When you think of a destination beach wedding, Tuktoyaktuk, in Canada’s Northwest Territories, might not be the first place that comes to mind. But that’s where one ouple tied the knot recently.
Drew Mitchell and Shawna Mitchell travelled roughly 4,000 kilometres from Callander, Ontario, to get married in Tuktoyaktuk, population 900, on June 22.
They said their vows on a small beach near the highway into the hamlet with the pingos — small, cone-shaped hills that grow from permafrost — in the background.
They initially thought of the idea after hearing that Drew’s parents were hoping to drive up to the Arctic for the summer solstice. The $300-million highway connected Tuktoyaktuk to the rest of Canada back in November last year.
“Drew and I thought that was a great idea and so did my parents and his siblings,” said Shawna. “It’s very unique and there’s a lot about our relationship that is unique.”
Over a year of planning
Six members of the couple’s family were in attendance, along with the hamlet’s economic development officer, Annie Steen, who decided to come after hearing the couple’s story.
They had been planning the wedding for about a year and a half and, through lots of research on Shawna’s part, managed to secure a photographer from Inuvik and a local officiant.
The Tuktoyaktuk Siglit Drummers and Dancers also performed while the bride walked down the aisle — getting the whole wedding party dancing afterward. It was the first time the drummers and dancers performed at a wedding for visitors from the South.
Drew’s parents drove up from Callander in an RV, bringing many of the items needed for the wedding like the wedding dress. The rest of the wedding crew met up with them in Whitehorse before driving up to Tuktoyaktuk.
Bumps in the road
Although the couple tried to be as prepared as possible, there were some hiccups along the way.
They had planned to pick up their marriage licence from Inuvik on June 21, but didn’t realize everything was shut down for National Indigenous Peoples Day.
“That threw a little wrench in our plans,” said Shawna. “But we were able to continue our adventure up to Tuk, and the local Service Canada office here was able to put the licence in motion.”
The couple said their initial hope was to get married out on the pingos. However, because there’s still ice on the water, the couple decided to move the ceremony to a local beach site.
“I kind of resigned to the fact that I would not have a beach wedding, because that’s not what I thought was possible up here,” Shawna said, laughing.
“But everything happens for a reason.”
Communities ‘absolutely incredible’
The couple said they are extremely thankful for the people in Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk who helped make the day possible, and said they hope they aren’t the last to have a destination wedding in the hamlet.
“If you are the kind of people who can go with the flow and have a great deal of trust in others, I think we would definitely recommend it,” said Shawna. “It’s a very unique story that we will have for the rest of our lives.”
Drew said the trip wasn’t just about getting married, but about learning more about their country with their family.
“The communities you stop in and the people you meet — every story is so different,” he said. “I learned a lot about so much of our country, but the local communities are absolutely incredible.”
The newlyweds plan to host about 200 guests in Callander for a wedding reception in early September.
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: How Northwestern Inuit led construction of Canada’s highway to Arctic Ocean, Cryopolitics Blog
Russia: Smelters, huskies, and fish pies: the Arctic road from Norway to Russia, Cryopolitics Blog
United States: Trump claims Alaska wildlife refuge road ‘almost completed’… but is it?, Alaska Public Media