For some, the idea of a destination wedding on a warm, sunny beach is the dream. Digging your toes into a billion grains of sand, looking up at the palms, and letting the balmy breeze slip around you whilst you cite your vows. For others, that same concept is a little too cliché, lending to an urge for something much more adventurous. After all, it is supposed to be the most exciting day of your life.
Photographer and guide to the polar regions, David Merron, fell into the latter category, opting for an outdoor wedding with his now-wife Lauren in Iceland. As a destination, it's blown up thanks to cheap flights and stunning outdoor scenery, but as far as destination weddings go, it had still been sitting under the radar. VIVA caught up with David to chat about his experience, the risks and rewards, and what advice he has for others planning to tie the knot abroad.
Many people choose exotic beaches for their weddings; what brought you to Iceland?
When Lauren and I met, Sigur Ros (an Icelandic band) was the soundtrack to our relationship. Over the years we’ve come to love many other Icelandic bands and have always been intrigued by this small country producing such great music. We also love to travel and had both never been to Iceland. We thought about a hot destination for the wedding, but we really wanted to choose a location that would be an adventure for our friends and family and provide them with memories that they would never forget. In particular we really wanted everyone to experience the northern lights.
What sights/spots do you recommend to visitors?
When you land in Iceland, you get the feeling of being on another planet; the lava fields and landscapes are unlike anything we had seen before. It’s hard to choose only a few spots to visit. What we recommend is to rent a car, go for a few weeks and travel around the ring road which circles all of Iceland. The scenery completely changes every hour or so when you are travelling by car and every scene is more breathtaking than the next. You also get the chance to stop whenever you want and visit with the beautiful Icelandic horses. Don’t get stuck only doing the typical tourists stops like the golden circle — there is so much more to see and be impressed by.
In your opinion, what's the most romantic part about Iceland?
The romantic part of Iceland comes in sharing the feeling of being awestruck by your surroundings and experiencing something special together. On our wedding day this was magnified as all of our guests were feeling and experiencing the beauty that is Iceland. Throw a wedding, champagne, and amazing food in there and we were on cloud nine.
If you could only give three pieces of advice for planning a destination wedding, what would they be?
1. Get a wedding planner that lives in the destination you are going to and comes highly recommended. We worked with Pink Iceland and we would not have been able to pull off our wedding and feel so stress free while we were there if it wasn’t for them. 2. Give yourself and your guests lots of time. We gave ourselves a year and a half to plan the wedding and also sent out our invites 14 months in advance. This allowed us lots of time to research and plan and also allowed our guests enough time to plan out their vacation time for the year. 3. Give people more information than you think they will need, it will amaze you how many questions you will get over and over about things you think are quite obvious :)
What challenges did you face getting married in such a remote area?
The main challenges planning a wedding in another country are attendance and dealing with the natural elements. We knew that getting married in Iceland would limit some of the attendees, which honestly isn’t a bad thing cost wise, but it definitely means you will have a small wedding. In the end we had 65 people and we had such an awesome time. Those who couldn’t attend were missed, but luckily we have such great pictures and video to share with them that they felt as though they experienced the weekend with us.
Natural elements are the other part, going to an island with multiple active volcanos is always a little bit risky, but that just makes it more exciting. Luckily, no volcanos wen’t off while we were there, but two days before the wedding, we received reports that the volcano in the south by Vik was particularly active with a few earthquakes and was due to erupt. Lauren might have had a mini panic attack while googling about it for a few hours… but happy to report, that didn’t happen :)
How many days did you spend in Iceland and what were the best things you saw/experienced?
We spent 13 days in Iceland and the best things we saw, not listed in order of importance are: Icelandic horses, the many amazing waterfalls, the lava fields, the Blue Lagoon (typical tourist spot but it was such an awesome way to kick off our welcome party — we highly recommend it), Reykjavik, the northern lights, the food, and the dramatic coastlines.
If Iceland hadn't worked out, what would your second choice have been and why?
We were contemplating Bocas Del Toro in Panama. We loved Panama the last time we went but didn’t make it to Bocas town. The thing that held us back was the thought of our less seasoned travel guests trying to navigate how to get there as it isn’t as straight forward. Iceland is also one of the safest countries in the world and although we felt safe most of the time in Panama, there is an underlining danger to some areas. While that adds to the intrigue, we didn’t want to make that decision for our guests.
What's your favourite shot from your wedding?
Our favourite shot is at Kirkjufell. Lauren had researched that location for our photoshoot as we both love wedding photography that focuses just as much on the scenery as the couple. It was shot with a wide angle, taking in all of the amazing landscape into the frame.
If you were to do it all again, would you do anything differently?
The one thing we would do differently is stay longer in Iceland. We needed more time to explore the island. I guess that just means we have to go back ;)
What's coming up next for you? Any exciting projects in the works?
I’’ll be heading back to Antarctica in November this year, but before that, we are actually expecting a baby girl this July! That should be an adventure in itself, but our plan is actually to do a traveling maternity leave starting in January 2018 and moving to Bali or Panama to experience our first year as parents with our little girl in an exotic location. We want to instil a sense of adventure in her from a young age.
David and Lauren trusted Iris and Light photography for their big day. Full photo credit goes to them.