Eleven couples did what thousands more do every year on Valentine’s Day: they tied the knot.
These 11 couples, however, chose to do so among strangers. They responded to a contest inviting them to exchange vows at an unusual outdoor location – the Mall of America’s ice castle. Most were from the Twin Cities, a few came from further away.
Tiffany Isenberg had the shortest commute of all of them. She lives on Lyndale Avenue.
Isenberg and her husband James Quarterman were planning a simple wedding. For one, they both have children and couldn’t justify the expense of a wedding in addition to the expenses of raising families.
The ice castle wedding offered them a chance to exchange their vows for little more than the cost of the marriage license, if that’s all they wanted out of the ceremony.
More important, it helped them expedite their marriage. Quarterman has lung cancer and the time they have to spend together as husband and wife is short, Isenberg explained.
The couple met under unconventional circumstances in late 2011. Isenberg, 40, is a member service lender for Wings Financial Credit Union in Minneapolis. Quarterman, 45, opened an account there and went out of his way to come back and see her repeatedly.
Despite her hesitation to say yes, she accepted his invitation for a date. The couple’s first date was at none other than Mall of America, for a traditional dinner and movie.
Their relationship blossomed, but met an unexpected obstacle in November. Quarterman was diagnosed with lung cancer. During a drive to visit Isenberg’s parents he broke the bad news. “I’m dying of lung cancer,” she recalled him saying.
As a smoker whose father had died of lung cancer four years earlier, it wasn’t a surprising diagnosis, Isenberg said. And Quarterman is at peace with his fate.
“When God takes him, he’s OK with it,” she said.
They had already determined they would have a simple wedding in front of a justice of the peace when Isenberg’s co-worker heard about the Valentine’s Day ice castle wedding. She encouraged Isenberg to apply, but Isenberg was skeptical of her ability to compose a worthwhile story as part of the entry process.
She was contacted about two weeks prior to the ceremony and told they had been chosen. The couple had rings on layaway and completed their purchase in time for the ceremony.
Although it wasn’t mandatory that participants dress for a traditional wedding, Isenberg wanted some semblance of a wedding dress, which isn’t easy to come by on short notice. There are plenty of wedding dresses on the racks of Twin Cities bridal stores, but not many fitted for a woman who is 4 feet 9 inches tall. She found one that worked.
With approximately 15 family members and friends in attendance, the couple exchanged their vows last week. The ceremony went off without a hitch sans one little problem.
They forgot to sign their marriage license following the ceremony and therefore had to return to the mall’s wedding chapel after a celebratory luncheon to make their union official, Isenberg noted.
It was business as usual the next day. Isenberg was back at work and life as they know it continues.
Marriage doesn’t erase the fact that Quarterman has a finite period of time to spend as a newlywed. He doesn’t talk about his condition, and he gets sick some days. He’s not receiving any sort of treatment for the cancer, Isenberg noted.
Isenberg isn’t counting down the days they have to spend together, in part because she doesn’t know what Quarterman’s prognosis is, and she is fine with that. She’d rather focus on the fact they have time to spend together, even if his cancer is in the back of her mind.
“I want to be strong,” she said.
Contact Mike Hanks at firstname.lastname@example.org