Finding the proverbial "something blue" wasn't a problem when Greg Morger and Maura Rabbette came to Juneau in September to get married. The couple flew to the top of the Mendenhall Glacier and were married on a deep-blue ice pack that took their breath away.
"It was the best color blue I've ever seen in my life," said Morger.
The couple were married on Sept. 26 and joined the ranks of more than 70 adventurous couples married on the glacier this summer, according to people who supply the services.
Rabbette and Morger said they always have been in love with Alaska and felt it was a natural place for them to hold their small wedding ceremony.
"Both of us love the outdoors and nature," Rabbette said. "I come from Ireland, which is beautiful too, but Alaska is just so vast and magnificent and wondrous."
And one of the most magnificent landscapes in Southeast Alaska is, arguably, the Juneau Icefield. So the Northern California couple did some searching on the Internet and discovered what they thought to be a perfect opportunity.
"We wanted to do something different and out of the way," Morger said. "... Being on the glacier was like being in another world. We were in God's cathedral."
Rabbette wore a traditional wedding gown and Morger a tuxedo, but both chose practical hiking boots instead of formal footwear. The couple purchased their rings at Fire and Ice in downtown Juneau.
Rabbette, who works for NASA and is applying to the NASA astronaut corps, said she originally had hoped she and Morger would be the first couple married in outer space.
"I couldn't wait that long, though, so this was the next best thing," she said. Rabbette and Morger, who works for his family's business in California, said family and friends were surprised at their decision to get married on a glacier. Since the wedding, though, the couple has been the talk of their business and social circles.
"We've e-mailed the photographs to friends and family all over the world, and people just can't get over how beautiful they are," Rabbette said.
Weddings on the glacier have proved exciting for some Juneau business people as well. Diane Pearson, owner of Pearson's Pond Luxury Inn and Adventure Spa in the Mendenhall Valley, has established herself as an organizer and officiator of Alaska weddings. Rabbette contacted Pearson in August to organize the wedding, and Pearson pulled together the entire event in about a month.
"Diane really hit the ground running," Rabbette said.
Pearson scheduled the helicopter flight; arranged for flowers, music and birdseed to go on the flight; put the couple in contact with the photographer, Don Carney; and took photos with a digital camera so the couple could e-mail photos when they returned to Juneau. The couple chose to have their cake and champagne when they returned to Pearson's Pond.
Pearson also helped the couple choose the vows for the ceremony.
Rabbette said an advantage to having the wedding in Alaska was to give themselves a nice vacation and get married for the cost of an average mid-sized wedding.
"We really pampered ourselves, and the whole thing cost between $6,000 and $7,000," Rabbette said.
Pearson has performed three weddings on the icefield this year, and said the one thing the couples have in common is an adventurous spirit.
"These are people who want something different, and that's what attracts most people to Alaska anyway," Pearson said. "Also, people are looking for bragging rights. Anybody can get married in a church."
Tom Stewart - no relation to retired Judge Tom Stewart - is a marriage commissioner in Juneau who performed five weddings on the glacier this summer. Marriage commissioners are authorized to perform marriage ceremonies but don't issue marriage licenses.
He said people get married on the glacier because they don't want to have to deal with a big wedding.
"They don't want to deal with the pressure of a full-size wedding," Stewart said. "They just want to do it quick and easy. This is a way to do something unique and different, in a spectacular setting, with not as much worry."
Carney, who owns the Sitka Rose Studio with his wife, Vicky, said he has photographed about 35 weddings on the glacier this year. Most of the couples are from cruise ships, but eight couples were independent travelers looking for a unique wedding.
Most of the ceremonies take place on the Herbert or Mendenhall glaciers, and consist of the couple, a marriage commissioner, and the pilot and photographer as witnesses.
"The way people react to where they are is really something," Carney said. "A lot of the people have never been on the glacier or in a helicopter. ... There are a lot of firsts involved."
The Carneys also organize weddings for independent travelers.
"It's hard for guests to organize the weddings on their own, and the people here in town who coordinate weddings are very expensive, so we figured the easiest way to do it is to do it ourselves," Carney said.
Several other marriage commissioners in Juneau performed weddings on the icefield this summer. Russ Hansen, who retired this fall and was unavailable for comment, performed nearly 70 weddings, said Stewart. Many of the weddings performed on the icefield are organized by large companies in the Lower 48 that have contracts with the cruise companies.
Pearson and Stewart said they have booked independent weddings on the glacier for the summer of 2003.
Christine Schmid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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