“The sharks were swimming all around us,” remembers New Yorker April Curry, “and coming up to the cage to see what we were doing.” No, Curry isn’t describing her most recent deepwater dive—those curious fish were the guests of honor at her wedding. She and her fiancé, Michael, were married in a 120,000-gallon shark tank.
While the Currys’ underwater nuptials may be out of the ordinary, the concept of doing something unique is increasingly common. Across the U.S., more and more engaged couples are eschewing the white-dress, deity-blessed nuptials for unforgettable ceremonies in curious—and sometimes daunting—locations.
“People don’t want their big day to be cookie-cutter,” says Anja Winikka, editor of TheKnot.com, a popular wedding-planning website. “First the crazy new thing was destination weddings”—which these days represent about 20 percent of ceremonies. “And now, just in the past five years, we’re noticing many more couples seeking unusual settings, from treetops to airplane hangars. For many couples, I think, it’s the weirder the better.”
Winikka attributes the move away from tradition to the increasing age of brides and grooms (currently 27 for women and 29 for men). Because older couples are usually financially independent, the majority pay for (or contribute heavily to) their own weddings, meaning they—not their parents—call the shots. And since most modern couples date for years before marrying, they have also developed a unique identity as a couple—one they want reflected in their ceremony.
For others, the reason for skipping the church and chaplain may be as simple as money. When a 99 Cents Only store in Los Angeles invited engaged couples to be wed at a group ceremony September 2009—at a cost of, yes, 99 cents—they received almost 3,000 applications. Of course, the interest was more likely a sign of the tough times than of widespread affection for the discount retailer.
And sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar. The Normal, IL, duo that donned pink and purple to wed in a local Taco Bell explained their fast-food wedding (during which regular customers continued to order from the counter) as the appropriately offbeat culmination of “an offbeat relationship.”
Weddings aren’t easy. We all know this. Tippling Aunt Betty might overindulge and make an uncomfortably revealing toast; the DJ could be a Burt Bacharach fan; the ring-bearer may break down in tears before he gets to the altar. But at least if you get married in one of these 10 unusual settings, the ceremony itself—not the awkward moments before or after—will leave the most lasting impression.