Scuba enthusiasts wed 15 feet under

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Posted by on April 25, 2005 at 04:48:06:

Couple met four years ago on a dive in California

Sunday afternoon was perfect for an Alki Beach wedding. The day was shirtsleeve warm and bright, with thin veils of horsetail clouds across an otherwise spotless sky.

But at the critical moment when vows were exchanged, Curt McNamee and Melanie Clark were largely oblivious.

Curt McNamee, a diver from Everett, and Melanie Clark, a diving instructor, prepare to take the plunge -- literally -- on their wedding day off Alki Beach.

It wasn't blind love. This was a scuba wedding, and they were 15 feet under the surface of Elliott Bay.

Talk about taking the plunge.

As family and friends gathered before television monitors set up in the gravel of Cove 2, McNamee, 53, diver and Everett mortgage broker, and Clark, 31, diving instructor and hospital pharmacist, got hitched.

It is the second marriage for both. They met nearly four years ago on a dive in California, and the rest will soon be history.

"I was kind of anti-social on that trip," recalled the bride. "I made five or six dives that day, and Curt just kind of sat back. But then we got to know each other."

Bride, groom, the groomsmen, three of the party's four maids of honor, and even the parson, John Beckholder of the Cascade Community Church in Monroe, wore black -- wetsuits strapped to breathing apparatus.

When they got down under, the couple did not say their vows, but waggled cue cards encased in plastic so the type wouldn't run.

The groom's parents, Cal and Faye McNamee of Mill Creek, wore a look of bemusement.

"They met scuba diving," he said. She smiled.

The groom's sister and matron of honor, Sandy Vincent, came all the way from Michigan to attend the wedding, but did not get wet.

"I'm afraid of jellyfish," she said.

Scuba gear and plastic-encased cue cards that were used during the underwater ceremony.

But it was Vincent's touch that helped differentiate bride from groom in the get-ups they wore.

Vincent rigged her new sister-in-law with an ankle-length train and wrapped her from the waist down in another lace doodad. To keep the "gown" from floating off, each piece was outlined with small lead fishing weights clipped every few inches to the hems as if sewn on as sequins.

The groom submerged with a top hat scrunched down over his Neoprene hood, but it did not appear with him when the couple finally emerged.

As the ceremony began on the beach, Clark was given away by her mother, Rosemary Patterson of Calgary, Alberta. She didn't get wet either, but held the couple's flippers.

For the Rev. Beckholder, a 19-year friend of the groom, loading a couple of air tanks on his back and crawling into a wetsuit was a calling he could not reject, he said.

Not since he was a West Point cadet in a swimming pool 35 years ago had Beckholder sucked air from a scuba tank, he said. He did it for the first time in open water last week so that he could bless this union from the appropriate spot.

His wedding message to the couple focused on a traditional view of marriage and was offered at the water's edge. As expected, it included a few lines from the Bible -- Genesis, Chapter 1, in which Beckholder explained that woman is built from one of Adam's ribs.

When he got to the part about the submission of wives to their husbands, the weight of his air tank and the outfit he wore in the hot sun appeared to get the best of him for a second, and he rocked to one side before catching his balance.

Then his script got away. He clutched at it with his all-thumbs mitts of Neoprene, and again made things right.

At last they submerged, the bride with her bouquet of Baby's Breath, the groom in his top hat, and there was little from then on but bubbles and the bobbing of a plastic milk bottle that marked the wedding spot. It had been tethered to its anchor at rehearsal that morning.

In the comparative quiet, a Harley went by on Alki Way and then another, and there was the scrunching of footfalls in the gravel.

Finally, there was a cheer and then another, and shouts and applause.

Seen via underwater camera had been the waggling of "I do's," and the crowd went wild.

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