Throughout its history, the space program has celebrated a number of exciting milestones. Some, like Neil Armstrong’s momentous walk on the moon in 1969, are world famous. Others are less well known but still qualify as notable occasions in the realm of space exploration.
For instance, in August 2003, cosmonaut Yuri Ivanovich Malenchenko became the first person to get married in space. But his was a long-distance wedding — Malenchenko’s bride, Ekaterina Dmitriev, was on the ground in Texas for the nuptials. According to NBC News, Dmitriev told reporters that her marriage is indicative of humanity’s fascination with space exploration, and claims that, “an orbital wedding reflects mankind’s desire and need to go one step further.”
So, with the possibility of space tourism looming ever closer on the horizon, are weddings the next step in the natural evolution of the industry? While the logistics of space weddings are much more complex than exchanging vows in a terrestrial environment, the backdrop of outer space is a tantalizing option for many engaged couples. In fact, the fear of hosting a “boring” wedding was a key factor in Erin Finnegan’s decision to get hitched in zero gravity in 2009.
Finnegan, her groom Noah Fulmor, and a handful of guests were launched into the atmosphere on board G-Force One, a specially modified Boeing 727 operated by Zero Gravity Corp. The flight lasted one hour, and the ceremony was officiated by Zero Gravity Corp. co-founder Richard Garriott. While a zero gravity wedding isn’t exactly the same as one held in space, the Finnegan-Fulmor ceremony is a giant leap towards a future where destination weddings in space are the norm.
Space-based weddings will likely come with a hefty price tag, one that’s significantly higher than the U.S. average. CNN Money reports that, as of 2016, the median cost of an American wedding is more than $35,000. While we can only speculate on the cost of a wedding in space, a Tokyo company put a sticker price of $2.3 million on celestial wedding ceremonies way back in 2008. At the time, amenities including a wedding dress, travel expenses,and live broadcasts from 62 miles above the Earth’s surface were included in the cost. Further, a four-day training session was required for each member of the wedding party launched into space.
Thus, considering the exorbitant cost of a wedding in space, you’ll want to be absolutely sure you’re ready for a lifelong commitment. Fortunately, there are scientific methods that can help you predict a successful relationship. Key factors of relationship longevity, according to scientists, is solid communication and the ability to work through conflict amicably.
During arguments, for example, happy couples tend to sustain a ratio of five positive comments for every negative one. Where healthy relationships are concerned, self-care is an integral piece of the puzzle as well. Much as astronauts practice self-care routines in order to become better team members, so should those in long-term relationships. After all, teamwork is just as important in a strong marriage as it is for a successful mission in space.
If you’re prepared to take your relationship to the next level, you have tons of work ahead of you, no matter your desired wedding destination. Generally speaking, a space-based wedding will require participant training and specially modified attire that can withstand weightless conditions. Regardless of whether or not you choose to have a wedding in zero gravity, however, there are a number of questions you’ll need to ask the venue of your choice.
Payment questions are of course one of the considerations when planning a wedding: Is a down payment required? How far in advance should you book the venue? What amenities does the venue offer? And of course a space-based destination wedding will require more nuanced planning than a traditional event. In the case of an outer space ceremony, you’ll likely want to book both the wedding flight itself and a on-ground venue where the reception is to be held.
For many couples, time of year is an important factor in wedding planning as well. Surprisingly, September and October are the most popular months to get married, although the weather isn’t always cooperative during the fall. Experts recommend that weather, budget, and day of the week should factor into the equation as you set your wedding date.
In regards to spaceflight, NASA has its own launch window requirements, but seasons don’t really play a role. Rather, when launching a rocket or shuttle, NASA flight engineers look at a mission’s target goals and needs of the spacecraft to determine the ideal launch time. Once space-based destinations become a reality, couples may be at the whim of engineers when it comes to setting a wedding date.
If you’re tying the knot far from home, there are also legal issues to consider, such as jurisdiction in regards to recognizing the marriage. In the case of cosmonaut Malenchenko’s 2003 wedding, for instance, the marriage was legally binding only because a friend stood in as a “proxy” groom, and the ceremony was held in Texas. Proxy weddings are rarely legally binding — in the U.S., only four states recognize proxy marriage: Kansas, Colorado, Montana, and Texas.
Therefore, for a space-based wedding to be legally binding, you may need to launch from a spaceport that’s located in a state that allows for marriage by proxy. Of the 12 FAA commercial licensed spaceports in the U.S. only three are ideal launch points for a wedding in space. They are the Colorado Air and Space Port, located just east of Denver, as well as Midland International Airport and Ellington Airport in Texas.
Once space tourism becomes more widespread, it’s likely that outer space will become a hot trend in destination weddings. But the privilege of getting married in space may involve a variety of legal loopholes to navigate, training sessions, and making plans well in advance. In the end, however, all that work will pay off, as a destination wedding in space provides you with the solar system as a majestic backdrop and memories that will last a lifetime.