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A wedding on ice

A wedding on ice
A bride and groom in an ice cave in Iceland
Ann Peters, the founder of Iceland Wedding Planner, specializes in crafting "experience-driven" weddings and elopements.Ann Peters

Jemma Schofield gathered the layers of tulle from her wedding dress in one hand and held a rope in the other. Her olive-green Wellington boots splashed in the frigid glacial runoff as she spelunked into the venue for her big day: an ice cave along Iceland's southern coast.

Schofield and her now-husband, Chris Watson, always dreamed of getting married in Iceland. As dairy farmers from Lancashire, UK, they've rarely been able to leave the cows for extended periods to travel together. Still, they wanted "something different, an adventure," Schofield told Business Insider. The bride, particularly, had her heart set on saying "I do" in an ice cave despite their June wedding date.

Their Icelandic fairy godmother delivered.

Ann Peters, the founder of Iceland Wedding Planner, specializes in crafting "experience-driven" weddings and elopements. Her events grant exclusive access to hidden gems or off-the-grid locations throughout Iceland thanks to her resourceful scouting, relationships with private landowners, and a team of expert guides. As an entrepreneur catering to the growing experience economy, in which meaningful memories are valued over luxe products, no request is too outlandish, no detail too small.

I've attended countless weddings, written about them for years as a lifestyle correspondent, and even officiated a few. I thought I'd seen everything. Then I spent a day with Peters.

An ice-cave wedding inside a glacier — in June? Consider the wish granted.

Ann Peters (right) positions bride Jemma Schofield and groom Chris Watson for photos ahead of their ice-cave wedding ceremony.
Peters, right, the founder of Iceland Wedding Planner, is a wedding planner and photographer.Talia Lakritz/Business Insider

Glaciers were part of what drew Peters to Iceland in the first place. Originally from Ohio, she traveled to Iceland in 2010 to climb 40 glaciers before turning 40, which she exceeded before her milestone birthday last year.

It was in Iceland that she homed in on her entrepreneurial vision for experience-driven weddings, combining her love of daring travel, eye for wedding photography, and logistics background to launch Iceland Wedding Planner in 2012. After commuting back and forth for three years, she moved to Iceland in 2015, where she now resides full-time with her husband and three cats.

"I always say that 'experience-driven' means that it touches your five senses," Peters told me. "I want people to get goosebumps."

Peters was ahead of the curve. In an Eventbrite poll, over 78% of surveyed millennials, America's largest generation by population with over $1.3 trillion in annual consumer spending, said they preferred experiences over products. Last November, BI named the growing "experience economy," centered on leisure, hospitality, and recreation, one of the "5 trends to bet your career on." As millennials and Gen Z prioritize spending on experiences over tangible items, they're driving the demand for premium services such as Iceland Wedding Planner, where prices range from $15,000 elopements to $65,000 luxe events for 50 guests.

"My worst nightmare is to end up getting a bride that's spent $25,000 on her dress and says, 'I don't want to get it wet. I don't want to get it dirty,'" Peters said. "That doesn't work in our world."

The night before their wedding, Peters met with Schofield and Watson in the lobby of Hotel Vík, a sleek, charcoal-gray building set against the backdrop of the Icelandic town's mossy cliffs and black-sand beaches. After Peters went over the itinerary, the couple told me more about their love story, which began when they were schoolmates at 10 years old.

"I was so in love with him it's not even funny," Schofield said. "I told my grandma and granddad I was going to marry this boy, but he doesn't remember me."

After going their separate ways, they reconnected in their 20s when Watson walked into a bar where Schofield worked as a bartender. As Schofield told it, she went home with him and never left his side.

Fifteen years later, their ice-cave wedding marked the next step in their adventure together.

"When we look back on our wedding day, we want to be able to remember it as the best experience we've ever had and to be able to share the adventure with our stories," the couple told Peters in a questionnaire during the wedding planning process.

A bride and groom walking on a glacier in Iceland wearing crampons
The bride and groom wore ice-climbing gear.Ann Peters

When I walked outside at 7 a.m. the next day and saw an enormous Super Jeep with tires that reached my neck, waiting to whisk the bride and groom off to the secret ice cave, I knew this would be one of the most memorable weddings I'd ever attended.

