Couple Marries Mid-Flight in Surprise Airplane Wedding for Mom Battling Cancer

Kristy and Jim Airplane weddingJim and Kristy surprised her sick mother by getting married 35,000 feet in the air on flight 461 from Los Angeles to Seattle. Credit: Christina Frees/Frees it in Time Photography

Love was in the air somewhere over Oregon when flight attendant Kristy Larsen and her husband Jim married in a one-of-a-kind airplane wedding on Alaska Airlines Flight 461 Friday, February 19.

Bride Kristy, who first met Jim in a Seattle coffee shop while she was on a layover, had been working for the airline for 11 years before taking to the skies to wed her fiance. Sharing with The Knot that they not only took a leap by getting engaged on Leap Day, February 29, 2012, the pair went to even greater heights for their airplane wedding last weekend!

But Frees it in Time photographer and friend of the bride Christina Frees told The Knot that planning a speedy airplane wedding isn’t an easy task. “Getting permission for this type of wedding is rare and hard. Last time our airline approved someone to get married in flight was another one of our flight attendants over 20 years ago!” She added, “We work for the best airline, with the best crews and it really took everyone’s help to pull it off.”

Bride Kristy holding bridal bouquet during airplane wedding

Kristy held a bridal bouquet of pink, purple and white flowers on her wedding day. Credit: Christina Frees/Frees it in Time Photography

Kristy called the planning process “tricky,” adding that Alaska Airline inflight supervisor and friend Rita Daniels was an asset in procuring permissions. She helped make sure the ceremony ran smoothly so Kristy could celebrate at 35,000 feet with her close friends and unsuspecting passengers on the sold out flight!

“I had 11 days to plan which included coming up with the idea, getting permission from Alaska Airlines, designing and making my shoes and accessories, coordinating tickets and getting medical approval for my mom to travel,” Kristy told The Knot.

Airplane wedding vow exchange

With the blessing of the Captain, the bride and groom were married by pastor Scott Wetzel. Credit: Christina Frees/Frees it in Time Photography

The bride’s mother Billie Jo had been receiving treatments for lung cancer while living in Los Angeles. She was able to not only witness her daughter’s wedding, but also travel to Seattle to see where her daughter lives with Jim and how she works in airplanes. Christina shared that the wedding was a secret for Billie Jo saying, “I think she reacted the way everyone on the plane did. With shock and joy! I believe her words were ‘pretty spectacular!’ There were tears, laughs and lots of hugs.”

“She was VERY excited and said, ‘That’s my Kissy!’ My family’s nickname for me,” Kristy told The Knot. “She says, ‘I am super pleased to see my girl so happy.'” Contrary to other reports, the bride shared that her mother was doing well adding, “She is strong and improving. She’s had positive results from the new alternative immunotherapy treatments for her lung cancer.”

Airplane wedding champagne toast

Kristy and Jim shared a toast with flight 461 passengers after their wedding ceremony. Credit: Christina Frees/Frees it in Time Photography

Calling on not only her chosen wedding guests of flight attendants and Alaska Airlines supervisors, the bride cleverly devised ways to transform the airplane into a wedding venue with the help of its 165 passengers. “The passengers were amazing! People love a love story and a surprise. This obviously had both,” the wedding photographer said. “They were asked to hold tulle down the aisle, chocolate roses, and were given bubbles for the walk back down.”

Airplane wedding aisle

Passenger helped create a wedding aisle for the bride and groom and blew bubbles after the ceremony. Credit: Christina Frees/Frees it in Time Photography

“I have never photographed a wedding where the people attending the wedding didn’t know they were going to be part of such an emotional and intimate moment,” Christina told The Knot. “None of the 165 passengers knew the couple and everyone was so excited to share in their love. It was so amazing to see people come together to celebrate a beautiful love story and touching moment with Jim, Kristy and her mom Billie Jo.”

