Skydive wedding a first for all
Conducting a wedding in a skydive plane was "the strangest place, without a doubt" that Richmond marriage celebrant Lester Oakes had ever united a couple.
His final words of the ceremony were "Go now in peace and love", a riff on the skydive command, "Go now".
With that, newlyweds Jan Schlesner and Susann Lasch jumped out of the plane at 16,500 feet above Motueka and then Lester followed, strapped to the chest of tandem-master James Beaumont.
It was the first time Lester had skydived but that was at the back of his mind before he took the leap last Saturday. He was more concerned about not losing the rings and making sure everything went perfectly for the German bride and groom.
"Once the ceremony is over, I can focus on the next thing, which is the skydive," he said.
The German couple met five years ago while learning to skydive and decided they wanted to marry in a skydive plane. Since regulations prevented them from fulfilling their dream in Germany, they cast around for another location and settled on New Zealand.
The couple are at the start of a six-week tour of the country that is doubling as wedding and honeymoon. It cost them several thousand dollars for Abel Tasman Skydive in Motueka to deliver their dream, from taking over the skydive base for part of the afternoon to obtaining New Zealand skydiving registrations through to champagne and wedding cake once back on the ground, but the couple said it was well worth it.
They wore custom-made jumpsuits, the groom's in black and the bride's in white, with matching helmets and gloves. Embroidered on the leg of their suits were the words "Jan und Susi NZ Feb 2013".
The ceremony took place in the skydive plane over the Abel Tasman National Park, including the exchange of rings and signing the wedding registry, before climbing to their jump altitude.
Skydive Abel Tasman owner Stuart Bean said the skydive wedding was a first for his company, and as far as he knew, a first for New Zealand.
Susann said their families were sad the wedding was to happen so far away because they could not attend, but they would celebrate in Germany in six months' time.
In the meantime they have a movie of their ceremony and literal leap into marriage.