Out Goes to Sweden: The First Gay Marriage at 32,000 Feet
By Justin Ocean
Inspired by the continued joy of Marriage Equality in New York State -- we actually got the news while in Sweden -- let's take a look back at SAS's Love is in the Air contest which warmed our hearts (even as it chilled Editor in Chief Aaron Hicklin's bones back in December) with the first gay marriages to take place at 32,000 feet. The American couple Thomas and Brett even got a special commitment ceremony at the IceHotel, pictured above. Quite a different experience than Team Out experienced, but magic all the same.
It was barely noon in early December, and the sun was already setting as Thomas Landreth and Brett Kessler touched down in the Swedish mining town of Kiruna, a few hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle. A pale pink line underscored the horizon. Snow lay in pillowy drifts and weighed down the branches of the pine trees. Packs of huskies, lean and feral-looking, filled the crisp air with impatient yelps. Bundled up against the stinging cold, Landreth and Kessler clambered onto a waiting sled and, with a polite cry of “hey” from the driver, the dogs surged forward.
One evening earlier the couple, both 22, had stood on a stage in New York’s West Village for what was described as a “wedding and rehearsal cocktail,” at which they’d met their European counterparts— a lesbian couple from Poland and a gay male couple from Germany. The Europeans had married earlier that day on a Stockholm-New York SAS flight that was billed as the world’s first same-sex in-flight wedding, the result of a contest designed to exemplify Sweden’s progressive values. Also in attendance were around 30 reporters and the Swedish celebrity Efva Attling, best known in Europe for a hit 1981 pop ballad, “The Two of Us,” there to present each of the newlyweds with rings inscribed with the words from here to eternity from her eponymous jewelry line.
To celebrate their new status, the Europeans were promised a flashy menu of Brazilian blowouts, spray tans, nail appliques, and a visit to Christian Bale’s favorite spa (minus Christian Bale), courtesy of the New York City and West Hollywood tourism boards. By contrast, Landreth and Kessler would enjoy their conjugal rites in Sweden’s Icehotel, where the temperature doesn’t rise above 21 degrees Fahrenheit—so frigid that guests have to sleep in Arctic sleeping bags.
Needless to say, the Brazilian blowout has yet to reach Jukkäsjarvi, population 519, but no one travels to this small one-street town on the banks of the pristine Torne River to be pampered. They go for the Northern Lights and the ice (occasionally the ice goes to them—Jukkasjärvi’s talented ice-smiths supply pop-up ice bars as far afi eld as Tokyo and Dubai). Sometimes they even go to get married. “It was always going to be a destination wedding by default,” said Landreth, who had been discussing marriage with Kessler since last June. “But we’d always of thought Connecticut or D.C.” They didn’t anticipate their journey would involve sled dogs or a wedding banquet consisting of reindeer stew.
For their wedding night, the lovebirds chose a room inspired by the movie Tron, installed by British designers Ben Rousseau and Ian Douglas-Jones. The overall impression was of being trapped in an Atari video game. “We both embrace our inner geek,” said Kessler, adding that he and Landreth, students at UNC Chapel Hill, bonded over repeat viewings of Shaun of the Dead and Clerks 2. Similarly unfussy, the couple wore their snowsuits and boots during the ceremony. “We are here to celebrate love,” local minister Lise-Lott Wikholm told the congregation, before delivering a reading from Saint Paul. “It felt, in some senses, very binding,” said Kessler afterward. “We wish everyone we knew could have been here.” And with that, he and Landreth were ushered into a sled and driven off to their frosty honeymoon suite by two reindeer lucky enough to have escaped lunch.
To book a stay at Sweden’s Icehotel, or for details on getting married there, go to Icehotel.com.