I found Peters outside the hotel sipping a Red Bull and taking photographs of the wedding dress, rings, and other accouterments as the couple ate breakfast. The strong Icelandic winds whipped her pink-streaked hair as she grabbed a few rocks to keep the hem of Schofield's dress in place.

We boarded the Super Jeep, which is more accurately described as a monster truck. A pickup truck towed a trailer with a portable bathroom since the secluded, scenic locations we were headed to didn't have facilities.

We picked up the wedding officiant, a local pastor dressed in hiking boots and an Icelandic wool sweater, just outside town. Then, we began driving off-road out into the wilderness.

Moss-covered mountains in Iceland
Peters grants exclusive access to remote locations throughout Iceland.Ann Peters

At the wheel, the driver Davíð Geir Jónasson, told us about the local geology and Icelandic folklore as he nonchalantly maneuvered over boulders and sinkholes. It immediately became clear why the average tourist in an SUV wouldn't stand a chance on these rugged routes. There was no cellphone reception, and the ride was so bumpy that it felt like an astronaut training exercise.

To protect her trade secrets, Peters was adamant that I not reveal any identifying details about the locations we visited. Before she allowed me to crash Schofield and Watson's wedding for this story, I signed a nondisclosure agreement, switched off my phone's GPS capabilities, and agreed not to photograph any landmarks that could give away our whereabouts.

"We want those beautiful locations to look as amazing as they do on their wedding day as when they come back 25 years from now to renew those vows," Peters told me about operating with such secrecy. "We also don't want people to get into hairy situations. Because 95% of our locations are only accessible via Super Jeep, we don't want anyone with just a regular SUV trying to venture in and get stuck in a glacier, river, and quicksand."

The locations were so remote that I couldn't reveal them even if I wanted to. How would I begin to give directions? "Keep driving on unmarked, rocky terrain and take a right at the third sinkhole. If you reach a bottomless cliff, you've gone too far."

After driving for an undisclosed amount of time, we arrived in a valley surrounded by moss-covered mountains. Ours were the only tire tracks for miles. Peters and her crew of mountaineers unloaded the supplies: ropes, waders, crampons, and lighting for photos. Then, the bride, groom, and Iceland Wedding Planner team began the 20-minute hike up to the glacier.

Outside the entrance to the ice cave, Schofield and Watson accessorized their wedding outfits with rubber boots and crampons and giggled as they clipped each other's helmets under their chins. Meanwhile, Peters scampered up and over the cave to ensure everything was in order on the other side. Crew members set up lights and ropes along the glacier's icy walls to facilitate the climb inside.

An ice cave in Iceland.
The walls of the ice cave.Ann Peters

Schofield entered first, followed by Watson. The rippled ice, smooth from the flowing water, glittered in the darkness. The walls reflected sapphire-blue light where the sun hit them, creating a magnificent cathedral.

The bride and groom stood on a mound of black volcanic sand with the hollow swirl of the cavern behind them. As Peters positioned her camera, the pastor began to read.

The ceremony was entirely inaudible over the cave's gushing river, but it didn't matter. Schofield and Watson were the only two people in the world, it seemed.

After their first kiss as husband and wife, Peters handed them a small bottle of Icelandic moonshine for a celebratory swig. Wearing waterproof waders with her camera in hand, she crouched down in the icy water to capture the perfect shots.

June 2 was a rare sunny day in Iceland. At our next stop, a giant waterfall in another undisclosed location, powerful streams of water glistened as they tumbled down the cliff. The glacial runoff was so pure that we could drink directly from the stream.

At the foot of the waterfall, Peters and another crew member laid out a colorful spread of macarons, fruit, and sparkling wine on a bed of decorative blankets and pillows. The others hung back as the bride and groom arrived at their feast.

"She's taken me places I've never seen, and I'm an Icelander," one crew member told me.

Chris Watson and Jemma Schofield on their wedding day.
Watson and Schofield on their wedding day.Ann Peters

After several more scenic stops, we returned to the hotel in Vík at dusk, where dinner awaited the newlyweds.

I asked them whether their wedding day was everything they had hoped it would be.

"It was wetter," Watson joked.

"I loved every minute of it," Schofield added.

Covered in dirt and utterly spent after the 12-hour whirlwind wedding, I was ready to collapse into bed. Peters, however, looked ready to climb another glacier, not one pink-streaked hair out of place.

Read the original article on Business Insider