Joanne Wainwright and Mark Confer kiss Saturday morning after they were married in a poolside ceremony at the Nikiski Pool.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Mark Confer and Joanne Wainwright ascended the stairs step-by-step, hand-in-hand.
Seconds before, they recited their vows and exchanged their rings, but Confer and Wainwright had one more thing to do before the minister could pronounce them husband and wife. The couple approached the water slide at the Nikiski pool. Wainwright took her place behind her husband-to-be as Confer gripped the bar at the head of the slide, tipped his body forward and plummeted down the cascade of water. He cruised around the slide's platform and shot out feet-first at the bottom. Wainwright followed with a "Whoo!" before she too landed with a splash at the foot of the slide.
Dripping wet, they bowed their heads while Scott Coffman, senior pastor at College Heights Baptist Church, blessed their marriage. Confer and Wainwright sealed their union with a passionate wet kiss.
"We're taking the plunge," Wainwright said before the ceremony Saturday. "Swimming has been a big part of my life. Mark's so wonderful, (he was) very open to it."
Confer and Wainwright, who will keep her last name, met through Match.com about two years ago. Both are dedicated to physical fitness. Confer's passion is downhill skiing, while Wainwright competed on and coached swim teams most of her life.
The newlyweds wanted a fun way for Confer's two daughters, 9-year-old Makayla and 6-year-old Bristol, to participate, so getting married at a swimming pool was ideal.
The decision to get married at the Nikiski pool began as a joke with Wainwright's students. A health and physical education teacher at Skyview High School, Wainwright coached swimming for 11 years and also coaches diving. Skyview teacher Kent Peterson and three trumpet players from the Skyview band played the "Wedding March" and "Simple Gifts" during the ceremony while Colin Murray filmed it.
"I always would tell my students if I ever got married in Alaska I was going to get married at the Nikiski pool," Wainwright said.
After Wainwright and her husband exited the swimming pool, doffed their dripping suits and got into something drier, Wainwright's younger sister and maid of honor, Jane Picciotti, welcomed Confer into the family.
"It's so exciting," Picciotti said. "It's so different, but it's so Joanne. I don't think a church wedding would have been her."
Picciotti and her mother, Peggy Wainwright, stood alongside the pool with their glasses of punch. Peggy Wainwright said Joanne Wainwright is the second of four daughters. She, Picciotti and Peggy Wainwright's youngest, Alicia Hilaman, flew to Alaska from Delaware to be at the wedding, even helping with the cake. In keeping with the wedding's theme, the bride and groom decided to forego the traditional tiered wedding cake for a diminutive Olympic-sized swimming pool with the bride and groom coiled on the diving board ready to jump in.
Picciotti and Peggy Wainwright said they were afraid Joanne would never get married, but they say she found the right guy.
"It's the greatest thing that's ever happened," Picciotti said. "I've never seen her as happy as she was when she met Mark."
After a lifetime of swimming at the Nikiski pool and almost a year of working there, Amber McGlasson, shift supervisor and lifeguard, said this is the first time she's heard of a wedding at the swimming pool.
"I don't think anyone else had the idea of having a wedding here," she said. "It's exciting."
McGlasson said she was surprised to see a wedding in the pool's record book and wondered how it would work out, but she said she thinks Wainwright and Confer are happy with the outcome.
"I think it's cool they came out and did this," she said, giving them her congratulations.
Even though he's officiated many weddings on the bluff overlooking Cook Inlet, Coffman said this is the first time he was asked to marry a couple at a swimming pool. While a swimming pool wedding is unconventional, Coffman said it isn't the place that makes their love real, it's the fact that Confer and Wainwright committed their lives to one another before God and before their friends and family.
"As long as they keep their lives focused on Christ their marriage will endure," he said.
Wainwright and Confer bobbed up and down at the foot of the water slide. They had recited their vows, taken the plunge and kissed.
"All right, let's go swimming!" Wainwright shouted.
Jessica Cejnar can be reached at email@example.com.
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