When the coronavirus forced Claire Benjamin and Henry Fineberg to rethink their original wedding plans, they decided to elope in Colorado, choosing June 27 as a new date for their nuptials. But as it turned out, that summer day brought enough snow and powerful winds to turn the couple’s ceremony into the kind of adventure they hadn’t planned on.
“The wind was so fierce, making it nearly impossible for Henry to hold onto his wedding vows, which he had written on a piece of paper, and it also ripped my veil off my head,” said Ms. Benjamin, who was able to retrieve it.
To make matters worse, the temperature had dropped about 20 degrees, slipping into the low 40s.
“We also knew that there was a thunderstorm filled with lightning heading our way,” Ms. Benjamin added. “So we had to get out of there as soon as possible.”
Ms. Benjamin, 28, a communications manager at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois, and Mr. Fineberg, 32, a pilot for SkyWest Airlines based at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, were married atop a mountain stretching 13,000 feet into ominous clouds at Buckskin Pass, in White River National Forest near Aspen.
They were part of a five-person wedding party that began the day on a hiking trail, at an elevation point of 10,000 feet. From there, the bride and groom and their guests, proceeded to climb for four hours, ascending some 3,000 feet to reach the summit — at nearly 13,000 feet.
“Claire’s love of nature and adventure hooked me right off the bat,” said Mr. Fineberg. But he wasn’t exactly planning on the kind of adventure that unfolded during their exchange of vows before Jessica Haglund, who was ordained by American Marriage Ministries to lead the ceremony.
Their wedding was originally scheduled for Sept. 6 at Homer Lake Forest Preserve near Homer, Ill., with 120 invited guests.
Ms. Haglund was in the company of her dog, Rúna, a two-year-old shepard-husky mix, as well as two other friends of the couple, Jordan Goebig, who served as a wedding photographer, and her husband, Adam Rahn, a videographer.
“We changed into our wedding clothes when we got up there,” said Ms. Benjamin, who graduated from the University of Illinois, where she also received a master’s degree in advertising.
“Henry forgot his shirt but decided to still wear his tie,” said Ms. Benjamin, laughing, “until I told him to take it off.”
Mr. Fineberg, who also graduated from the University of Illinois and received an associate degree in aviation from Parkland College’s Institute of Aviation in Savoy, Ill., said it was also Ms. Benjamin’s “warmth and kindness,” that stood out when they met on Tinder in November 2016.
After exchanging notes, it appeared as though Ms. Benjamin had for years inadvertently stalked Mr. Fineberg, who then lived in a 400-square foot, garden-level apartment located in Urbana, Ill., next door to the home of Ms. Benjamin’s best friend, August Schiess.
Ms. Benjamin said she would often peek into Mr. Fineberg’s rather eccentric apartment, and with each peek, she would try to imagine what the man who lived in such a small space, illuminated by an antler chandelier and year-round Christmas lights, might be like.
She eventually got her answer. “In a way, he’s more than I could have ever possibly imagined,” Ms. Benjamin said. “He has a zest for life that I have never seen in anyone before.”
The day after they met on Tinder, Mr. Fineberg arrived at Ms. Benjamin’s home in Champaign, Ill., to attend her 1920s-themed birthday party. He wore khakis, a suit jacket, an aeronautical-themed tie, and an Akubra Australian cowboy hat.
They hit it off and began dating immediately.
“Before I left the party that night, I asked her out,” Mr. Fineberg said. “She was just so wonderful, and in so many different ways that there was no sense in wasting time.”