Thankful for the receptive rows of spontaneous wedding guests, the bride also exclusively shared with The Knot that her favorite memory of the day was, “Seeing the passengers so engaged and enjoying themselves. You could feel the happiness, love and joy spreading throughout the cabin.”

Airplane wedding passengers

Passengers aboard flight 461 from Los Angeles to Seattle helped Kristy and Jim celebrate their wedding. Credit: Christina Frees/Frees it in Time Photography

“Well….and the shoes!” the bride added. “I really enjoyed designing and most of all wearing them.” The shoes in question are custom white pumps dreamt up and painted by the bride to resemble the Alaska Airlines airplane, complete with blue heels with a green stripe, and rows of tiny windows. Kristy said, “I loved people’s reactions to the shoes!” The Knot certainly can’t get enough of this unique airplane wedding detail, too!

Airplane wedding heels

Kristy told The Knot that she “loved” peoples reactions to the airplane wedding heels she designed herself. Credit: Christina Frees/Frees it in Time Photography

Despite the “short notice plan,” photographer and flight attendant Christina leapt at the opportunity to capture her friends Kristy and Jim’s location-less wedding. “I didn’t find out the location was a plane until the week before!” she said. “I love planes as much as I love photography and feel really comfortable in that environment so I knew it would be a challenge, but one I was happy to take.”

Much like planning an airplane wedding, navigating the cabin of a sold out Alaska Airlines flight that’s been transformed into a wedding venue proved to be quite the experience. The photographer grabbed an open jumpseat on the sold out flight and prepared to shoot the airplane wedding in its less-than-ideal photographic conditions.

Airplane wedding flight 461 passengers

Photographer Christina Frees said the passengers were “amazing” and supportive of the mid-flight ceremony. Credit: Christina Frees/Frees it in Time Photography

“If you’ve ever been on an airplane you know the lighting is bad! Like ’70s school bathroom bad,” she joked. “I prefer to shoot in natural light and there was none to be had in that environment. It’s also not the prettiest location.” With a 22-inch aisle, a full cabin and low lighting, Christina explained, “It was a challenge but so fun!”

“My goal was to use my 85mm fixed lens to get beautiful close-in shots focusing on the emotion of the bride and groom,” Christina added. She managed to capture beautiful shots of the bride and groom walking down the airplane’s aisle, getting married by friend and pastor Scott Wetzel, and sharing priceless moments with Billie Jo and the rest of the cabin.

Airplane wedding arrival in Seattle

The bride and groom were greeted at their gate with signs and balloons in Seattle. Credit: Christina Frees/Frees it in Time Photography

When the plane touched down in Seattle, the bride shared with The Knot that the airline had created a special welcome at the gate complete with congratulatory signs, balloons and flowers. “The following day we had a wedding reception in Snohomish, Washington for friends and family,” she shared.

Airplane wedding couple eating cake in airport

The bride and groom shared a piece of cake at the airport. Credit: Christina Frees/Frees it in Time Photography

Though the couple are waiting for things to settle down a bit before venturing off to Iceland for their honeymoon, Kristy did reveal one regret about a project she hopes to start working on soon. “I am designing custom fabrics to add comments, wishes and names of the ones who witnessed our ceremony into a memory quilt,” she said. “My only regret was not giving [the flight passengers] a way to stay in touch and share their pictures, videos and thoughts with us.”

Airplane wedding exit

After the wedding, Kristy and Jim held a reception for friends and family. Credit: Christina Frees/Frees it in Time Photography

So, if you happened to be on the momentous flight and witnessed Kristy and Jim Larsen’s airplane wedding, share your experience with the couple by using their unique hashtag #weddingflight461. We can’t wait to see what others caught on camera from throughout the cabin!

About the Author

Kaitlin Jones
Kaitlin Jones
Kaitlin is an online news writer at The Knot covering viral wedding news. She has a Bachelor’s in English from Plymouth State University. Kaitlin has a passion for news writing and all things Disney.