A-List Wedding: Once Upon a Time in a Far Away Place

Once upon a time in a far away place
Photography by Angela Karen
The bride: Michelle Cardel, 29. Originally from Puerto Rico and Orlando, she moved to Birmingham in 2006 for graduate school and completed an R.D. (registered dietitian), Masters in Nutrition Science, and PhD in Nutrition Science at UAB.

The groom: Dominick Lemas, 30. From Seward, Alaska, he moved to Birmingham in 2010, as a visiting scholar from University of Alaska Fairbanks, for additional training in statistical genetics and epidemiology at UAB. He completed his PhD in Biochemistry from UAF but spent two years getting trained at UAB–which is where the couple met.

Michelle writes:
Dom is from Alaska and is an Alaskan mountain man who loves his home state. I knew how much being in Alaska meant to him, so I suggested to him that I try and finish up my internship at the Alaskan Native Medical Center in Anchorage this summer so that we could spend our summer there. He was really excited about the possibility. On April 28, 2012 we packed up our Jeep Liberty with as much stuff as we could and we hit the road for Alaska.

We spent 15 days driving and stopped at so many beautiful places along the way including: Oklahoma, Denver, Idaho, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver Island, Vancouver, Whistler, Whitehorse, and finally arrived in Alaska.  It was a really special trip. Our families joked that if we could get along for 15 days in a car with all our stuff and our dog, that there was no doubt we could make this marriage work.

When we stopped in Seattle, we visited a little vineyard called Trillium Creek Winery (trilliumcreekwinery.com/meet.html) and picked out the wine we planned on serving at our wedding. This beautiful tiny five-acre vineyard is owned by Claude and Claudia Gahard, who opened the vineyard after they retired. We picked out two amazing wines, including their syrah and their pinot noir. After we left there, Dom and I decided that we wanted to open a B&B/vineyard when we retired!

We spent all summer in Alaska. I finished my dietetic internship at the Alaskan Native Medical Center and we both finished writing our dissertations during this time. Even though we were very busy finishing our PhDs, we still made lots of time for fun. We married on August 3 in Seward, Alaska.

Many of Dom’s family and friends are from or live in Alaska so it wasn’t an issue for most of them to come to the wedding.  My family, however, is from Puerto Rico and Florida, so we were so honored that 33 of my dearest family and friends flew in from all over to join us the week of our wedding. We had so much fun with them the week before the wedding and we planned adventures for them, including a trip to Denali National Park where we saw tons of wildlife, Mt. McKinley, and went white water rafting. People also went fishing and caught lots of salmon and halibut.

One of our best memories: A huge group of us hiked up to the Harding Ice Field (a really difficult seven hour hike to the top of Exit Glacier). It has one of the most amazing views and lots of people said it was one of their favorite parts of the trip. Some people also did a Helicopter and dog sledding tour on top of the glaciers. It was absolutely stunning. Two days before the wedding, we held an oceanside BBQ where his friends and family got to meet and hang out with my friends and family. Everyone got along so great and we had so much fun spending time together. On the night before the wedding, we did our rehearsal dinner on the Kenai Fjord Fox Island Dinner cruise  We got to see humpback whales, sea otters, and seals followed by a delicious dinner of Alaskan salmon and prime rib.

The best part of this whole wedding is how everyone (his family and mine) came together to make the event beautiful for us. Dominick and I were both graduate students and we paid for the majority of the wedding. Since we didn’t have much money, we tried to do things in the simplest way possible. Our families worked so hard all week, collecting wild flowers, baking appetizers, and decorating our wedding venue to make it look beautiful. It was really special because it was the collaboration of both families that made the wedding such a success.

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