Outlander Destination Wedding in the Swiss Alps
Outlander Destination Wedding in the Swiss Alps
Under a sparkling celestial canopy of winter stars, in the moonlit shadow of a tiny white church high up in the Alps, I asked the woman I married twenty years ago if she would walk down the aisle once more and have a destination wedding in the Swiss Alps.
“Will you marry me…again?” I proposed almost as nervously as the first time.
“Yes, I’d love to marry you again sweetheart,” she answered with a gentle smile.
My wife Jayne and I had come to Wengen, one of the most spectacular ski resorts in the Jungfrau region of the Bernese Oberland, twenty years and two full-grown teenagers after our first wedding in Canada, to redo something we’d done almost perfectly the first time.
Our maiden attempt at tying the knot was a simple affair – an intimate gathering of close friends in a small church in Montreal with a Scottish bagpiper, and a sunny reception catered by my mother-in-law in her elegant English garden.
The daughter of a Scottish father and an English mother, Jayne had asked me to wear a kilt to honour the memory of her father who had passed away when she was a young girl. As an “Outlander” (my wife’s current nickname for me) who’d fallen madly in love with a Scottish/English lass I enthusiastically agreed. Unfortunately our plan was eventually scuttled by my old school Armenian dad who was mortified by the thought of his only son getting married in a “skirt.”
As a ski journalist covering the World Cup tour I had traveled to Wengen many times before to report on the Lauberhorn, one of the most famous downhill races in the world. Both of us lovers of mountain life, I had regaled my wife with tales of majestic snow covered peaks, rustic wooden ski chalets, scrumptious Swiss fondues and long ski pistes we’d hopefully enjoy together someday on a romantic second honeymoon.
One chilly Canadian night we were watching an old James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The 007 flick was filmed in the late 1960‘s in Murren, a fairy-tale mountain hamlet just across the valley from Wengen. I’d chosen the film that night partly because I was prepping for a story about Bond author Ian Fleming and his connection to a famous Austrian ski town called Kitzbuehel, but also to introduce Jayne to a place I knew she’d love to visit one day.
My 007 assignment in Austria included attendance at a formal James Bond themed ball, and I had grave concerns about the suitability of an old Ralph Lauren tuxedo in my closet that was now too tight to wear. As we contemplated my black tie dilemma, Bond, in perfect timing, and played by the dashing Aussie actor George Lazenby, began dressing himself in formal kilt attire on screen.
The sight of Lazenby’s muscular gams under tartan must have been a light switch moment for my wife, because she immediately looked at me with a big grin and said, “Why don’t you buy a kilt for your Bond trip, and also wear it in Switzerland on that fantasy second honeymoon in the Alps you’ve been promising me for years….and while we’re there, why don’t we renew our wedding vows?”
Faster than you can say Emmentaler, I was fitted for a formal Prince Charlie jacket and kilt, confirmed a date with St.Bernard’s Anglican Church in Wengen, informed our close Swiss friends about our plans, and booked flights to the land of big mountains and chocolate.
Leaving our two teens at home to keep an eye on the house, we jetted off to Zurich on a snowy Thursday last February. After landing in Zurich, we caught an early morning airport train, and after a couple of hours were clicking our way up to Wengen on one of the most scenic cog rail mountain train rides on the planet (Wengen and the surrounding area Jungfrau Region is a UNESCO World Heritage Site).
After a refreshing afternoon power snooze at our friends’ apartment just off Wengen’ s main drag, we took a moonlight stroll to St. Bernard’s church and I popped the question again. After being given the official green light, I escorted my once-again blushing bride to Da Sina’s, a local restaurant our friends had booked for a vow-renewal-eve dinner. After a delicious Italian meal, and a long night of catching up at Tanne Bar, our favourite local watering hole, we snuggled in for a long winter’s nap.
On Saturday morning, the day of our “re-nuptials” as I like to call them, we awoke to the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and a magnificent home-cooked Swiss breakfast of eggs, bacon, assorted cheeses, cold cuts, jams and a stunning array of breads and sweet baked goods.
To work off our massive Z’morge (breakfast in Swiss German) we took a leisurely mountain hike along a breathtaking snowy trail with eye-popping views of the majestic Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau peaks. This mountain range is what makes this part of the world so attractive to thousands of tourists every year. After a few rounds of gluhwein, schnapps, and my personal favourite Schümli Pflümli (a boozed-up coffee stacked with fresh whipped cream) we strolled back into Wengen to prepare for church on the second biggest day of our lives.
A few hours later we emerged from our bedroom in full-on wedding regalia. My wife in a gorgeous vintage Sunny Choi crème coloured evening gown and tuxedo jacket accented with a tartan shoulder plaid, looking as radiant as the day I married her, and me in my kilt.
Let me say this as an aside, nothing is sweeter on the ears than your wife looking at you with big eyes and calling you her handsome “Jamie Fraser, Lord of Lallybroch” when you’re long past your due date and any reasonable physical comparison to the hunky actor Sam Heughan who plays Lord Jamie in Outlander.
After champagne and hors d’oeuvres in the apartment, Jayne and I led a twilight procession of friends and family to the little white mountain church, with a million fluffy snowflakes floating down from the dusky grey winter sky above us.
We were welcomed into the St. Bernard’s by a friendly congregation made up of locals and a few weary ski tourists keen on witnessing our alpine vow renewals. When the weekly evening service ended, I walked up to the alter with my best man and Swiss brother Michel by my side. Jayne was escorted down the aisle by my other local brother Patrick. Then in front of our family and friends we held hands, renewed the vows we’d made twenty years earlier, exchanged new wedding bands and kissed each other as husband and wife for the second time in our lives.
After a blur of wedding photos, congratulatory handshakes and a beautiful dinner, we headed to the Tanne Bar for some liquid dessert in lieu of wedding cake. As we entered the chic little après ski bar we were immediately greeted by a chorus of congratulatory cheers and a massive magnum of Veuve Clicquot gifted to us by our friend Ronald, the owner of the bar. After an unforgettable evening of music, dancing and never-ending wedding toasts, we returned to the apartment and tucked ourselves back into bed with big smiles on our faces.
Our second honeymoon kicked off early the next morning with a romantic train ride to the Top of Europe, the name given to the Jungfraujoch, Europe’s highest train station at an elevation of 3454 metres above sea level. After a walk through an incredible indoor ice palace, and a fantastic lunch at Crystal, a Swiss fine dining establishment with magnificent views of the Aletsch Glacier, we hit the Lindt Chocolate shop for some treats!
A few days later, after some glorious bluebird ski days in Wengen and neighbouring Grindelwald, we hit the rails again, this time to the famed Piz Gloria 360restaurant on the Schilthorn peak in Murren, the movie home of James Bond’s most well-known enemy Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Before taking the breathtaking tram ride to Blofeld’s mountain lair, we did a little window shopping and café hopping in Murren. As lunchtime approached, we headed up the tram to visit the new, interactive James Bond movie exhibit located in the same building On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was filmed in. After geeking out together on cool the James Bond film memorabilia housed at the exhibit we went for lunch at the revolving restaurant and dined on 007 burgers.
As we nibbled on dessert and coffee, I reached across the table and held Jayne’s hand again as she gazed at the ring of snowy mountain peaks just outside our revolving window. I thanked her for the best twenty years of my life, the two beautiful children she’d given me and the incredible patience and support she’d shown a husband who worked on skis in faraway lands for weeks at a time, and popped “the question” again.
“Will you marry this Outlander again in 20 years?” I asked.
“I definitely will my love,” she answered.
“But you should probably stop eating that apple strudel if you want to fit into your kilt on our next trip down the aisle!”