What if I told you we were married in the church next to the original ICEHOTEL in Sweden, and spent our wedding night in a Deluxe Suite surrounded with art carved out of ice?
We like to do things differently, break out of the usual stereo-type of life, experience the unusual, go where no man has gone before (well that is a little exaggeration) – and our wedding was no different!
There is something magical about snow, it touches our hearts and makes us feel happy, so wouldn’t it be fantastic to marry in a place with a pure white, powder soft landscape?
Yes it would be amazing, but hang on a minute, doesn’t that mean standing in -33°c shivering on our wedding day?
How about we marry in the ICEHOTEL where it’s only -5°c … toasty in comparison.
That is exactly what we did!
Our engagement was unconventional. I made the decision to propose to Simon on leap year day whilst watching the World Cup rugby – it’s clearly an inspirational sport for women to ask their partner to marry them!?!
We had been together three months - but hey, once you know, you know right? It was still another three months away, so I thought I would have time to get used to the idea.
I thought wrong!
Somehow Simon guessed! We hadn’t discussed getting engaged, I hadn’t even hinted at him, strewth I was only just getting used to the idea myself!!
Ah well, if he had guessed then what the heck! So I asked him there and then and we were “unofficially” engaged. We decided we would still keep to the proposal date of 29 February to give us time to feel comfortable with the idea and to keep it to ourselves.
So the proposal happened – I asked in three different ways – writing “will you marry me?” in tea lights on our living room floor, I wrote a poem asking the same question and finally, I painted a dinner plate with the words “Say Yes!” which would only be revealed when he finished his evening meal! The rest, as they say, is history.
Time to start the wedding preparations!!
We already knew we would marry overseas following a casual discussion three weeks into our relationship (as you do) – but the question was, where? If we opted opt for a white sand beach, there is the possibility we would be disappointed because the sand isn’t white enough... I am a self-confessed beach snob after all.
We both love the snow and thought we wouldn’t be disappointed if we chose to marry somewhere in the Arctic... how about we add the novelty factor of a church made of ice?
And so the idea of marrying in the ICEHOTEL was born.
Fast forward two years (oh yes, we may have become engaged quickly but we weren’t going to rush the wedding!).... our wedding countdown clock flashed “0 days” remaining!
The day of our wedding had finally arrived!!
The ICEHOTEL is in the heart of Swedish Lapland – the land where Father Christmas lives!!
As someone who is passionate about conservation, it pleases us to know the ICEHOTEL has been classified as an eco hotel and a Sustainable Arctic Destination.
When we first arrived at Kiruna airport 19 miles away (30km), the scenery was just breathtaking - a truly magical winter wonderland that lived up to (if not exceeded!) our expectations. Miles upon miles of crisp white snow glistened in the sun like diamonds.
The ICEHOTEL complex is re-built every winter with a completely new design. When the river Torne freezes over, a magical hotel emerges sculpted from the river ice itself. Around 42 world-class artists begin its construction in November and chisel the ice church where we were to marry. They also build the world-famous Absolut ice bar, 150 beds, table, chairs and even a chandelier consisting of 1,000 hand cut ice crystals. By April, it slowly starts to melt away back into the river- its original source.
For the wedding ceremony, I wore a dress and a thermal-lined faux-fur coat complete with hood, my “something blue” was ski-socks which I wore inside faux-fur boots - I wasn’t cold! On the other hand, Sy wore an ordinary suit, shirt, shoes and with a shaved head – he was definitely feeling the temperature despite the thermals underneath!
Our wedding party consisted of Sy’s parents of which his father was best man, my best friend Sharon was Matron of Honour, her husband Bobby gave me away and their son Jack was page boy.
I was so calm all day. I was so sure and confident that marrying Sy was absolutely the right thing to do, I felt no reason to be nervous or scared... That was true, right up to the moment I walked into the candle lit ice church - then it all changed!
The time had come. It was 4pm – time to marry my Mr Right!
We reached the beginning of the aisle and I could see my husband-to-be waiting at the alter, he smiled and that’s when I fell apart!
Welling up, as I beamed back at him, a lump was forming in my throat and I desperately tried not to cry. I attempted to walk graciously down the aisle, but as the female priest sung a sweet, soft hymn, the tears flowed unashamedly - the reality hit us both!
All too soon, the ceremony was over, we were pronounced “Husband and Wife” and were walking back down the aisle to the angel-like voice of our priest.
An hour of photos then followed in the ice church – it doesn’t usually take that long but those of you who have travelled with me know how many photos I take, and I know what I want! I encouraged the photographer to be creative, I even offered suggestions as to what I would like.
There is a warm restaurant on-site at the ICEHOTEL so we pre-booked a table for the reception. As the champagne flowed next to the stunning ice sculpture at the foot of our table, the speeches brought tears to everyone's eyes.
