Traverse City Record-Eagle

Northern Living

August 26, 2012

Blasting off at jetpack wedding

TRAVERSE CITY — The bride wore traditional white with a veil; the groom, black with a white bow tie.

But instead of gown and tuxedo, Amanda Volf and Grant Engler dressed in wetsuit and rash guard over boardshorts.

And instead of arriving at their beach wedding by limousine, they blasted over a harbor with jet packs strapped to their backs.

The couple, who exchanged wedding vows Thursday in Newport Beach, Calif. before about 40 friends and family, are believed to be the first to marry by jet pack. The watersport system lets pilots fly as high as 30 feet in the air, skim above the water at speeds over 30 mph and even submarine underwater using nothing but water pumped through a giant tube from a boat to propel them.

"We'll start out in the harbor at different ends of the beach," Engler, a Traverse City native and assistant hotel manager in Grand Rapids, said on Monday. "Amanda will land near her father, who will walk her down the beach (to Pachelbel's Canon). An officiant will do some cool readings, we'll exchange vows, then we will blast off into the sunset of our new life."

A Jet Ski with a "Just Married" sign was expected to keep pace on the water between them.

The unusual wedding was hosted by Zozi, an online adventure-travel operator through which the couple booked a spring vacation to Mexico. That's where Engler, 25, popped the question on one knee, wearing an old Zozi T-shirt.

"I didn't go specifically to propose, but as it got closer I started to realize it'd be a pretty awesome idea to propose in this beautiful location," said Engler, who handed off his camera to a stranger on the beach to capture the surprise proposal.

After emailing an image of the special moment to Zozi, Engler was contacted by public relations manager Tian Lee in June. Lee told Engler the email had captured the hearts of everyone at the company, including CEO TJ Sassani. As a result, Zozi wanted to arrange an unforgettable wedding for the couple, who she said embody the company's spirit of adventure.

"Our mission, and why we started, is that we wanted to inspire people to look at life the way Grant and Amanda do," Lee said. "They're open-minded, they go with the flow, they're open to new (experiences). It's that spirit we really like."

Besides providing the couple's Jetpack Experience packages through Jetlev Southwest, based in Newport Beach, Zozi provided a wedding officiant, airfare for Engler's family and lodging for both of the couple's families. It also captured the wedding on video for the couple after their three-hour practice session.

"We will try to do their first dance hovering in the air to the music of Frank Sinatra's 'Come Fly with Me,'" Lee said, adding that the over-the-top wedding has been submitted to Guinness World Records.

The couple met in 2009 at a Lake Tahoe resort where both worked after graduating from college hospitality and tourism management programs. Engler was a recreation manager; Volf, 26, a northern California native, was a catering sales manager who coordinated weddings.

Engler said in order to take advantage of Zozi's offer, the couple had to move up their own wedding — originally set for 2013 in Traverse City — by almost a year.

"This was an awesome opportunity and just having the opportunity to be a part of it is something we didn't want to miss," he said. "Obviously Amanda had to give up the traditional wedding she had in mind. Given everything we get from it, it's well worth it."

Nancy Engler said she isn't surprised her son leaped at the experience. His adventurous spirit also has taken him snorkeling, rockclimbing, stand-up paddleboarding and skydiving.

"He and his brother are both the same. They love adventure. They're willing to try anything," said Nancy Engler, a preschool assistant at Courtade Elementary in Traverse City.

"Everyone can have an everyday, average old-fashioned wedding." said Mark Engler, the groom's father and an employee of Northern Concrete Pipe in Traverse City. "Who can say they did this?"

Grant Engler said the couple planned to enjoy a traditional reception after the wedding and then take a "mini-honeymoon" at the Lake Tahoe resort where they met. Sometime in the next year they'll embark on a Zozi honeymoon of their choice, from a tiger shark cage-dive adventure in the Bahamas to a surf and yoga escape in Costa Rica.

But he said the couple's wedding ceremony is likely to remain at the top of his excellent adventures.

"Everyone thinks it's an awesome story," he said. "I can't tell you how many times I've told this story — and it's a long one cause you have to start at the beginning."

For images and video clips of the wedding and a chance to win an-inclusive jet pack adventure, visit www.zozi.com.

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