Wedding recap - Anna & Simmons August 2016
Dirt trails and missing tent poles. That’s not how one might envision the beginning of a lifelong commitment. Had a group overnight backpack not gone awry more than 6 years ago, you wouldn’t be reading this blog today and two amazing people would not have declared their love for each other amongst some of the most beautiful wilderness in the world.
When Anna asked me to officiate her and Simmons’s wedding, I vaguely knew how it would go - short timeline, tons of laughs, and a whole lot of flexibility with the magical backdrop of Alaska. The couple chose to keep things ultra small and simple. Coolers of picnic food and drink were packed into a festively decorated drift boat, which carried 5 humans down the Kenai River to Skilak Lake. Anna and Simmons had picked out a special spot that was easy to access and looked out over the mountains and water they’d grown to love together.
Bride: Anna - An animal loving free spirit who is just as likely to be found on the beaches of Brazil as in the mountains of Alaska. A Berkeley girl at that.
Groom: Simmons - A duck hunting, level-headed, steelhead chasing fish guide from South Carolina. Southern tradition is strong in his family but he had plenty of their support leading up to the big day.
COTOR minister: Rachael - A wader-wearing, kayak paddling, trout loving, supporter of love.
Also critical to the day:
Boat captain Brian, photographer Trina, witness Rainey, and another literal boatload of friends whom we met at the mouth of the river, complete with Nuna the Wonder Dog.
After a relaxed dinner with the wedding party (a grand total of 4 people) at a local lodge the Friday evening before the wedding float, everyone retired to their respective corners of Cooper Landing to prep for the big day. A time was tentatively set for 9:00 the next morning (neither one of the couple being particularly keen on mornings). Vows were still being written, the ceremony language was being finalized - Husband and Wife? Partners? Both? Dog parents?
We said goodnight under the everlasting twilight that is the Alaska summer and I headed to a favorite local camping spot to reflect on my relationship with these two and the purpose weddings overall. It’s always an honor to be asked to be the third most important person of the ceremony. I couldn’t wait to get floating the next day to help my friends continue their lives together.
Morning came soon enough and I packed up my camp to head to our rendezvous site. Anna came over from her tent as we decorated the boat with one of the best quotes of the day: “Everyone’s already at my wedding but me!” Indeed, I think we were all almost as excited as the couple. Who doesn’t love a day on the river?
We finally put on the river (way later than 9am) in fabulous spirits. The rains held all day and we even landed a trout or two. The ceremony was handwritten on simple legal pad paper, protected from the Alaska elements in a plastic page protector. The entire wedding party was dressed in their finest fishing waders, except the couple, who spruced up a bit beachside once the boat landed.
A short hike later and we were standing on top of the world, watching our friends commit to each other and their marriage. The sun decided to shine for just a bit and 20-minutes later - they were pronounced both Husband & Wife AND Partners! We retreated to the beach for a toast and hugs. We motored across the lake to a landing and after taking care of the gear, headed to a local spot for music and dinner, where we were met by even more friends.
In the end, having an option like the Church of the Open Road made all the difference in creating a truly shared ceremony in which both members of the couple achieved what they wanted. Their union is proof that it doesn’t take thousands of dollars or a logistical team to pull off a wedding - just a ton of love…and maybe a friend with a boat.
Congratulations to Anna & Simmons! What an amazing way to start the next chapter together and I was so honored to be part of the special day.
Rachael Miller, Church of the Open Road Minister