A Surprise Marriage in Alaska

by Laura Gow

Laura and Steve on their wedding day aboard Sapphire Princess
Laura and Steve on their wedding day aboard Sapphire Princess

Planning the perfect wedding, from the bridal shoe to the cake topper, is a dream for many women, but I wasn’t one of those girls. Countless hours can be spent mulling over dresses, reception halls and bouquets – but that was never for me. However, I had a dream wedding anyway, lovingly and secretly planned by my longtime boyfriend and soul mate, Steve, aboard Sapphire Princess.

I have to say, Steve turned out to be an incredible wedding planner and a master of surprise. As I boarded the ship in Seattle, I had absolutely no idea I was about to take an Alaskan cruise with my family, become engaged, get married and go on my honeymoon.

I thought we were celebrating Steve’s birthday. My first surprise came shortly after we boarded, as we were exploring the cruise ship with our 2-year-old daughter, Cassidy. Why were both sets of parents and our brothers on deck? Steve smoothly explained they had come to celebrate his birthday with us.

Behind the scenes, Steve, our families, and the Sapphire Princess crew were quietly preparing for our ceremony and reception. Little did I know that a fishing shore excursion in Ketchikan would yield the reception’s main course. A chef almost gave it away when he called our stateroom to ask how to prepare the salmon for the wedding dinner. I replied, “You mean the birthday dinner?” Steve later told me he was reeling, but I thought nothing of it.

Steve and I have been securely together since meeting in high school 20 years ago. We know our habits, and getting up early the next morning to see the majestic site of the Tracy Arm Fjord seemed like a natural thing for us. Little did I know, I was in for a shock – an 8 a.m. proposal!

Steve was adamant that we head to the bow of the cruise ship. We passed my father along the way and I insisted that he come along, but he made several excuses for staying back. I grabbed a chair and made him sit down anyway, but dad huddled toward the back of the group – he didn’t want to infringe on the moment to come.

What came next became a very public proposal. Steve handed me his coffee cup, got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. The crowd cheered and the Princess Cruises photographer captured it all.

Then came the biggest shock of all – we’d be getting married at 6 p.m. that evening! I had a scant 10 hours to get ready. But Steve and the onboard wedding planners had made all of the arrangements. He chose my favorite color, peach, for the bouquet and boutonniere. He picked out my favorite cake, raspberry coconut, favorite music, everything. He really had been paying attention all these years!

The next 10 hours were a whirlwind. We docked in Juneau and hurried to get our wedding license. Then I returned to the ship for the hair and nail appointments Steve had pre-booked. Certain things started to make sense – Steve insisting on clothes shopping with me and encouraging me to buy the white skirt. Or how jumpy he got when I borrowed a silver necklace from my mother because he thought she’d given something away by providing “something borrowed.”

The ceremony was beautiful; we were surrounded by the people we love most. Our wedding feast featured the fresh salmon we had caught the day before. It was an incredible feeling to share this meal with our guests.

I did have a dream wedding, although it was not planned by me. As Steve said, “I wanted to give you a Princess Day.” And he did.

Laura lives in La Grande, Oregon. She and her husband, Steve, have been on five Princess cruises with a sixth cruise planned for June!  Their 3 ½ -year-old daughter, Cassidy, has already enjoyed four Princess cruises!