Some people want extravagant weddings with everyone they know invited, while others prefer something a bit more laid back and personal. Then there are those who incorporate hiking a volcano in Ecuador into their big day!
As unusual as that may sound to those of us who aren’t quite as adventurous, for Adrian Ballinger and Emily Harrington, it couldn’t have been a more fitting start to their union. The two of them actually first met in a similar way while hiking Mount Everest.
“Our life is very much built around love and commitment in a traditional relationship way, but then also adventure and how to support each other in adventure and how to make sure we always have big adventures together,” Adrian said, “and so the wedding ceremony was very much based on that idea.”
With Adrian being a rock climber and Emily being a mountaineer, even their careers reflect how important getting active is to them. So when it came time to plan their wedding, going a traditional route simply didn’t feel right.
Of course, preparing for the big day wasn’t easy. Not only did Adrian and Emily live thousands of miles apart, but they also got engaged during the pandemic, making the planning process all the more difficult. In fact, organizing a hike up Cotopaxi, the 19,247-foot volcano, became so difficult that they almost went with something simpler, like a few days of hiking elsewhere.
But the more the couple thought about it, the more they couldn’t let go of their original idea, especially since it first popped up so early in their relationship.
Adrian and Emily hadn’t even been dating for a year when they took a trip to Ecuador to enjoy the mountains and the beach. Jokingly, they said if they ever got married that they’d do it there. At the time, they considered it to be a “ridiculous idea,” which was all the more reason they had to give it a shot.
They didn’t expect many friends and family to take them up on their offer, but what started out as 12 guests quickly grew into 42 RSVPs.
“It gained its own life and an energy and ended up being a complete highlight of the whole wedding,” Adrian said. “The fact that those people spent nine days together and fought really hard in really difficult weather and conditions; we were bonded.”
Many of their friends are fellow adventurers, but most of their guests had never done anything like this before, including Adrian’s rock climbing buddies.
“It was an incredible adventure,” said Alex Honnold, a professional rock climber. “Strong winds made for pretty real conditions but the photos sure look nice.”
As much as Adrian and Emily love the Ecuadorian mountains, they chose to have their actual ceremony just a couple of days after their trip on the beach. That might sound pretty traditional for this couple, but the reception that followed was anything but. It featured a tattoo parlor where the couple got matching tattoos (designed by Emily) of Cotopaxi and Ayampe. Even several guests dared to get their own new ink, including Emily’s parents!
Things have certainly slowed down for the couple since their ceremony, in part because of the pandemic, but these two adventurers are enjoying some much-needed time together after spending so many miles apart.
“It actually was super powerful and the silver lining for me, and I think for us, of how much we enjoyed that, like, we didn’t need all the crazy travel or the crazy media stuff or big goals,” Adrian said.
Emily added, “We were really content just being together at home.”
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