Remember the amazing, geologically-accurate Grand Canyon cake? Here's the full story of the wedding, which took place at the Grand Canyon itself!

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The Offbeat Bride: Anya Nova, Entomologist (and Tribesmaid)

Her offbeat partner: Dillon, Grand Canyon guide/park ranger

Date and location of wedding: Shoshone Point, South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park — May 12, 2013

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: The first decision we made about our wedding was the easiest: it would be at the Grand Canyon. We are both completely obsessed with the place, and spend a major proportion of our time there canyoneering, hiking, rafting, and climbing. Dillon has lived and worked on the rim as a park ranger, and I work with USGS studying insects and food webs in the canyon. Our favorite thing about the Canyon is that no matter what kind of adventure we try to go on there, we always get a very rewarding ass kicking. Our wedding was to be no different!

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Dillon and I met at college in Arizona, and our community of friends there was really central to getting this to happen. Our catering was done by a group of friends who live in a commune-like setting named Casa De Chaos. I once worked at a cake shop with one of the women who lived there, and as a gift she made us the most bad-ass cake possible, depicting a geologically accurate Grand Canyon with Dillon and I on a raft in the bottom of the canyon.

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A few different friends pitched in loaves of homemade bread… about 50 loaves. When people asked us “what do you want for your wedding?” our answer was always homemade bread for the reception — it worked out deliciously! Dillon's family came in a week before the wedding, as well as a couple of my gal pals from the Southeast, and they worked diligently on arts and crafts projects all week.

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My employers lent us all of the tables, water coolers, and beer coolers we needed. One friend lent us a 18′ raft, which we promptly inflated on the rim of the canyon and filled with copious amounts of local and craft beers. All hail the beer boat!

Wed Photos Sierra 268Tell us about the ceremony: Our officiant, Joel, was a one of our favorite college professors of ours. He taught a field course that entailed three months of camping/hiking/rafting in Grand Canyon. He was a perfect choice. Dillon and I had written the ceremony in a coffee shop a week before the wedding and had a surprisingly easy time with it. We then sent if off for Joel to add in his own introduction and transitions. We did not have a rehearsal before the day of, so we ended up standing around in a big group in front of the waiting audience making a plan last second on where we would stand and who would do what.

After we had our 15-person group huddle and filling in the flower girl, musician, and our parents on what they needed to do, we got into place. Our friend (and Hopi musician and artist) Ed Kabotie kicked it off with some flute, acoustic guitar, and singing while our friends filed in to their recently assigned places. Joel began with an introduction, thank-yous, a safety briefing on gravity and the effects of heat and altitude, and a long minute of peaceful silence to take in the view of the canyon.


The ceremony itself was on a huge peninsula of rock jutting out into the canyon providing a 180 degree view from which you could even see a good section of the river. The moment of silence was great — it felt good to have some time to slow down and take it all in. Afterwards, Joel read a “love story” that we had written chronicling our adventure together leading up to this moment. Then we did a ring exchange:

Anya and Dillon have chosen rings to symbolize their love and sacred vows. They represent outwardly the decision they have made inwardly to be faithful to their promises. For Dillon and Anya, this ceremony is their expression of commitment to self, to one another, to their families, and community of friends. They are so thankful for your loving support of their relationship, and they are continually inspired by the love and dedication in your own lives. And it is here, perched on the rim of Grand Canyon, one of the most spectacular places on Earth, that we gather. This is the place where Dillon and Anya are growing deep roots. Not only have they been nourished and inspired by this powerful place they often call home, they have given back much in return.

This wedding day is the beginning of a great adventure, and as with all adventures, the outcome is unknown, uncertain. So it matters that we are here to witness the unfolding of this union. For we too have a critical role to play in the community of family & friends that today surround Anya and Dillon. If their adventure is to succeed in present and future, they need to be ever present and honest with one another, and they need us to live our own lives to the fullest, that we may nurture one another with love and support. Each of you has shared something of yourself with Anya & Dillon, and joined your life with theirs. They want you to know that your love, guidance and encouragement will forever be appreciated. It is fitting then that you should share today in this celebration of their commitment to each other.


