Heather & John's secular, no-vow, Alaskan mountaintop wedding

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Photos by Rose Wheat Photography

The Offbeat Bride: Heather, Neuroscience Laboratory Tech

Her offbeat partner: John, Software Engineer

Date and location of wedding: On top of Murphy Dome a couple of miles north of Fairbanks, Alaska — June 14, 2014

Our offbeat wedding at a glance:
Our wedding took place on the gorgeous Murphy Dome, where we go for summer picnics and gather blueberries in the fall. The view from the top is a panorama of lush green valley and hills and mountains in the distance. When the light is right it is pure magic. Food was self-catered as they say — family baked and grilled, and we prepared finger snacks of fruit and bread.

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Our wedding was a major collaborative effort on the parts of our parents and friends. All of our signage was hand-painted three days before the wedding in a friend's yard. The rainbow cakes were made by John's mom. My dad hauled everything up to the top of the mountain, with some help from the wedding party. John's dad grilled the food. One of our very best friends officiated. And so on and so on! So much love was offered.

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Tell us about the ceremony:
We were quite intent on avoiding many of the traditions associated with weddings. We are secular humanists and had no intention of having religion associated with our joining. We found no promises to the public were necessary to bind us, since we would rather love each other unbounded.

Instead of clear-cut vows, we did a modified reading of Bilbo's birthday speech from The Lord of the Rings, thanking our families for coming out and having our friends shout "Proudfeet" at the appropriate time. We took turns reading each line expressing our appreciation for our family, the celebration of our union, and also the beginning of our next adventure (we moved to Seattle almost immediately after the wedding). We finished the very brief ceremony with some words from one of our dearest friends who also was our officiant.

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Our biggest challenge:
Our most challenging moment was at the very beginning. We had checked the venue, since the outdoors can be unpredictable, several weeks before the wedding to find the snow-covered path to the rock outcropping quickly melting away. It seemed likely that it would be all gone before the wedding, which would allow us to drive a truck up to the rock and make setting up relatively easy. Well, sometimes, things don't work out. While the snow was all melted, it left a pretty serious amount of mud in its wake. The day-of, we had to haul everything (read: grill, kegs, cake, 100+ lbs of food, etc.) about a quarter of a mile before we could arrange it. Fortunately, we had a strapping team of friends to help out, or we would have been sorely at a loss. Everyone was so helpful and understanding. It was hard for people walking in as well. The walk was a mile to the top from the parking area. Natural barriers are the worst! We would have been aided by some four-wheelers or even some plywood planks.

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Another challenge (perhaps related) lay in planning. I am a planner by nature. I don't often freak out when things don't work out the way I planned, but still, a base plan is a must for me. We were on a relatively short schedule to start, deciding to get married three months after becoming engaged. They were some rather busy months, as well, with John finishing a math degree and I was finishing up two years of research. We were also planning for a major move, and a two-week bike tour set for the week after John got back from a robot competition — three weeks before the wedding. It was stressful!

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My favorite moment:
It is truly a wonder to see so many people gather to celebrate you and your relationship with the one you love. It is such a treat to have them all there in one place. Never have we felt so loved.

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We did very little formal dancing at this wedding, but a father/daughter dance was had. The dance was set to the Green Day song "Good Riddance [Time of You Life]." Both my father and I are long time Green Day fans, and finished that dance wiping tears out of our eyes.

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My funniest moment:
So while John and I were up on the rock saying our equivalent to vows, our dog Odin decide that it was important that he be with us during the event. He climbed up the front of rock face and just stood in front of us. The little scene-stealer stayed with us until we went down!

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  1. I can't even imagine– the pictures here are amazing– I'm sure it was breathtaking in real life!! Heather, you are absolutely RADIANT…. one of my most favorite weddings I've ever seen here!

    9 agree
  2. I LUV the holi powder photos! I've seen it done in engagement photos before, it looks amazing on the dog and her wedding dress.

    4 agree
  3. This has to be one of the happiest weddings I've seen. Just so many hugs, countless smiles, and your dog is just too precious! He looks like he had the best time out of everyone.

    5 agree
  4. Finally, a wedding where the bridesmaids are wearing dresses with hiking boots! I have been telling everyone that I want this and people think I'm nuts – but now I have an amazing wedding to show them! Thank you for sharing, it looks authentic to you and absolutely beautiful. Also – I love your curly hair!

    4 agree
  5. Of course Odin wanted to crash the pictures. He's a husky. Huskies are divas. He knows he's a handsome boy, and he's not afraid to own it!

    I love the area where you got married. I'm an old Alaskan myself, and it never leaves you. There's just no place like it.

    7 agree
  6. So…this is freaking awesome. The concept of a no-vow wedding is amazing. Reading this has changed the way my fiance and I are approaching our own vows, since we were struggling a little with the idea of promises–as much as we love each other and intend on sharing our life together, it feels much more genuine to us not to make public vows, but to take our ceremony more in the direction that this couple did. Thank you so much, Heather and John! (and I love your dog!)

    1 agrees
  7. Ok, I have to ask…. was everyone's favorite musher Brent Sass at your wedding? Cuz the guy holding the dog looks just like him. If so…. you are my new hero!

    What a beautiful wedding.

  8. Your wedding looks so fun! And I love the dress. It is seriously my dream dress. Where is it from?

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