A couple who couldn’t turn their marriage into a helicopter during the COVID-19 pandemic and helped tour operators stay afloat during a difficult year.
Some couples in British Columbia forced to change their wedding plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic have still decided to go ahead with their celebration, albeit in a different way.
Jane Kinoshita and Brian Ceelen were determined to keep their wedding date of September 19, 2020, but encountered many obstacles before their special day.
âIt was a challenge,â says Ceelen.
“I would say because it was getting smaller and smaller and the rules kept changing and we decided to keep adjusting over the next six or eight months.”
Tofino has always been a special place for the now married couple and originally their guest list numbered over 150 people.
âWe wanted to get married no matter what it looked like on our date on September 19,â Kinoshita said. âWe said to ourselves, ‘Who knows what life has in store for us in the future? “”
Taking matters into their own hands and with the help of their wedding planner Sheila Orchiston of Tofino-based Rare Earth Weddings, they decided to head to the sky by helicopter to get married.
âThat option came up and it was like, ‘OK, good. We don’t have to worry about anything else and we can just do this amazing thing on our own, âCeelen told Glacier Media.
The couple made their way to the Atleo River Air helicopter in Tofino and took an intimate flight to a secluded location. The only people on the flight were the pilot, their wedding planner, a photographer, and them.
âIt was so awesome. It was so magical, âsays Kinoshita.
Ceelen describes the theft as a scene outside Jurassic Park and says they traveled to the top of a mist-covered mountain, then to a beautiful, hidden beach.
They both agree that it wouldn’t have been possible without their wedding planner.
âLove is not canceled,â says Orchiston.
Several couples who still wanted to get married contacted Orchiston. She said they were ready to try this style of wedding, which aligned with the rules and orders of the COVID-19 pandemic.
âIt’s been a year and a bit; really, it’s been sort of navigating the pandemic with couples, âshe says. “We’ve gone from a lot of weddings looking to have these big celebrations and working with them to see how they could reimagine their day.”
She describes the helicopter rides as beautiful and intimate with the possibility of going surfing at the top.
âIt’s pristine wilderness all around them. It really is a very unique experience, âsays Orchiston.
Atleo River Air Service base manager says the escapes have helped their business survive the pandemic.
âIt was just enough to keep the doors open. Just to have that little bit to keep the bills paid and to keep everything stable and operational, âsays Misty Lawson.
Helicopter tours began to take off at the start of the pandemic and allow people to cut costs while having an intimate experience.
âIt’s a special day for you and it’s a way to really reduce the weight of a four-passenger plane. You only have a limited number of seats at your wedding, âlaughs Lawson. “It’s so much less stressful”
It’s a new avenue of commerce that’s also happening all over British Columbia, in places like Whistler and Kelowna.
âWe used to do it very rarely before. We had a few [helicopter elopements] but certainly a lot more with the pandemic, âsays Delwyn Boutwell, tour coordinator at Valhalla Helicopters in West Kelowna.
She says many couples tried for months to get married and ended up turning to the helicopter and getting married with a small wedding.
Jordy Norris, director of sales and marketing at Blackcomb Helicopters Whistler, said they had also seen an increase in the number of couples heading for the skies for hitching.
âWe’ve had a lot of runaways this year. It’s been a pretty amazing part of businesses to see this growth over the past couple of years, âhe says.
Prices for wedding helicopter tours vary across the province; they can cost anywhere from $ 600 to $ 2,000 (this is just the tour and does not include all the bells and whistles from a photographer, wedding planner, etc.).
âWith the closing of everything, it was a bit of a saving for the tourism side of the business; really nice to see that and it was great fun welcoming people and giving them the chance to have another wedding, âsaid Norris.
Orchiston says the wedding season is in full swing and many are still choosing the helicopter option.
âIf you’ve been successful together thanks to COVID, you’ve got this,â she says. âYou’ve been through this journey and now we can celebrate it. He [wedding season] picks up and as the restrictions loosen we see this change. “
For Ceelen and Kinoshita, they wouldn’t have changed anything and would have said that married life was great.
âLife as a couple is good,â says Kinoshita.