Immediately following the ring exchange, we transitioned into a brief handfasting ceremony where pairs of our “sidekicks” would bind a cord around our hands along to each line of “Blessing of the Hands,” revised by Rev. Daniel L. Harris.

ceremonymazeltov2I am Jewish, and so we decided to include the breaking of a glass. I had purchased a glass for this ceremony, and Dillon's mother had beautifully sewn it into a silk purple and gold case so we would not have to deal with carrying around broken glass. One hiccup that I realized at that moment exactly, was that I had left the glass in my car. Oops. As Joel explained the semetic tradition of breaking a glass, I stage whispered to him, “a metaphorical glass Joel!” He chuckled and explained to the audience “Okay, a metaphorical glass” and barely held it together as he continued to explain that the the glass symbolizes that “joy must always be tempered.” One of my bridesmaids improved and threw a rock between Dillon and I, we stomped on it, and the audience yelled “Mazel Tov!”

We did hike up a butte in the canyon the following day and broke the real glass at the summit. We wrote it in the summit register, and decided to do this hike again on our one year anniversary.

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Our biggest challenge: Our first band of choice, a bluegrass trio from Prescott, let us know that they could not play the wedding. Our motto for the wedding was “as long as we have food, music, and beer it will all be okay.” We really wanted a bluegrass band. We had to be picky in our selection of a group because one of the (many) rules the park had provided us was that we could not have electric amplification of our music. We thought it would be easy to find an acoustic bluegrass band in our area, but it wasn't.

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The week of the wedding, Dillon called a group that we had heard around town before, and hadn't really talked about approaching because they are fairly well-known and really good, so we figured they would be miles away from our budget. They got back to us Saturday night, less than 24 hours before the wedding, and agreed to our offer. I ran around squealing in joy. They showed up at the wedding, and boy, was there music and dancing! I never thought I would see grandma kick up that much dust!

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One last cherry on top is that the group is called The Diamond Down String Band and “Diamond-Down” is the name of a day river trip on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon. It was serendipitous.

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My favorite moment: Our friend, Ed, in addition to playing beautiful music for our processional, gave a speech that made me cry more than anything else that day. He started by pointing out that there was very little wind that day, a blessing. It was eerie because the weather had not been very good the days before the wedding, and Shoshone is usually a pretty windy spot. I had not yet taken time to be thankful for that, and the sudden realization sent chills down my spine. Ed followed that by giving us a long and loud Hopi blessing. No one else at the wedding understood a word he was saying, but the message was loud and clear. Thanks, Ed!

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My funniest moment: I am Russian, and therefore I am blessed with a Russian grandmother. She quickly became the life of the party. She brought in her own bubbly and passed it around to everyone to share. She also stood up while everyone was eating and (this part came with no surprise to me) explained to everyone a Russian tradition where the entire party explodes into a chorus of “GORKA! GORKA!” This is a very silly word, and everyone got onto it quickly. Gorka means “bitter” in Russian, and the constant screaming chorus implies that the food, the champagne, and the world is too bitter and will not be sweet again until the newlyweds kiss.

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What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? When someone offers to help, give them something to do. Be specific and keep track of who is doing what. It allows people to give a very direct gift of time and love to your wedding. If you have friends or family showing up before the wedding, save some projects for them. They are probably going to want to help, and if you have projects ready for them to do they will both be helpful and out of your hair for a while as you deal with surprises and your ever-ringing cellphone.

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Comments on Anya & Dillon’s Grand Canyon bluegrass beer boat bash

  1. This is maybe the most spectacular event I have seen on this site. Absolutely beautiful, and obviously so true to your relationship. And I love your motto, “as long as we have food, music, and beer it will all be okay.” This has been our motto as well, and we’ve finally just landed a bluegrass band (also one we thought was out of our budget!) 3 weeks out from the wedding. Thanks for sharing!

  2. THAT VEIL. Can we talk about that please? (Not that the rest of the wedding wasn’t AMAZING, but THAT VEIL.)

  3. And don’t forget, the elevation is higher than your tolerance! Love.

    I love the Russian grandma too!

  4. This wedding, this wedding, this wedding. I don’t even know where to start picking a favorite thing, but I think the tolerance sign is a good place to start.

    I’ll be back in an hour to look and pictures and pick a new favorite.


  5. Sometimes you see a wedding that you’re sad you weren’t a part of. This is one of those weddings. It looks like so much fun, and you can’t beat the surroundings.

  6. I live in Colorado, so a similar sign will definitely be playing a part in my wedding! I absolutely love it! Great idea!

  7. I just have one question because your wedding was so beautiful! How many people were there? How many watched the actual ceremony? We have talked about having our wedding at the Grand Canyon I just dont know if we have too many people to invite.

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