Most girls dream of tying the knot on a sprawling lawn, strewn with carefully arranged flowers, or on a beach, or in a church. Mandy Pohja, 29, of Lander, WY however, never had such visions, and instead, when she was little told her mom she wanted to jump off a cliff into Lake Powell on her big day. Then late this summer, she woke at 5 a.m., joined her groom-to-be Brian Fabel, 32, and three friends, including videographer Kyle Duba and Jamie O’Donnell, who’d just gotten his minister’s license. They biked 14 miles, and hiked close to 25 more to the base of 11,884-foot Pingora Peak. After a night of camping, they scaled nine pitches up the granite face to marry at the mountain’s summit. The video of the event has over 88,000 views.
Her dress? An $8 steal she snapped up at a consignment store. The cake? An Oreo cookie. The couple did share some champagne, poured from mini bottles.
We had a chance to catch up with Pohja, to see what inspired her to create a literally epic wedding (the couple may have set a few records, not to mention a precedent), and how she hopes to inspire other women to kick off their heels and don hiking boots or climbing shoes on their big day, instead.
Shape: How did you and Brian come up with the idea for your wedding?
Mandy Pohja [MP]: We’ve had a lot of friends get married in the past couple of years and we’d always comment on how fun they were for that couple—but we knew we wanted to do something different. I have a big family, and sometimes, when you have a big gathering, you end up doing a lot of planning for other people. And during the wedding, you tend to spend less time together as a couple. Our wedding day was completely for us. When we were on the summit, it was perfectly peaceful, and really intimate. We do plan to have a party for everyone next summer, though.
Shape: Your wedding must have required major physical prowess. Did you have to train beforehand?
MP: I’m a personal trainer, and both Brian and I worked for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), so we both had a lot of experience with long, hard days in the mountains. A lot of our early dates involved climbing and skiing together too. Once we decided to climb Pingora, though, I did start training a little bit. We didn’t decide to climb it until July—just one month before the wedding. We figured, we’d never be more motivated to do Pingora than for our wedding day.
Shape: How was it once you reached the top? Were you exhausted?
MP: We had good adrenaline—but we knew we had to get back (and do the whole thing again), and that the weather could go wrong. We were really excited though, and didn’t really rest. We moved into the ceremony really quickly; it took maybe 10 minutes in total. We also went easy on the champagne, because of how little we’d eaten. We repelled back to camp, and had the 25-mile hike and 14-mile bike. We’d left camp at 3 a.m., and got home at about the same time the next day. It was a 24-hour wedding! Then we were exhausted!
Shape: Most brides spend a lot of time on their hair and makeup, not to mention picking out a dress. How did this play out for you?
MP: I just happened to spot my dress while shopping, and it was $8, the same amount our friend paid to get his minister certificate! And I don’t wear makeup, but didn’t even think about how I looked on that day. I’m probably the first bride in history not to look in the mirror on her wedding day! Later when I saw the photos, I thought, ‘Why didn’t anyone tell me about my silly ponytail?’ I could have had dirt all over my face for all I knew. I’d put on sunscreen, though. I guess that counts!
Shape: How do you feel about your wedding video’s popularity?
MP: We think it’s really funny that we didn’t invite a single person to our wedding, and it has more than 50,000 views. That’s really ironic.
Shape: What do you hope others might take from your wedding?
MP: Being someone who didn’t envision a perfect wedding day, I do feel that’s what I had, because we made it about us. And I’m happy that it’s inspiring to others. Fitness is a lifestyle. It’s about having fun and doing things you love. The way I feel most alive is to go out and do fun things with people I love. Brian and I have a lot of adventures. It’s neat that the wedding could also embody that, and I’d encourage others to try it! It’s funny, because when I was little I thought I wanted to jump off a cliff, and then for my real wedding, we ended up climbing a mountain. I think that’s a much better metaphor for marriage!
Check out the video below to watch their entire journey!