Food was amazing - most of us ordered topside of reindeer with mash and juniper berry sauce - a gorgeous, lean meat which tasted even better knowing the animals roam free all day.
Upon reflection - not the brightest idea to stay in a room that cold, I only managed two hours sleep! Despite wearing socks, pyjamas, gloves, a hat and being inside a thermal sleeping bag, I was so darn cold and fidgeted that much, I pushed the mattress off and was "sleeping" on the wooden slats. Sy, on the other hand, said he was lovely and warm and slept perfectly well!
What made matters worse was having to get up in the night to use the toilet! I started to regret celebrating with copious amounts of champagne! Nothing wakes you up like walking from -5°c into – 33°c I can tell you!!
The whole experience in Lapland was astounding and we tried to make the most of our time because we didn’t know if we would ever return!
The night before our wedding, we booked a snowmobile trip to view the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) and were lucky enough to see them! A green band of light slowly formed then changed shape before disappearing in front of our eyes – it really is one of nature’s natural wonders.
The day after our wedding we booked a morning of ice carving! Oh yes, after copious amounts of champagne and hardly any sleep, we thought it would be a good idea to hack away at some ice with a chisel! Thankfully there was a big fire in the room and it was actually a lot of fun.
I managed to carve out a heart during the one-hour lesson and was happy with my creation, Sy made an "inspirational" giant “S” shape!
When we had finished, we ran around taking lots of photographs like excited school children, well that warmed us up!
Aleana galloped away with me in tow, hat flopping over my eyes and I wobbled all over the sleigh. Thank goodness for Pedro (our guide) who came running over like a hero, jumped onto my sleigh, pulled on Aleana’s "reins" to stop her. I bet she had the ride of her life (and so did I!!).
Not many people can say they had a truly white wedding, but ours wasn’t just “white” it was snow-white –and something out of a fairytale!
Update: Since our wedding, in November 2016 the ICEHOTEL opened up Icehotel 365, a permanent structure you can visit all year round, not just between November - April. The structure is kept at a year-round temperature of -5°c powered by solar panels. As this is the land of the "Midnight Sun", solar power isn't a problem because the sun doesn't dip below the horizon for 100 consecutive days during the summer months. This Hotel was featured in Time Magazine's Top 100 World's Greatest Places in 2018.
Inspired to stay at the ICEHOTEL? Book a room here (prices vary and they do sell out months in advance).
- The region of Lapland is made up of Sweden, Norway and Finland and part of Russia's Kola Peninsula.
- For three weeks during December the sun doesn’t rise at all, whereas in June, it is the home of the Midnight Sun where it shines for 24 hours of the day and doesn’t set for the entire month.
- The nearest airport to the ICEHOTEL is in Sweden’s most northerly town of Kiruna, 19 miles away from the town of jukkasjärvi. You can pre-book a dog-sled airport transfer which takes 75 minutes.
- Official currency at the ICEHOTEL is Swedish Krona.
- Swedish is the official language but English is widely spoken with a perfect accent!
- ICEHOTEL was the first hotel made entirely of snow and ice and has been running since 1990.
- It’s not just a hotel but an art exhibition – each of the ice suites is carved with a different theme by around 43 artists who are especially invited to design particular areas of the hotel.
- The ICEHOTEL complex covers 5,500 square metres and is constructed from 1,000 tonnes of ice and 30,000 tons of "snice", a mixture of snow and ice that strengthens the structure.
- You don’t have to stay in an ice-room, within the complex are comfortable chalets which have heated floors.
- The stereo in the Absolute Ice Bar is kept in the fridge because it’s warmer in there!
- The staple foods in Lapland are reindeer, fish and game meats.
- Some desserts in the ICEHOTEL restaurant are served in bowls made from ice.
Activities and what attracted us
What attracted us to the ICEHOTEL was its uniqueness – we didn’t know anyone who had been there , and for the Wow! Factor, it really does have it all!
- Husky sledging across the frozen lake.
- Ice carving.
- Cross-Country ski-ing across the Narnia-esque woodland.
- Snowmobile tours – either during the day or in the evening in search of the Northern Lights.
- Sauna ritual including ice bath experience.
- Winter wilderness survival lesson.
- Horseback riding through the pine-clad forest.
Inspired to have your own ice-wedding? Here is some basic information
Marriages are legal for all nationalities as are same-sex wedding and civil ceremonies. The wedding co-ordinator will assist with the paperwork, you will just need to make a personal visit to the Tax Office in Kiruna to finalise.
You can either marry at the Ice church or Jukkasjärvi Village Church which dates back to the 1600’s and is the oldest church in Swedish Lapland.
The wedding co-ordinator can either arrange or give guidance on the following services but you will need to ask her, she didn’t volunteer this information for us and I had to find out some things the hard way.
Wedding co-ordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org
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