As little girls growing up, we dream of our fairytale weddings! From the dress to the shoes, to the flowers, right down to the colored napkins. I would have never dreamed my fairy tale would involved the approval of the FAA, TSA, and the Bay City Mayor's office.
My husband and I contacted the airport manager back in early fall of 2012 as well as the FAA who told us there is NO law preventing us from getting married at the airport! We were “cleared for take off” or so I thought....
We talked to all the chains we were told to speak to, we were told we were approved, sent out our save-the-dates and invitations. Yes, they were airport themed and all. They resembled airline tickets, luggage tags, and passports! ;)
As the date got closer, I contacted the city to schedule a time to map out our wedding day. At the meeting we were told we were not approved and that they had a meeting with the FAA. This was a meeting that NEITHER I, NOR MY FIANCE, was informed about or invited to. We were then informed that we needed to pay thousands of dollars in fees, plus to cover employee wages for 8 hours.
If you know me, you know this did not sit well with me. I was going to FIGHT for what I truly believe in. There is was no law preventing us. So, let me give you a little backstory.....
In July of 2012, my then fiancé, proposed to me while flying over S. Higgins Lake. (You can read more on this in Chapter 7!) He’s also a pilot. So you can image by now, I had to keep with the airport theme!
There is a small airport in Bay City, Michigan, where my fiance took his first flight lesson shortly after graduating high school. It's a small general aviation airport with a historical building located on the property and a classic WWII era hanger still in use. We stopped by a few times on beautiful Saturday afternoon to see if the airport was at all active.
We never saw a single plane. This was kind of odd given the picturesque days that we stopped by. We thought this would be a great venue and easy to obtain given the fact that the airport looked barely used.
So we contacted the airport manager. Before we could even finish our pitch, he had made up his mind that he wasn't going to be helpful at all. We can't remember all of his excuses, but his first excuse enraged my fiance. He said that he would be busy pulling seaplanes out of the river for the winter and storing them in the hanger.
First, our wedding is going to be in August. This is prime time summer weather in Michigan. Why would people be storing their seaplanes for the winter in August? It doesn't make sense. Secondly, we didn't want our wedding to be in the hanger. We wanted it to be outside in the open air. After all, we're only talking about a 30 minute ceremony location. The reception will be at a completely different location. So the fight was on!
Since my fiance is a pilot, he knew a few people who worked for the FAA. We wanted to make sure that the FAA wouldn't have any issues with an airport wedding. They quickly said that there is nothing illegal or wrong with having our wedding on airport property but the TSA might say otherwise and that we should contact them. So we contacted the TSA. They quickly wiped their hands of the idea as soon as they realized that we wanted our wedding at a small general aviation airport rather than a large commercial airport. So we contacted the airport manager again, and told him who we had been talking to and that his concerns for the legality of having a wedding on airport property were a non-issue. He was still not receptive of the idea though. Since this airport is owned by the city, we decided to contact the Mayor's office. It took a few calls, but someone finally returned our calls for help getting this old cranky airport manager to be more accommodating. They said that they were going to make sure our dream wedding was going to happen. We felt a huge weight lifted off our shoulders and finally figured we were “clear for take off” or so we thought.....
The city council wanted us to pay thousands of dollars to have our wedding on airport property. It included orange construction style fencing to keep our guests from entering active runways and taxiways, 8 hours of overtime pay for several city employees to set up and tear down the venue, 8 hours of overtime pay for use of city vehicles that the employees will use while performing their duties, a 1 million dollar liability insurance policy, and other fees associated with renting a small patch of grass in the yard of the historic building next to a runway and taxiway. Their proposal was ludicrous!
Furious, we contacted the local news, thinking we could put pressure on the City. A few days later, our story was published and it helped. We began negotiating with the city. We eventually agreed to pay for 2 city police officers, 8 hours of overtime pay to sit in their cruisers for 1 hour, and make sure our guests don't run out in front of a running airplane, if there happens to be one, while we had our ceremony. We also paid for the 1 million dollar liability insurance policy and a few other small fees. By the way, none of this cost included the tent, chairs, decoration, or equipment.
Two weeks into trying to fight this battle everyone tried to convince me to just give up, find a new location, and carry on. This include, my fiance, Kevin. But anyone who knows me, knows that I am too stubborn to give up on something that means the world to me. It was stressful beyond words letting my dream be in the hands of half a dozen people. It was soul-crushing planning my wedding on the airport grounds not knowing if I would even get it. A whole year of me planning for this particular location and everyone including the wedding planner telling me to have a plan B. A Plan B was NOT an option for me.
Finally, three days before our wedding was scheduled, (YES, 3 DAYS before our vows,) the City Council brought our wedding to a vote. This was the only city council meeting we were told of and invited to. Our wedding was the last thing discussed, keeping us in suspense. But it was approved unanimously. Emotions flooded our bodies. The few locals in attendance clapped, then a couple news stations descended upon us for comment. I truly felt it was approved because of all the media attention our story got. The Council team wanted and needed good media to be out there about them after all this. That day we scheduled for a NOTAM to be placed for the airport. A notice to airmen (NOTAM) is a notice filed with an aviation authority to alert aircraft pilots of potential hazards at a location that could affect the safety of the flight or grounds.There was to be no one coming or going within that 30 minute time frame. However, we did go above the airport managers head. which was obvious we pissed him off enough for him to pay someone to land and take off during that 30 minute closed window.
Little did he realize this would only make our pictures more stunning! SO, if I didn’t get to properly thank you at the time....THANK YOU airport manager!
Karen is the owner of Boutique Marketing Studio & blog owner of My Life, Your Entertainment. “My life, Your Entertainment,” is a real-life, non-sugarcoating blog by yours truly! I am a mother of two teenage boys (Lord, I know you love me). I am a pilot bride who envies her groom’s love for flying. I find humor in the little things and will laugh until my belly hurts. I am stubborn, I cuss worst than a sailor. I am too outspoken, I drink, I have tattoos, I drive a fancy truck and I am addicted to chocolate. I love hard and trust too easy. However, I can build a wall to protect my heart faster than an airplane taking off at 130 knots. The life motto that I have, and will, always live by is, “On a wing and a prayer.” My life, my family, and all its beautiful chaos, takes place in the beautiful Great Lakes State. You will find that my blog talks about all of the things I have passion for: life, marriage, kids, marketing, hobbies… you name it! I hope somewhere, there is a soul or two I can speak to. So, stick around and don’t forget to subscribe! Xo, Karen;