To reach their wedding venue, Austin O’Reilly and Iulia O’Reilly crossed a swaying suspension bridge, trying to not glance down on the glacial river below. With each step, the bridge shook under the load of individuals and yaks. Mr. O’Reilly, 25, had seen similar bridges within the 2015 movie “Everest.” Now, he was on that titular mountain together with his fiancée: walking a precarious bridge, crossing jagged moraines and traversing rocky terrain on a nine-day trek to the Everest base camp.
As terrifying because the bridge was, there was no turning back. “You’re just hanging on for dear life and knowing that your wedding is at the opposite end of this trek,” at an altitude of 17,600 feet, Mr. O’Reilly said.
The couple lives in New York and met in 2019 through mutual friends at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, bonding over their love of the outside and travel. When searching for a marriage venue in 2022, nothing felt right. “My dad jokingly was like, ‘What about Everest?’” Ms. O’Reilly, 26, said. The idea took hold and got here with an additional benefit: It can be cheaper than an American wedding.
“We really wanted something that will challenge us and represent our love for one another” said Mr. O’Reilly, an accountant at Deloitte.
On May 22, the couple reached the bottom camp with Ms. O’Reilly’s parents and two of Mr. O’Reilly’s friends. The 10-minute ceremony was accompanied by the distant rumble of avalanches. “Just you, your loved one and the next power up there,” said Ms. O’Reilly, a researcher at Fox.
The bride wore a gauzy white dress, and the groom wore a suit; they each wore mountaineering boots. “With the backdrop of the icefall and the glaciers, hearing avalanches in the space, you’ve this really powerful moment — and also you’re also deprived of a number of oxygen,” he said.
Their trek was hosted by Laura Gravino and her husband, Ian Taylor, who own Ian Taylor Trekking. For the 13 years they’ve been married, the couple have facilitated several trekking weddings. Ms. Gravino said that, for her, the appeal of an adventure wedding lay in its contrast with big American weddings, which might often be complicated and expensive.
The O’Reillys are certainly one of many couples having an adventure wedding, taking their venue out of the realm of the atypical. These adrenaline-heavy events trade ballrooms and historic estates for mountains and lagoons, pushing couples to physical extremes and setting pulses racing even greater than they’d already be.
An adventure wedding can be a possibility for a pair to partake in activities that brought them together. Haley Badenhop and Owen Leeper met at a sand volleyball court in Jackson Hole, Wyo. “He’d been like, If you should go on an adventure, let me know,” Ms. Badenhop, 36, said. A month later, they did just that for a full week — cliff jumping, boating, mountaineering and paddle boarding. “By the tip of that week, I used to be like, Is this what my life may very well be like?” she said.
Mr. Leeper, 38, is knowledgeable skier, and Ms. Badenhop often incorporates mountains into her work as a mural artist. The couple sometimes spend entire days skiing together. “Living in Jackson, you form of must get good at skiing,” Ms. Badenhop said. And so the thought of a ski wedding at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort was born, something that had never been done before at the highest of Rendezvous Mountain, situated within the southern Teton Range of the Rockies.
The couple and their guests took a tram to the height and gathered on an expanse of snow. Ms. Badenhop’s niece, wearing a snowsuit with a tutu, threw dried flower petals as she walked down the snowy aisle. After exchanging vows, the couple turned into ski boots. “We kept our attire on, and everybody cheered us on as we skied down,” she said. “It’s a ‘black run,’ so I had worn a strapless backless dress, and I taped it to myself.”
The wedding party skied or took the tram down for a champagne party at the underside. It was the whole lot Mr. Leeper had dreamed of. “She’s skiing down in her wedding dress and willing to do that with me — it’s going to be an awesome partnership for all times,” he said.
As more couples select daring wedding experiences, vendors are rising to the occasion. Brittany Hamilton, a photographer in Fort Collins, Colo., who makes a speciality of elopements, has been mountaineering for six years. Her proficiency in rope systems and scaling has uniquely intersected along with her profession in photography.
“I at all times take my camera with me, and I learned learn how to ascend a static line to give you the option to shoot on the side of cliffs,” she said. When Ms. Hamilton’s mountaineering friends began marrying, they expressed an interest in capturing that side of their relationships.
“I believe there’s something about climbing where you’re really trusting your life to your belay partner, your climbing partner, and that lends itself to relationships in a number of ways,” she said.Ms. Hamilton makes sure that couples she works with have the crucial proficiency.
She said that an elopement climb shouldn’t require a pair to push themselves. “Climbing in a dress adds this whole factor of billowing fabric around you,” she said. “While you’re in your wedding attire, we’ll probably be climbing on easier stuff.”
But the realities of a mountaineering wedding — and all adventure ceremonies — can lend themselves to sweet wedding photos: “moments of them gearing up, putting on their harnesses, double-checking one another’s knots,” Ms. Hamilton said. One of her favorite parts to photograph is “once you’re climbing, before you are taking off from the bottom, you’re at all times double-checking that your partner is protected,” she added.
For Ariel Slusher-Miethe, 32, an adventure wedding was a solution to step outside her comfort zone. Before meeting Alex Miethe at a Las Vegas nightclub they each worked at, she had never pictured herself marrying. But after their engagement, she began considering a marriage that will happen underwater — one other place she’d never imagined herself before. She’d at all times been afraid of the ocean.
“Honestly, it was form of like an ode to him,” she said. “This is how much I really like you — I’m going to face my fears and go underwater and scuba dive.”
Ms. Slusher-Miethe, an aesthetician, took scuba classes leading as much as their underwater wedding, which took place in December 2019. They flew to Cozumel, Mexico, where they dived beneath the aquamarine waves. The couple said “I do” using signs, and their 15 guests watched from above while snorkeling.
An unconventional venue can create unique logistical hurdles: The couple needed to tie the marriage rings to their boxes. “When you’re underwater, if the ring falls out, it will possibly go anywhere,” Mr. Miethe, 35, an E.M.T., said. “The kiss was hard, too, since you’ve got to take out the regulator, hold your breath, kiss real quick and produce it back.”
Afterward, the couple took photos while dancing and twirling underwater. Tania Nacif Iñigo, the photographer in Cozumel who shot their wedding, had learned to dive to complement her photography almost 30 years ago. “You must be a sophisticated diver because you’ve to regulate your buoyancy, pay attention to the present and be comfortable together with your gear,” she said. “Your life will depend on it.”
Shooting underwater weddings, which Ms. Nacif has done about 10 times, allows her to mix her passion for outdoor photography along with her work as a marriage photographer.
For Mr. Miethe, a highlight of the marriage was seeing his wife overcoming her fear. “She’s nervous when she’s down there, however the second she gets up she’s like, ‘Oh my God, that was amazing,’” he said. “That was an awesome thing to see, that transformation.”