While sitting outside on a sunny day looking out over Lake Darling, Craig Mische saw "a huge congregation of boats developing" and wondered what was going on.
Curiosity got the best of the Alexandria realtor, so he decided to explore it a little closer — with his drone.
"I thought I'd just take a look," said Mische. "I was shocked to see how many pontoons were there."
What he discovered shortly before 5 p.m. on Friday, June 22, was the wedding of an Alexandria couple, Randy and Michelle (Fette) Thoennes.
While flying his drone over the pontoons, Mische recognized one of the wedding guests, Andy Akenson, and sent him a text message asking if he thought the couple would like an aerial group photo.
Akenson responded with the names of the bride and groom, and that's when Mische realized the bride was a former classmate.
"Michelle and I both graduated from Jefferson High School in 1987," Mische said.
After putting a new battery in his drone, he flew it back out to the group and not only took photos for the new bride and groom, but also videos.
"It just looked like a good-natured group and they were having fun," said Mische. "And then it ended up being a wedding. The group was respectful and were having some good, clean fun."
Mische jokingly said he might end up with a second career — a drone wedding photographer.
A wedding on the water
Michelle Thoennes said that she and her new husband, Randy, had talked about having someone take pictures with a drone for their wedding, but never got around to actually hiring someone.
"It's so awesome that he was out there," she said. "And it's ironic that it was him."
When asked why they had their wedding on a lake, Thoennes said they wanted something a little more casual.
"We spend so much time on the water in the summer that it just seemed natural to have our wedding there," she said. "We did have a plan B just in case, but thankfully we didn't have to use that.
"We couldn't have been happier. Everything was perfect."
A total of 18 pontoons were in the wedding party. And although many of their guests had their own, Thoennes said that three had to be rented.
All of the guests headed out to the chosen spot before the bride and groom and tied the pontoons together in two rows, forming an "aisle" for the bride and groom to come down.
"There was music playing and it was like we were walking down the aisle when we pulled our pontoon up," said Thoennes. "It took a lot of coordination, with the music and the decorations and everything. We are so grateful to everyone."
Thoennes said the ceremony was performed by the couple's pastor, John Taplin, who is the senior minister from New Life Christian Church. He has presided over hundreds of weddings and a few unusual ones, such as a wedding on horseback, but never one quite like this.
Taplin thought that a wedding on the water was a great idea, and that it probably took more coordination and organizing than a normal wedding in a church.
"It was a very short, Christ-focused wedding," said the pastor, who added that he likes it when couples have unique weddings. "So many are the same. When they are unique, it makes it a lot more memorable for the couple and the guests."
"Everybody loved it," Thoennes said. "They thought it was the coolest wedding. And the weather cooperated!"
After they were back on dry land, the newlyweds served dinner at their house and then danced the night away at the Elks.