A young mom who fell in love with Shakespeare during gloomy Arctic winters with only five-and-a-half hours of light and temperatures regularly dropping to 12 degrees, paid homage to the playwright with a spectacular medieval wedding.
Emily Wineland, 23, tied the knot with husband Ralph, 25, in a ceremony straight from the Dark Ages, complete with swords and pagan rituals, followed by an unforgettable night of revelry for their 30 guests, who danced late into the night to lute and lyre music.
Done up in homemade Middle Ages finery, the matrimonial magic was inspired by Emily’s admiration for the great 16th Century British bard, whom she discovered growing-up in Fairbanks, Alaska – nearly 4,500 miles from the writer’s home in Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwickshire.
Now living in the warmer climate of Springfield, Missouri, Emily said: “Theatre was very popular where I was raised, because Alaska is in the Arctic Circle and is so cold that you need to have indoor hobbies.”
“I used to go to the theatre all the time and just fell completely in love with Renaissance and Shakespearean plays”.
“As a little kid I didn’t always understand what was going on, but it was the way that they said it and the music and costumes that I really used to enjoy so much.”
So, when it came to her big day, there was only one Midsummer Night’s Dream wedding for Emily – who was determined to be married in a dress fit for one of Shakespeare’s fairy princesses.
And, after first having a simple civil ceremony in February 2016, they started planning their magnificent medieval marriage – finally getting everything in place to tie the knot on October 13 2018.
Emily, a stay-at-home mom to week-old baby William, explained: “We were married at a court house quite quickly after we started going out, because Ralph was in the military and you had to be married to live together.”
She continued: “But we knew we wanted something bigger that we’d be able to look back on and smile.
“It certainly lived up to the expectation. It was an amazing day, well worth the wait and not something anyone will forget in a hurry.”
Waiting has always been something of a theme for Emily and Ralph, who first met as schoolkids, although it took six years for them to start dating.
But Emily was not immediately attracted to Ralph, who left the marines in April 2018 and is retraining as a networker, saying: “I actually really didn’t like him.”
“He used to go out with all my friends and I thought that he was really arrogant about it.”
Then in October 2015, having not seen each other for nearly six years, Ralph, who at that point was stationed in San Diego, California, sent Emily a Facebook message asking if she would like to accompany him to the Marine Corps Ball.
The invitation came totally out of the blue but, intrigued, Emily accepted – joining him as his date for the event, held every 10 years to commemorate the founding of his section of the military.
“It was pretty unexpected and quite weird – it seems he’d just seen me on Facebook and decided to get in touch – but I went along and discovered that in those six years Ralph had got a lot hotter!
“We hit it off and pretty much started dating straight away.”
No longer willing to wait around, within just four months the pair were married at a court house in San Diego, California.
“We were having a long distance relationship and one night when we were Skyping I just suggested getting married as a solution to that,” Emily continued.
“Ralph likes to tell people that I forced him into it, but when I came over to California a few weeks later for the marriage, he took me down to the beach and made a proper proposal there.”
Moving in together straight after their civil wedding to a house near Ralph’s barracks, they remained there until he left the forces when they relocated to Missouri, where Emily’s parents had moved three years earlier, planning to start a family and enjoy civilian life together.
But first, they had their wedding to plan.
“We wanted to have something romantic, that we would be able to remember, that our family and friends could remember too,” said Emily.
She continued: “And it was really important to me that we exchanged vows, which we hadn’t done the first time.”
Beginning their preparations over a year in advance, through detailed internet research they found a fabulous old mansion, overlooking a lake, which they knew would make a great location for their medieval bash.
Meanwhile, Emily’s mom, Holly, a photographer, 53, who had been an amateur costume maker at the Fairbanks Shakespeare Theatre, made outfits for the family—five bridesmaids and five groomsmen—mostly consisting of simple linen gowns and tunics.
But, just a month before the big day, disaster struck when the owners of the mansion told the couple they could no longer host the event because it had closed down, leaving them frantically hunting for a new venue.
“It was awful, but, incredibly, we found the perfect place – an old barn not far from our new home – and it was free on the date we wanted,” said Emily.
And, without cutting any corners, their careful planning paid off, as the couple only spent a total of £3,800 on their big day – compared to the UK average of £27,000, according to wedding planning website Hitched.
With the nuptials kicking off at 10 am, when their 30 guests arrived at the barn—all sporting medieval dress—they were greeted by an array of 16th century regalia, including hand-sewn heraldic flags.
Then her dad, Tom, 55, a meteorologist, conducted a brief handfasting ceremony—a Celtic pagan ritual, which involved the couple entwining their hands together with different colored cord.
Then, their vows exchanged, the feasting began, with guests each enjoying a platter of roast turkey, ribs, cheese and bread, all washed down with the ancient honey-beer mead.
“Everything was very simple, we didn’t want it to be fancy at all,” said Emily, who wore a white linen dress made for her by her administrator sister Sara, 28.
“We had a chocolate cherry cake which Ralph carved up with a sword that his friend bought him as a wedding gift and then danced into the night to old traditional songs, the kind that people in Shakespeare’s time and earlier would have made merry to.
“Some weddings can be over the top, but ours was just how we wanted it and everyone that came said how right it was for us to have a slightly unusual wedding like that. It may have taken us ages to plan, but I’m pretty sure no one will forget it in a hurry.”