Many people have already heard the story, but for those who haven't, here goes: (This is the story we sent out to friends and relatives around the world right after we got married, many of whom have limited comprehension of English, so don't mind the Grade 5 format of the details. On the plus side: if you passed Grade 4, you can feel included!)
We planned a kayaking trip off the north tip of Vancouver Island to see the orca whales migrate and to spend some much needed time together in the outdoors. However, our trip brought with it much more than whales—we ended up getting married in front of our group on the evening of Thursday, August 4th!
It's obvious from this shot who wore the kayaking pants in the relationship... Marty's all working hard, I'm just relaxin' in the back, taking in the scenery!
Monday and Tuesday of the trip were spent learning how to (pack a) kayak, exploring the various islands of Johnstone Strait, and watching for any signs of wildlife. In the first two days, our group was fortunate enough to see a bear, many eagles, pods of dolphins and porpoises, and of course, orca whales. The scenery and the animals were breathtaking—it is difficult to put into words the feeling we got watching an orca male breach against the stunning backdrop of blue sky, ocean, and lush green islands.
On Wednesday, we paddled to a new camp on the north shore of Double Bay. One of our guides shared with us that he planned to propose to his girlfriend there in the near future. As soon as we landed on shore, we understood why: the camp was very private and the view was amazing! We sat high in our tents on a cliff of mossy rocks, overlooking the ocean and surrounded by other small islands and harbours in the distance. Later that evening, our guide asked us if we wanted him to make some phone calls to arrange a wedding. Given that he had been known for his practical jokes up to that point, we didn’t think his offer was serious, but we took him up on it, knowing that we were looking forward to getting married some time in the near future. Lo and behold, our guide took this new challenge very seriously, calling nearby islands on a satellite phone, cashing in numerous favours from his friends, and spending considerable time and effort tracking down key contacts to help a wedding idea become a reality.
The first obstacle we came across had to do with documents: we were out in the middle of nowhere, deciding on the spur of the moment to get married, and we did not have the license needed to get married in British Columbia. As well, given that we had left our car at Alder Bay not knowing that we would be planning a wedding, we did not have any identification on us, except for bank and credit cards and driver’s licenses. No birth certificates, no social insurance numbers, no other government ID. After speaking to a marriage commissioner in Alert Bay, however, we learned that we would only need to answer a series of questions about our parents to be able to get the marriage license. That led us to our next obstacle—how were we going to obtain the license from the middle of nowhere?
Our guide determined that the woman who was able to arrange for a marriage license was also qualified to perform a wedding ceremony. That left us wondering how we could make it to Alert Bay, get our license, and bring the woman back to marry us on Double Bay. Our guide phoned one water taxi company, who wanted to charge us close to $700 to ferry us to and from Double Bay. We were devastated. Our guide’s enthusiasm had been contagious, and we were starting to look very forward to “our big day”, but $700 for an hour and some of water time seemed a bit excessive. Our guide wasn’t about to give up on his quest, however, and he ordered us to unload a kayak for him. He paddled off to the nearest port to look into the possibility of us renting a motorboat for the day. Alas, he came back with the news that there were no boats available. Later, though, after phoning another water taxi company, our guide arranged for us to be picked up from Double Bay, dropped off at Alert Bay, and brought back to Double Bay with a marriage commissioner. This company was also able to ferry the commissioner back to Alert Bay after the ceremony, all for a fraction of the cost. It was set, then! We went to sleep that night, amazed that we would be married in less than 24 hours, and excited to catch our water ferry the very next afternoon!
The next morning, we helped the rest of our group prepare for a day paddle to a nearby island. After they left, we spent some time deciding where we wanted our “altar” to be and wondering if we would be getting married in our neoprene wetsuits! Marty artfully and skillfully carved us out a “Just Married” sign on a piece of firewood in no time, and he left it behind our tent flap for after our ceremony.
Our group came back from their paddle just in time to send us off on our private water taxi! Our guide helped us into the boat, piggybacking Dana across a brief stretch of water so she could climb the ladder into the back of the boat. With enthusiasm, Marty leaped onto the boat soon after, eagerly joining his bride-to-be. En route to Alert Bay, the boat driver took some time to play with a large pod of dolphins, much to our delight! We arrived in Alert Bay in around 20 minutes, and the driver pledged to meet us back at the dock once our license had been secured.
