Not a Shotgun Wedding, But Camo Was in Fashion

Saturday, April 27, 2013
The bride wore white — sort of.

This being a union of two outdoors-loving souls, joined together in the Mecca of hunting supply stores, it was only fitting that the white dress be accented with a camouflage overlay, the groom don a camo-patterned tuxedo and baseball cap, and the ring bearer carry the bands down the aisle on a camo fishing pole.

A traditional white wedding with a clergyman held little appeal for Darrell and Ariel Colson of Tunbridge. In fact, before the Colsons were wed on St. Patrick’s Day at the Cabela’s store in Scarborough, Maine, “I wanted to go hunting and get married in the woods,” Ariel said.

The 23-year-old Mrs. Colson, nee Harrington, had looked into holding her nuptials to Darrell Colson, her boyfriend of eight years, at an elk camp near Derby, Vt. That’s when her grandmother suggested a wedding at Cabela’s, which the Colsons and their two young children visit several times a year. “She said with the distance, you may as well go to Cabela’s.”

Cabela’s is considered by many hunters and fishers to be the go-to place for equipment. The Sidney, Neb.-based company operates close to 40 retail stores, but is best known for its series of catalogs. Several Cabela’s stores have been the site of wedding ceremonies — in 2006, two Utah radio DJs held a mass “shotgun wedding” at a Lehi, Utah, Cabela’s, giving each couple a 12-gauge shotgun. But the Colson-Harrington nuptials were the first in the Scarborough Cabela’s location. When Ariel contacted the store, she emphasized that the couple wanted to keep the ceremony simple, said Greg Sirpis, the retail marketing manager, and the notary public who married the Colsons. “They wanted it simple, and I thought, It’s their wedding day. We had to find the middle ground between simple and special.”

Marrying at Cabela’s would spare the couple many of the headaches associated with wedding planning. “They were wicked excited and told me to give them a date, and they planned the rest,” Ariel said. The couple’s only responsibility was arranging lodging and planning the reception, which was held at Famous Dave’s Bar-B-Que in the same plaza as Cabela’s. Sirpis put the Colsons in touch with the catering manager, and after learning the couple were fans of the Animal Planet show North Woods Law — a Cops -esque reality show documenting the work of Maine game wardens — Sirpis invited a camera crew to film the wedding for an episode in North Woods Law ’s third season.

The full Cabela’s experience included having a pre-ceremony photo shoot with their dream equipment, including camo bows and rifles. The bride was carried to the ceremony, held in front of the store’s moose, on a camo utility vehicle. The couple’s 5-year-old son Carter dutifully carried the rings down the aisle on the camo fishing pole (younger sister Adelyn, then 21 months, was supposed to serve as flower girl, but grew fussy and slept through the ceremony). With 30 people in attendance, “we were able to keep it cozy and homestyle,” Sirpis said. “It wasn’t a big, loud deal, but it was still their special day.”

Most of the couple’s friends and families embraced the Cabela’s wedding, Ariel said, though there were a few raised eyebrows, and gently voiced concerns about how pictures of a camo wedding dress would look in 50 years. Yet on the day of the wedding, “they saw it and realized it wasn’t what they initially pictured a Cabela’s wedding to be like,” Ariel said.

Before the wedding, Sirpis himself had reservations about the tenor of the ceremony. “I’ll be honest with you. Being that it was my first wedding, I thought that it was going to be a little on the hokey side,” he said. “I was actually really pleased with the way it came out.” He also has the distinction of being the only Cabela’s employee to officiate a wedding in a Cabela’s store.

Pictures of the couple’s wedding line the walls of their Tunbridge home, a reminder of their one-of-a-kind nuptials. Looking back, Ariel said, “I would do it all over again. We said, when it‘s time to renew our vows, we’ll come (to Cabela’s) and do it.”

And the wedding celebration will linger on. In addition to the upcoming episode of North Woods Law featuring the wedding, the couple is also raising money for a bear hunting honeymoon on the crowd-funding site Fundly. For more information, or to donate, visit www.fundly.com/help-darrell-ariel-go-on-a-hunting-honeymoon.

Katie Beth Ryan can be reached at kbryan@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.