A promise frozen in time

Wedding: Dozens of couples choose to skate -- not walk -- down the aisle in a Valentine's Day ceremony at the Harbor Point rink.

February 15, 2004|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

Decked out in a beaded, ivory dress, 22-year-old bride Ivana Raspica did not walk down the aisle.

Instead, she skated -- with her groom, John Trawinski, beside her.

Along with 65 other happy couples, the pair exchanged vows on ice in a Valentine's Day ceremony at the new Baltimore Ice Rink at Harbor Point.

Sponsored by Baltimore radio station MIX 106.5 FM, yesterday's "Wedding on Ice" brought together 20 couples and 46 pairs who renewed their vows in a nondenominational ceremony.

It was the seventh year for the harborside event, which moved from Rash Field to the new venue this year.

Those getting hitched for real needed only two things: a marriage license and a willingness to risk the ice -- with or without skates. Afterward, the wedding couples had their licenses signed by the Rev. Joel Dan Lehman, a retired evangelical minister.

"It's romantic, and it's perfect for us," said Trawinski, 24, of Hampstead, just before he and Raspica stepped on the ice. "It's unique."

Added Raspica, "No one does this. Everyone does the traditional way."

Everyone but the other 19 couples, some of whom wore full wedding garb --black-and-white tuxedos, long gowns and veils. Other wore hockey jerseys and jeans. Many laced up in skates, while a few stuck with shoes and sneakers.

Jerry Taylor, 32, who married 25-year-old Jamie Mason (both are from Hampden), was more nervous about slipping and falling on the ice.

"I've only skated once before," he confessed.

With music for the wedding procession playing over loudspeakers, each couple skated or walked to the middle of the rink as friends and family members looked on from the sidelines, taking pictures and holding up signs to congratulate the couples.

In a 5-minute exchange of vows before Lehman, the couples recited matrimonial promises to one other in unison.

Facing each other, Sthefane Melo, 35, and her husband, Purna Chhetri, 28, exchanged vows on ice for the fourth time since they were officially married in 2001.

Melo met Chhetri in 2000 while they were working as waiters in a Baltimore restaurant. A year later, they were married on ice and have made a tradition of renewing their commitment the same way.

With one exception: This time, Melo put aside her skates because she's five months' pregnant.

"We want to make it a regular thing as long as we're here in Baltimore," Chhetri said. "Maybe 20 years later, we'll still be here."

A "first skate" followed the ceremony. Those without skates danced on the mats in the middle of the rink.

Hand in hand, Trawinski and Raspica glided effortlessly around the ice. The couple met four years ago in her native Croatia, where he was a Marine Corps guard at the U.S. Embassy.

For nearly two years, they dated, but when he left Croatia, they continued a long-distance courtship for another year and a half. Trawinski proposed last January during a carriage ride around Central Park in New York City.

While planning a more traditional wedding, the couple heard about the Baltimore event from a friend and checked it out.

"There wasn't anything cool as this that grabbed us," said Trawinski, a 911 dispatcher with Baltimore County.

When Trawinski and Raspica stepped off the ice, family members and friends from Michigan and Florida greeted them with hugs.

One was Raspica's sister, 24-year-old Jelena Worden. She said that when she heard about their plans, she said she thought: "They're crazy in love."

Trawinski and Raspica received an extra wedding present: a honeymoon trip to Jamaica, courtesy of a prize drawing.

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