Not your usual wedding
Couples get married underground, in the air and on roller coasters
“Love me tender, love me sweet. Never let me go.”
A handsome Elvis in a white jacket crooned his famous love song as Michelle, in a white satin gown trimmed with red lace, and Luis, in a black tux, walked on stage.
On June 3, Michelle and Luis tied the knot at the ninth annual Lake George Elvis Festival, along with six other couples. During the ceremony, hundreds of Elvis fans in the darkened Lake George Forum fell silent as Elvis married everyone. Then, as it ended and the couples kissed, the audience cheered and hooted with delight.
“A wedding is when a man and a woman declare their burning love,” said Mike Bravener, an Elvis tribute artist who is also an ordained minister.
While most couples choose traditional sites for their weddings, if you are looking for something different, you can find it in the Capital Region and the Adirondacks. Couples come from near and far to get married in our far-out places: underground in Howe Caverns Adventure Park, in a roller coaster at the Great Escape, in a hot air balloon soaring over the Adirondacks, or in a cornfield at Liberty Ridge Farm.
Michelle Congdon, 32, and Luis Lopez, 33, who live in Westford, near Cooperstown, with their hound dog Elvis, found “The Ultimate Elvis Wedding” on the Internet.
“We’re big Elvis fans. We just started listening a few years ago,” said Michelle.
While Michelle and Luis and two of the couples married for the first time, four others renewed their vows with The King.
Tom and Carol Bassano, celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, traveled from Manchester, N.J., to say “I do” again with Elvis.
“We grew up with him, we saw him on the Ed Sullivan show,” said Tom.
In Queensbury, at the Great Escape, a couple asks to get married on their favorite ride every year or so, says communication manager Rebecca Close.
July 7, 2007, was a big day because of its 7/7/07 date. “We married seven couples on The Comet,” Close said.
But the Great Escape’s renowned Mr. & Mrs. are Don Tuttle and Carol Deeble of Manchester, Conn.
Their roller-coaster romance began in the 1950s, when they dated as teens in the Buffalo suburb of Kenmore. As high-school classmates, they rode The Comet at Crystal Beach, the original home of the coaster, in nearby Fort Erie, Ontario.
“We graduated in ’53 and didn’t see each other for 40 years,” said Don.
After re-connecting at a high-school reunion, Don, who was divorced, and Carol, a widow, discovered that they both loved to ride roller coasters.
On May 20, 2001, when they got married at the Great Escape, Carol was escorted by Cinderella and rode in the amusement park’s pumpkin coach to meet the groom.
The justice of peace did not want to ride the coaster, so the ceremony took place with the official standing on the platform and the bride and groom seated in the first car of The Comet.
“He pronounced us man and wife and we flew off,” said Carol. “We went around three times. People were watching, waving and clapping.”
Their four grown children, including Don’s daughter, Donna Tuttle, a doctor who practices in Rotterdam and lives in Delanson, did the ride, too, along with their spouses. The women wore lace-trimmed satin shirts and bonnets with their jeans; and the men were dressed in top hats and black T-shirts that looked like the front of a tuxedo.
As members of two roller coaster clubs, 76-year-old Carol and 77-year-old Don have been thrill-seeking all over the world, and last month, they reached a new high, having ridden together over the years on 1,000 different coasters in 28 countries.
Down the road from the Great Escape, at Magic Forest, there have been three weddings in The Chapel, a real church that was moved to the Lake George children’s amusement park more than 20 years ago.
“It’s like a big log cabin, with rough-hewn wood and chandeliers. It’s pretty and it’s different,” said park manager Shelley Cummins.
In the scenic Lake George area, couples can also get married in a hot-air balloon high above the mountains.
Phil Jackson of Adirondack Balloon Flights said he’s had six couples get hitched up in the air over the past 30 years.
While it sounds romantic, balloon weddings are weather-dependent, which can change the date, and because a balloon can carry only the couple, a justice of the peace and the pilot, who also serves as a witness, there’s no room for bridesmaids or parents.
Brides are also discouraged from wearing a fancy gown.
“Where I end up is not necessarily a nice mown field,” Jackson said.
While airborne weddings are infrequent, up to 30 couples a year get engaged while flying with him.
“The guy, a lot of the time gets down on his knee. I’m there with a camera, taking pictures. And I carry champagne on the flight,” Jackson said.
The first wedding at Howe Caverns took place in 1854, when Elgiva, the daughter of Lester Howe, discoverer of the caves, wed railroad magnate Hiram Dewey as a publicity stunt near the caves’ natural entrance in Schoharie County.
Since 1929, more than 600 weddings have been held 156 feet underground at The Bridal Altar, where the temperature is 52 degrees, and couples stand on an illuminated, heart-shaped piece of calcite imbedded in the cave floor.
“We’ve had all kinds of weddings here, from the traditional to the sublime,” said general manager Bob Holt. “And since 1929, every wedding has been recorded.”
People come from all over to get married in the cave, and usually they are not locals.
Some years there are fewer than 12 weddings, in others there are 25, he said. About 25 to 30 people can fit into the space.
“It has to be small and it has to be a very short ceremony, because tours have to keep going through,” Holt said.
Out in the field
Sarah Prestigiacomo and Sean Bacon got married in a cornfield because they had big families and a small budget.
“We didn’t have a whole lot of money to spend on a big wedding, but we had a lot of people that we wanted to invite,” said Sarah, a music teacher in the Mechanicville School District.
When she became Sarah Bacon on Sept. 12, 2009, the ceremony and reception was held at Liberty Ridge Farm in Schaghticoke in a big white tent set up outdoors at the edge of the farm’s 12-acre cornfield and maze.
“They cut out a little section into the actual cornfield. It was really a cool atmosphere. The ground, it was grass, but there were Christmas lights, an aisle to walk down, a dance floor, a DJ and tables. You could see the corn all around you, so you felt like you were inside and outside at the same time.”
After the ceremony, some guests walked through the corn maze, and the bride and groom rode around the farm on a trolley.
Sarah, who lives in Schuylerville with Sean and her children, 8-year-old Willow and 10-year-old Owen, says they will always feel connected to Liberty Ridge.
“We go back every year as a family,” she said.