceremony after performing his duties!"

• "Our wedding coordinator asked our 4-year-old flower girl to go down the aisle very slowly, so she walked in slow motion and slowly dropped the petals. When she ran out of petals she pretended to continue to drop more."

• One 2 1/2-year-old flower girl was "such a neat freak that we didn't know if she would even be able to drop any petals walking down the aisle," recalls the bride. "Luckily she did throw them down, but on her way back down the aisle she picked them all back up and put them back in her purse."

Best pre-wedding test

• At one German couple's wedding, the groomsmen wore long leather pants called bundehosen, and the bridesmaids wore dirndls. For drinks? The whole wedding party had handmade beer steins. For music? A tuba and accordion, of course. But our favorite part: The bride and groom had little tests to see if they were a good match – one of which was sawing a log in half right after the vows.

Most dangerous garters

• Garters can be risky business for some grooms. At one wedding, the bride wore hip waders, and the groom was unaware that her garter was full of fishing lures. He recalls the moment with amusement: "One of them happened to stick in my lip as I removed (the garter) with my teeth!"

• Another bride wanted to incorporate a special family heirloom into her wedding day and so she added her grandmother's brooch on her garter. But later that night, the bride forgot the brooch was still on the band as she playfully flung the garter at the groom. "I popped him on the nose with the garter leaving a cut on the bridge of his nose. We laughed all night at that."

Most painful escape

• One groom recalls a humorous, if not painful, moment of the day – involving little bags of rice. "People were supposed to untie them and throw the rice, but hardly anyone did. When we walked out, we got pelted with the bags. They were like big rocks. We got in the truck, and had red marks all over our arms!"

Best proposals

• On their one-year dating anniversary, David asked Peggy to take a walk out by the port of Anchorage after dinner. He brought binoculars, and Peggy used them to spot something interesting: it was David's high school soccer team that he coaches all holding the letters "M-A-R-R-Y M-E." When Peggy turned back around, David was on one knee, holding a ring.

• David, a US Army Ranger and Purple Heart recipient, proposed to Shelley, a veterinary technician, in a quintessential Alaskan setting. "We were both in hip waders in the Kenai River when I ran out of bait," Shelley recalls. "David dug around in the bag we brought with us and turned around with a ring instead of bait. So much better than fish eggs!"

Best wedding crasher

• For the guests at one Otter Lake Lodge wedding – many of whom had flown in from out of state - the "friendly black bear" was the highlight of the day. "The catering staff was on the second story of the lodge with the back door open when this bear decided to just wander in and check things out," says the bride. "He was a pretty small bear, and one of the wait staff actually gave him a friendly pet because at first glance she thought it was a dog that had wandered in!" The guests thought the wedding couple had the bear brought in special for the occasion. "We had to explain to them that no, this is Alaska, and these things just happen," she says with a laugh.

Signature Sounds

Who says you have to stick with traditional ceremony music? Hire a cellist or quartet to play an instrumental version of your favorite rock song that has a special meaning for both of you. One bride walked down the aisle to a beautiful instrumental version of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses. Another bride and her father walked down the aisle to Enya’s “Only Time” and at the end of the ceremony, the couple walked out as man and wife to “Sweet Home Alabama” as the audience cheered.

Color Coded

You picked out just the perfect shade of pink for the reception centerpieces, flowers and napkins. So why let those reception drinks clash with the décor? We’ve seen brides experimenting with signature drinks in colors that coordinate beautifully with the wedding palette – like pink cotton candy martinis or “something blue” champagne cocktails. Bartenders can tailor beverage tints in virtually any color. Now we’ll drink to that!

Creative Signs

Direct guests to the ceremony, reception, cocktails, food stations and more with signs that fit the style and theme of your wedding. Use chalkboards for displaying the menu or writing a special message. Add chalkboard paint to salvaged wood to create a charming, rustic directional sign.

Reception Food Stations

Creative food stations have become popular as wedding reception dining options. Setting up stations around the room allows for better traffic flow and eliminates the long wait holding a plate. You can have a sushi station, a taco station or a grilled cheese station. You can choose your ingredients and watch a chef prepare your food. Plus, these stations are interactive and get people chatting – an excellent ice-breaker.

Sole Mates

Brides and grooms are getting comfy these days, but they’re not sacrificing style. We’ve seen them lacing up in bedazzled Vans, walking down the aisle in beaded flip-flips, taking the plunge in puddle boots, and hitting the dance floor in color-coordinated Converse All Stars – one style definitely doesn’t fit all.

Bell Boys

If you don’t have nieces or other little girls you’d want as your flower girls, but do have nephews or the like, consider sending boys down the aisle in place of traditional flower girls. Instead of tossing rose petals, they can ring bells or carry lanterns.

