Sky-High wedding: Couple takes ceremony to the air


Tired of the traditional chapel nuptial? Can't stand the thought of a country club wedding with 250 guests and 15 attendants? For the bride looking for a more adventurous way to conduct the rite of marriage, perhaps looking to the sky for inspiration would do the trick. Just ask the newlyweds who brave any fear of heights and tie the knot in a Blue Ridge Balloon.

"We wanted something that would be special for us," explains newlywed Brittany Castle. "We come from a small town where everyone we know has the same kind of wedding, in the same church, the exact same hall– that really didn't appeal to us."

Castle, along with her then-fiance Keith, wanted a ceremony that would capture the meaning of their five-year relationship. After meeting in high school, the couple made a lasting commitment when Keith decided to join the Marines– barely a year into their relationship. Staying together despite the difficulty of distance and the restrictive nature of active military service, the couple decided that when the time came to say "I do," they wanted to do it their own way.

"He's in the Marines in Virginia, and I'm in Michigan," Castle says. "When I found Blue Ridge Balloon Company online, I knew it would be exciting for us– it's always been a unique relationship for us, and we wanted our wedding to be as unique as the direction our life is heading in."

Although neither had been in a balloon before, when Castle found the Blue Ridge Balloon Company's website, she was immediately intrigued. The company's "Complete Wedding Flight Package" includes a ceremony in the air, photography, and a quaint picnic "reception" upon landing. Reverend Claire Goodman, an interfaith minister, is the daring officiant who has performed the ceremonies for the package for the past three years.

"Conditions have to be perfect in order for the flight to be safe," Goodman says. "The truth is only about half the balloon flights don't actually go up."

For the Castle couple, their October 22 evening flight nearly didn't make it to the air. With fast wind whipping the balloon and the sun setting, the couple waited with baited breath until their balloon operator was given the clearance to take off.

"Keith and I were especially nervous because we hadn't told our families that we were going to get married, so if the wind didn't stop, we didn't know what we would do," Castle remembers. "The take-off was pretty fast, but the foliage was amazing, and it was beautiful."

Most balloon flights last between one and two hours with Goodman officiating a shorter ceremony to allow the couple the most time enjoying the sights and heights. According to Castle, the couple was nervous about forgetting their lines due to the height and had to pause in between exchanging vows to hear each other over the blasting of the balloon's heat. But with a beautiful fall sunset and a seamless landing to a picnic reception, the newlyweds were more than satisfied with their intimate– and fearless– ceremony style.

"When we came back home, our families were really happy for us," Castle says. "They realized that a typical wedding wasn't who we were."