We met with our marriage commissioner, Joyce Rigby, right off the dock. She pulled up in an old, wood-paneled station wagon, and had us fill out our forms on the hood of her car. Much to our surprise, many of the islanders watched us curiously as we huddled over our forms. We then remembered that their curiosity was brought on because the news of our wedding had been broadcasted by satellite across the entire north coast of Vancouver Island! After our forms were signed and completed, Joyce headed home to type up the necessary documents. In the meantime, we had a quick pineapple juice in a café in the harbour (where we were congratulated by the staff for our upcoming ceremony), splashed our faces with soap and running water (!! Our first in five days!), tried to style our greasy hair, and hurried back to our taxi to head back to Double Bay!
Our wedding guests self-styling their hair with excessive grease in preparation for the big ceremony.
The ride back to Double Bay was spent mostly worrying about how we would manage to get Joyce onto the island. She seemed to be over 80 years old, and she was dressed nicely in a blouse and dress pants. Double Bay, however, had no beach or shore whatsoever—cliffs and rocks that were covered in slippery seaweed simply rose out of the ocean at a steep angle. We wondered whether we would be having our ceremony in the water taxi after all!
You can see our guide carrying the wedding commissioner if you look closely!
We arrived at the island, pulled up close to the rocks, and our guides helped hoist a good spirited Joyce up onto the campsites. As we came out of the boat and onto the island, our group members trumpeted on horns they had made out of bull kelp, and they presented us with seashell necklaces! We were informed that the group had dove into the frigid waters of Johnstone Strait (which are, on average, 10 degrees cooler than other waters) especially to retrieve the bull kelp.
Dana was presented with a bouquet of wildflowers that the group had picked out for her during their day trip paddle earlier on! We were surrounded by our group, who took pictures and eagerly awaited the ceremony. Dana changed into her “gown” (which was Marty’s sarong skirt over top of her week-old shorts!), and we both made our way to the altar, which had been built and decorated so beautifully by our group members. It was made of wood, covered in vines and leaves, and flanked by two pillar citronella candles. Evening was approaching, and we were slightly backlit by the setting sun in the background.
The blushing bride-to-be... People actually had to remind me to take off my sunglasses for my moment in the spotlight. Um... other things on my mind, perhaps?
We walked down an aisle lined by seashells, and stood in front of our altar. Joyce began the ceremony, and we said our vows and exchanged rings. Our friends Jasmine and Denko graciously acted as our Best Man, Maid of Honour, Ring Bearer, Flower Girl, and witnesses. Dana managed to get through the entire ceremony without weeping loudly (which was an amazing accomplishment for her!), and both of us felt so happy to be confirming our commitment to each other in a most amazing setting!
After the ceremony, we had our pictures taken with Joyce and the “Just Married” sign. One of our group members presented us with an eagle feather that he had found on our island. In a very touching tribute, he told us that the feather was a good omen and that eagles find mates for life. Dana took the feather and included it in her wildflower bouquet.
It was our night to cook for the group, and although they offered to cook our meal for us, we were more than happy to prepare a meal and share it with our wonderful group members! One couple on the trip shared their chilled white wine with us and the rest of the group, so we all had a beverage to use when our guide gave us a heartwarming toast. (He toasted us with beer, though- wine apparently made him ill!). We had a wonderful dinner, a tasty dessert of apple and pear flambé, and then we were serenaded into the late hours of the night by our guides, who did wonderful karaoke-style versions of the entire Dirty Dancing soundtrack, as well as classic hits such as “The Chicken Dance” song and a few Bon Jovi numbers!
All in all, our wedding ceremony was so much more meaningful and beautiful than anything we could have planned in advance. We were so thankful for everything our guides and group members did to make our wedding a special event, and we were thrilled to have our wedding take place at such a beautiful location! We paddled back to Alder Bay the next morning with our “Just Married” sign affixed to the back of our kayak, and then all the way back to Calgary, we looked forward to sharing this wonderful story with family and friends!
Double Bay is for lovers!