The bride wore traditional white, including a distinctive veil trimmed with seaglass and shells, and the groom was in black. She had a tasteful wrist corsage and he had a boutonniere. But both wore SCUBA tanks, too, as Toni Wilson wed John Santino underwater off Frederiksted on September 13, 2003, with 106 fellow divers in attendance. The ceremony is believed to have broken a previous record for the largest number of divers underwater for a wedding, set in 2001 when 39 divers were on hand for one in Florida.
"We're waiting for confirmation from the Guiness Book of World Records," says Santino, manager and instructor at one of the island's leading dive companies, St. Croix Ultimate Bluewater Adventures. Santino learned to dive in 1991 in Florida while attending college, and his fiancé, Toni Wilson, was certified after moving to St. Croix. The couple became engaged and began planning a small wedding on dry land. However, when friends jokingly suggested holding it underwater, the idea took hold . A date was set, friends from the States made plans to come down, and island dive clubs spread the word for local divers to turn out and help break the world record.
Of course, special considerations affected the planning right from the start, and friends from work stepped in to help. "Ed and Molly (Buckley, owners of SCUBA) did so much to make it easy with all the logistics," he says. First, it was necessary to find someone certified as a diver to officiate. Captain John Macy (also known as Big Beard,) who has married more than 700 couples on St. Croix, though never before underwater, was willing and able. Then, a perfect location was needed, and one presented itself at a depth of 10 to 15 feet of water just offshore from Rainbow Beach in Frederiksted. "It had a nice coral background that made a natural altar," says Santino.
The environment beneath the surface presented challenges not typical for wedding planners. Laminated papers were inscribed with the vows, rings were tied so they wouldn't float away, and a desk was placed underwater where each attendee could sign the official registry to document the event.
As the big moment approached, the bride and groom watched guests, some complete strangers, make their water into the water. Video cameras rolled and fish swam by as the ceremony began.
After holding up their "I do" signs, the bride and groom were pronounced man and wife by Big Beard. No matter what the setting, weddings are romantic, and the regulators were removed for an old-fashioned kiss. Instead of applauding, guests banged on their tanks as noisemakers. After everyone made their way out of the sea, "We just hung out at Rainbow Beach," Santino says - a perfect way to end a unique St. Croix wedding day.