Breakfast/Brunch Weddings

Having a morning or daytime reception can save you money. The food options and the venue site will be more affordable, and the expense of serving alcohol will be virtually eliminated. But if you still want to serve adult beverages like mimosas, bloody marys, or champagne punch, people tend to imbibe more cautiously during the day. Another bonus: There will be plenty of time later in the day for smaller parties with close friends and family, or for group events such as a baseball game, boating or sightseeing. After all, guests have traveled great distances to be with you and you want to spend as much time with them as you can.

Local Flavor

Treat your out-of-town guests to a taste of Alaska with local flavors like Alaska salmon mousse, king crab dip, locally brewed beer and blueberry wine. In summer, the obvious food choice in Alaska is our wonderful fresh seafood. Since salmon and halibut lend themselves beautifully to the grill why not consider an “action” station where guests can watch their meal being cooked. Send them home with a personalized bottle of wine made from local fruits, mini mason jars of salmonberry or blueberry jam, smoked salmon, or chocolate-covered blueberries.

Table Trivia

Your guests will spend a lot of time at their tables during your reception; why not make the experience even more fun and personalized by including trivia cards at each table? The cards can feature fun and quirky facts about the couple and the bridal party. Anything from how the bride and groom met, to what the maid of honor majored in during college, can be a fun read while your guests mingle between the salad and the main course. Add some black and white pictures of the couple to these trivia cards, and you’ve got some great icebreakers at the table.

Table Names

Don’t just send your guests to numbered tables – surprise them with table names unique to you and your groom (along with coordinated place cards). Get inspired by your favorite things about Alaska, favorite love songs, nicknames you gave each other or dream travel destinations. For example, one couple who loved skiing used ski resort names for table numbers and the place cards were lift tickets.

Nontraditional Guest Books

Forget the boring guest book. We love how one couple bought Alaska-themed postcards so their guests could write them with marriage advice, words of wisdom or good wishes. They placed the postcards next to a mailbox and asked guests to “Mail the Newlyweds a Postcard!” The next day, the postcards were placed in the mail. “It was really fun getting the cards in the mail at our new home after our honeymoon!”

Themed Weddings

A themed wedding puts a new spin on tradition, and it can be a lot of fun to plan, too. Limited only by your imagination, consider choosing a theme that fits both of your personalities or lifestyles. One couple, with a love of airplanes, had their aviation-themed wedding at the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum. Their guest book was an actual metal propeller, found at a parts shop for old planes. The cupcakes were topped with chocolate airplanes, and songs like “Fly Me to the Moon” and “Come Fly With Me” played during the reception. The bride even found cufflinks of the groom’s favorite airplane, a P40 Warhawk, to give him before the ceremony.

Personalized Guest Provisions

We like the idea of pampering your guests with welcome baskets when they arrive at their hotel, but even more, we love it when brides plan ahead with personalized provisions for the big day. One great example: Welcome baskets filled with mosquito repellant and monogrammed water bottles for guests attending a wedding in the great outdoors. We also loved the tropical-themed wedding where each guest was greeted with a white lei. Three of the leis held a secret gold ribbon that was later announced at the reception, and the “winners” received floral arrangements as gifts.

A Ceremony within the Ceremony

A sand ceremony is an easily customized ritual wherein different colored sands representing the couple are added to a container and combined. This can be especially touching when children are a part of the new family and can add their colored sand to the mix. One local couple combined white sand from the groom’s home state of Florida with black sand from the bride’s home state of Hawaii. Another couple combined glacier silt from the groom’s home in Fairbanks with soil from the farm where the bride grew up. It’s also a lovely and personal keepsake of your day.

First Dance

Surprise your guests with a choreographed first dance that differs greatly from your traditional slow love ballad. We loved one couple’s unforgettable first dance, which started out slow and romantic, then broke out into a surprise, choreographed dance with six bridesmaids joining in for a tribute to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

Weekend Weddings

Instead of a one-day event, many couples are including activities a few days or even a week before the wedding where they and their guests can enjoy each other’s company before the wedding day. One couple kicked off the celebration on Friday night by taking their friends and family on a horse-drawn sleigh ride, singing Christmas carols through the streets of Girdwood. On Saturday, a group of them hit the ski slopes, and, thankfully without any broken legs, walked down the aisle the next day. Another creative idea: One athletic couple even held a half-marathon “Run to the Altar” the day before the wedding – and 50 people participated. One great tip from a wedding coordinator: “Collect photos from all the events leading up to the rehearsal dinner, then make a CD before the wedding. At the wedding reception, guests will arrive to a slideshow of themselves. So fun, and a great conversation starter!” At the end of the weekend, a postwedding brunch is a great way to wind down and exchange final good-byes before leaving on your honeymoon.

Perfection is Overrated

Take this sage advice as your planning your big day: Don’t plan for perfection. If you anticipate a mishap or two, you’ll be much better able to “roll with the punches,” notes one wedding planner. Sometimes it’s the “mishaps” that create the warmest memories of the day. After all, the only real crises are “no bride, no groom, no license or no officiant.” Anything else can be fixed, ignored or laughed at. Our favorite? The laughter. Read on for some of the funniest moments from real Alaska weddings over the past decade.