Stephen and I met in 2003 while traveling in Austria. We had a mutual friend who introduced us and we found an immediate connection. Given our mutual love of travel, when we decided to get married it seemed only fitting to do it abroad. We spent a lot of time researching country requirements on foreigners marrying. At first, we contemplated getting married in Austria where it all began. We started going through the process which required a local lawyer, a lot of paperwork (apostilles and forms for two witnesses), a translator, a descent amount of money in fees and in the end we couldn’t have the ceremony performed where we wanted to. Halfway through the process we bailed. We decided it would be easier to find a country that would not require any translation to have the service done. Even better would be a country we had never been to before – just because. We also preferred somewhere affordable, without witnesses, and easily reachable with a direct flight. Iceland ticked all the boxes. The administrative process was super cheap and all that we needed to do was fill out some basic forms (in English) and show up.
Stephen and I were each recently divorced and neither of us wanted another wedding. Thoughts of the expense of having some family and friends join us on this adventure felt like a lot to ask and the idea of keeping it only the two of us seemed thrilling. A secret wedding…things were starting to come together. We planned to fly to Reykjavik spend almost a week, get married, and then return for Thanksgiving to announce our surprise to the family.
There is something so exciting and natural to me about following the road less travelled. My heart skips when I think of this time in our life and I know I still experience this feeling now when planning our family holidays and my adrenalin soars.
Reykjavik itself is a really cool town with great food, amazing coffee (we went daily to barista champs, Kaffitar), and friendly, warm people. At the time it was expensive, I remember paying about $30 US for two coffees and croissants, yikes! Although, since we didn’t have to pay for a wedding or separate honeymoon it didn’t feel like a big deal. It is definitely a party town as the clubs went on until dawn. The downtown area that we stayed in had several all-night dance parties going. I suppose if you are in the cold with little sunlight, why not? We spent a couple of days touring around the sights of Reykjavik and enjoying the local vibe. We also spent some time driving the Golden Circle visiting Geysir and Gullfoss.
The landscape was a magical backdrop for our wedding week. Snowy mountains, fast moving storms, black sandy beaches, incredible lighting and dramatic colour made it a mesmerising feast for the eyes. Since it was just the two of us it felt like a honeymoon and wedding all in one. We hired a terrific photographer and Iceland native, Chris Lund, to spend several hours with us on our wedding day at different scenic locations such as Grotta Shores beach and historical sites within Thingvellir. We both agree it was money well spent as we cherish the carefree time we had with Chris and each other, and also the memorable pictures that remain. Carefree is not a word that comes to mind when I think “wedding”. Yes, this was definitely the right way for the two of us to get married.
The ceremony itself was in the Reykjavik town hall which is nothing to write home about, a small government office building where we said our vows on the top floor. After a 20 minute service before an Icelandic judge, we were married. At least I think we were—the ceremony was in Icelandic. We still joke 10 years later that we’re not really sure if we’re actually married?! The feelings that remain of the service are very small in comparison with the week of experience which makes up the entire adventure.
We celebrated at a fabulously delicious Pakistani/Indian restaurant smiling and feeling high on our new status. A truly unique wedding experience for two people who prefer the new and unusual. It was a phenomenal feeling having this time together alone with no stress of wedding planning, seating arrangements, gifts, drama and expense. Consistent with our mantra “less is more”, we shared a private, personal and extraordinary moment in time.
We spent the following day, our last day in town, relaxing at the Blue Lagoon. It’s a bit of a touristy spa that incorporates traditional therapies like massage and facials with divine outdoor geothermal waters. It was mostly empty, likely due to the time of year. What a euphoric feeling to be in gently falling snow, surrounded by craggy black lava fields, in 100F (38C) soothing blue water. I love the contrast of the freezing cold air and the hot bath water. It was exhilarating and increased the lightness we were feeling from our recent nuptials.
We continue to make choices in life that follow a sometimes unusual direction but we almost always come away enriched, even if the outcome is not what we had expected.