Train Weddings – Something Very Different!
Have you ever thought about those special romantic places that are imbedded in your memory? Perhaps, it was the novelty of a train ride? If this were the case, the idea of popping the question or exchanging vows on a train or holding your reception on a train, as you travel to the Grand Canyon, would not seem too far-fetched.
As we were planning a trip to Arizona, and to satisfy our curiosities, we thought we should check out two very popular wedding venues, the Verde Canyon Railroad and the Grand Canyon Railway. Were we in for a pleasant surprise!
The first of our experiences was the Verde Canyon Railroad that describes itself as “Arizona’s longest-running nature show” – and that it is! The four hour ride begins in Clarkdale, Arizona, an easy 25 minute drive from Sedona.
Once you board the train, and without sacrificing comfort, you are treated to the most glorious riparian wilderness and wildlife, as the train winds around the Verde River, revealing areas that are otherwise not easily accessible.
The restored vintage train cars are powered by a rare 1953 FP-7 diesel engines. Along the way passengers encounter magnificent waterfalls, majestic trees, crystal clear waters, wildflowers, wildlife, golden and bald eagles, numerous waterfowl, Sinagua Indian ruins, spectacular rock formations and steep canyon cliffs. This spectacular show is all situated within the confines of a wild and near-pristine ecosystem and the Sycamore Wilderness Area. You even pass through an awesome 680-foot man-made tunnel.
It truly is, as Marketing Director Teresa A. Propeck indicated to me, “not the destination, it’s the journey,” and a perfect backdrop for marriage proposals, wedding anniversaries or weddings.
Propeck said, “It is amazing how much people enjoy saying their vows out on our open-air cars. The most popular spot is our 150 high-bridge. We stop the train on the bridge with each journey, but if there is a ceremony, we make sure that car is positioned on the bridge, and they do their vows while we sit there. The rest of the train gets a big kick out of it as well.”
The train’s personnel enjoy very much being part of romantic events, and are always delighted to oblige in providing the necessary enhancements to make the event memorable. With advance notice, you can even charter an entire railway car for your party.
Our second experience brought us to an historic 1908 train depot located in Williams, Arizona, where we boarded the Grand Canyon Railway.
Williams was founded in 1874 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is commonly referred to as the “Gateway to the Grand Canyon.” It most aptly sets the stage for a unique and relaxing two hour and fifteen minute romantic train ride or wedding party excursion that transports you to 200 yards from the edge of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
For those of you who are not only romantic but also history buffs, you may be interested in knowing that the Grand Canyon Railway carried the first passengers to the rim of the Grand Canyon on September 17th, 1901. Unfortunately, due to the advent of the automobile, the railway was forced to shut down in the late 1960s due to lack of passengers. It was not until early 1990 that service was restarted.
On a snowy morning in early March we drove from Sedona to Williams – a trip of about sixty miles away. When we arrived at the train depot, we were quite discouraged upon seeing snow covering the train cars. However, as soon as we boarded our luxurious Parlor Class Car, we knew the sun would come out and all would be well with the world. And that it was!
The Parlor Car offers one of the best amenities aboard the train – the opportunity to stand on the rear deck and take in the invigorating mountain air. We chose to pass this up, as the air was a little too invigorating for us in early March! You have to admit, this would give romantic couples an excellent opportunity to cuddle up and experience the beauty of nature.
Train on the tracks
Within a few minutes we were passing some of Arizona’s most spectacular scenery, as we rode the rails through the Colorado Plateau with amazing views of the San Francisco Peaks and volcanic cinder cones; no doubt, a tiny prelude of things to come at the Grand Canyon. It was also classic old west territory, and something that reminded me of my childhood days when I would watch western movies. In fact, we were also held up by a group of thugs on our return to Williams!
The Grand Canyon Railway cars are available for private rental, and prices range from $1,795.00 for a 1923 to a Harriman style Pullman car to $6000.00 for a dome car or luxury parlor car. If you wanted something special, you can even book your own car or cars on your own schedule.
Once you arrive at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, you truly are in for an amazing geological wonder. No matter how many photographs or images you have previously seen, nothing can prepare you for the beauty of these ancient strands of stone carved by winds, seas, water and sand.
As we stood paralyzed by the phenomenal surroundings and natural splendor, we asked ourselves, how would it be like to exchange marriage vows in the presence of this magnificent canyon that is 277 miles in length and 18 miles in width? The only place in the world exhibiting billions of years of geological history and are still in the making – awesome! A place where couples insert into their marriage vows a wish that their marriage should be as long as the Grand Canyon is deep! It is little wonder that every summer over 1000 couples exchange vows at the Grand Canyon. You have to admit that of all the possible wedding destinations, the sheer beauty of the Grand Canyon would be difficult to surpass. What a backdrop for those wedding pictures!
A word of caution, if you are planning to tie the knot at the Grand Canyon, you must first apply for a permit, and also bear in mind that the Park does not have a scenic site that can accompany more than 85 persons.
It would be wise that before finalizing your plans you make a field trip to the Grand Canyon, speak to the relevant authorities at the Park Service Office concerning the various scenic sites that are available for your ceremony and reception. The information you can secure will prove to be invaluable in helping you visualize where you can hold your ceremony. If you don’t have the time, perhaps engaging a wedding planner would be more practical and everything could be arranged without having to worry about the details and fine-tuning.
No doubt, there will be trade offs when you marry in the Grand Canyon, however, think of the gorgeous setting! Wouldn’t it be fun to tie the knot at the Canyon and celebrate with a reception on the train as you journey back to Williams? That is a memorable and fun wedding!
A wedding permit is required by the National Park Service for outdoor weddings. A permit can be obtained from the park’s permits office by calling (928) 638-7841. Some of the more popular outdoor wedding locations include Moran Point, West Rim Worship Site, Grandeur Point and Shoshone Point. Shoshone Point is a fee use area that can also accommodate a reception. The other three locations would accommodate a fairly small wedding – no reception. Indoor weddings and/or receptions within the park do not require a permit. Arrangements for indoor weddings/receptions can be made directly with Xanterra Parks and Resorts, a park concessioner, by calling (928) 638-2631.
Weddings are also held at the Shrine of the Ages, a federal facility located on the South Rim of Grand Canyon. Although a wedding permit is not required for the Shrine of the Ages, reservations are required and are taken on a first-come, first-served basis and can be made no more than 60-days in advance. Information on fees and reservations for this building can be aquired by calling the National Park Service at (928) 638-7775 or (928) 638-7761.