Wedding of the Year

This is the story of a wedding that took place in March 1970.

It was taken from letters written by Wilma Knox to her sister Bette.

Fortier/Tiffany wedding

We have been invited to a wedding that should be extremely interesting one way or another.

This is the 24-year-old daughter of some good friends who have lived in Alaska about 30 years.

Ed and Margaret live in town, but they have a cabin directly across Knik Arm. Diane, the daughter, has chosen to be married at this cabin.

The request would not be unusual except that the bridegroom-to-be is Henry Dyer Tiffany, III, from New York and Newport (wherever that is) and the wedding will be attended by all sorts of relatives from the East Coast.

The New York Times carried a story about the wedding, ending on the note that Miss Fortier and Mr. Tiffany would be married at the "country estate of the bride's father at Pt. McKenzie, Alaska.”

I am positive that the Tiffany relatives would never in their wildest dreams envision Pt. McKenzie and this "country estate."

It's lovely, according to our standards, but just about as primitive as anything can get.

In the first place, there isn't any road there—so we're waiting breathlessly to find out how, the bride's father is going to transport the whole party across the arm. By boat? By small plane?

If by plane, that means landing a mile or more from his cabin.

Can't you just see these conservative easterners, dressed to the teeth, trudging through the swamp, disengaging their elaborate clothes from wild rose bushes and alders, meanwhile swatting mosquitoes?

What does one wear to a wedding in the Alaskan bush? Safari clothes? "The bride wore a white lace headnet. . ."

I am highly intrigued by the entire thing, and I'm certain everyone else is too.

Ed and Margaret are really characters, so I expect they'll carry it off well—they’re both extremely personable.

After the wedding:

I thought you might get a kick out of reading about the “hippie” wedding we attended across Knik Arm.

To say that it was unforgettable is a huge understatement.

The bridal party itself would have looked bizarre in that wilderness setting, but the other strange costumes really loaned the affair an abstract and utterly unreal air.

Imagine a Colonial gentleman in white brocade jacket and knee breeches, white shoes and powdered wig, the Mountie in his red jacket, the kilted Scotsman, and the bride’s father (our dear friend) in striped trousers and swallow-tail coat—all these drifting about this tiny log cabin in the wilderness among the tall spruce!

I can’t even begin to tell you how odd it was.

The bridegroom was a sight too!

He wore knee breeches, a sort of Colonial swallow-tail jacket of blue and white pin stripes and an elaborately ruffled white shirt. He is a tall, big young man with a tremendous bushy beard, so the effect was devastating.

Many of the guests were strangely attired, especially one young man in a red plaid suit that simply impressed Bob very much.

Getting to and from the wedding alone was a story—we rode in the landing craft.

The trip over was only 15 or 20 minutes long and fortunately smooth (the only disconcerting feature was that muddy water often poured in if the craft hit a swell); but coming back the tide was going out rapidly and our LCM really had to labor so that it took us a full hour to make the three miles.

Just as we got underway one of the older guests fainted, so the whole process had to halt while the crew boat picked her up—the crew boat is a fast one. Many of the guests then transferred as well.

Several of the bridesmaids returned with us and a few of us were startled to observe one of the long-gowned girls suddenly hike up her dress to get some cigarettes out of the Levi’s she was wearing underneath! Bob and I noted she was also wearing hiking boots.

What this wedding must have cost the bride’s parents can only be imagined.

Hiring the two boats and the helicopter would run into thousands, not to mention the elaborate catered meal with everything from raw salmon (imagine! — but it was delicious) to cases and cases of booze. Even the water had to be carted over there for Ed’s well has been dry for several years.

Ed and Margaret are not wealthy by any means—she is a school teacher, and he is editor for Alaska of the magazine that was called The Alaska Sportsman.

I think the wedding possible was the greatest testimony to their broad-mindedness: we have wondered what it cost them in mental anguish, for they are Catholics and Diane was marrying outside the faith and in a ceremony that they could surely ill-understand.


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