This HGTV Designer Said “I Do” on Top of an Ice Floe in Antarctica

What was originally planned as a bucket-list 40th birthday trip serendipitously turned into a dream destination wedding for HGTV Dream Home designer, Brian Patrick Flynn, and his costume-designer husband, Hollis Smith.

October 15, 2019
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Photo By: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography

Photo By: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography

Cold Hands, Warm Hearts

When one groom is a producer and interior designer for HGTV and the other is a costume designer for top television shows like The Walking Dead, the wedding is bound to be incredible. But when long-time partners, Brian and Hollis, got engaged, they decided to forego the production and stress of an over-the-top wedding and opted instead for an intimate ceremony woven into the itinerary of a dream Antarctic vacation. With art photographer, Robert Peterson of Rustic White Photography, in tow, the pair set off for the trip of a lifetime.

Antarctic Summer

The best time to visit the Antarctic Peninsula is December through February, which happens to be the White Continent's summer. Although the weather is unpredictable year-round, it's possible for summer days to include totally calm seas and temperatures up to 44 degrees Fahrenheit.

Patagonia Stopover

In order to reach Antarctica, most tour companies disembark from Patagonia. While both Argentina and Chile are options, Brian and Hollis opted for Chilean Patagonia, spending three full days in Torres del Paine National Park while awaiting word for what day they'd depart for the White Continent from the southernmost tip of Chile.

Patogonia Winter

December can be a mild month in Chilean Patagonia complete with lush green vegetation and farms in almost every direction. The camps of Torres del Paine are romantic and easy to access, plus many have wine tastings and offer horseback riding.

Grey Lake

One of the most adventurous spots in Torres del Paine National Park is Grey Lake. Featuring stunning views of a glacier and sailing trips around chunky icebergs, it's a great way to take in the majestic mountains from a different vantage point.

Patagonian Winds

The winds in Patagonia are so strong that they're used as the main power source in Chile. During the trek out to Grey Lake, Brian and Hollis, along with Brian's sister and brother-in-law, experienced the notorious winds firsthand when hiking across the bay.

Antarctic Terrain

Upon arrival to the White Continent, the main landscape greets you with a palette of charcoal, black, moody blues and brilliant whites. Overcast days are often the most beautiful and excellent for photography due to the diffused nature of the sunlight.

Disembarkation

Since Antarctica is wild and unpredictable, any activities must be guided and supervised by trained safety professionals. In order to reach land, guests disembark from larger ships via smaller rubber boats referred to as Zodiacs.

Snowshoeing

If you're looking to stay active when in Antarctica, snowshoeing is a great low-risk, low-stress option. Guided by experienced wildlife and nature experts, snowshoeing provided Brian and Hollis with sweeping views of the landscapes and up-close encounters with Antarctic wildlife.

Sunny Summers

Although Antarctica is the coldest place in the world, summer days can be surprisingly mild. With 24-hour sunlight, it's possible for temperatures to reach into the fifties for hours on end, allowing visitors to shed winter gear and experience the White Continent in jeans and long sleeve shirts.

Weather Conditions

Antarctica is known for having the most turbulent weather conditions on the planet. When you visit, it's likely you'll have a flexible itinerary that's based, hour-by-hour, on the weather. In the event of extra-strong winds or high seas, travelers may have to remain anchored in a safe harbor for days and enjoy time on board with presentations from staff scientists.

Ceremony Prep

Unsure what day they'd actually get married, Brian and Hollis had to keep their suits at the ready while waiting to receive word of good weather and safe conditions on land. Since a calm afternoon can turn windy and dangerous in a matter of minutes, the couple were on high alert knowing they may only have 10-15 minutes to get ready for their big day.

Antibacterial Boots

Rubber boots ... as wedding attire? Yep! It's mandated that any travelers to the White Continent wear antibacterial rubber boots provided by their ship's staff to protect the continent's natural environment. Although dress shoes are permitted once onboard the ship, the boots were mandatory for any activities on land.

Lemaire Channel

One of the most desirable spots to visit on the Antarctic Peninsula is the Lemaire Channel. Since winds can cause ice floes to pack together and form a solid sheet of ice in the channel, it's not always accessible. On December 15th, 2017, the seas were calm and the ice floe was loose, allowing Brian and Hollis access.

Boots on Snow

When Hollis designed the look of the wedding, he chose dark pants for himself and Brian so the mandatory antibacterial boots would blend in rather than stand out.

Once in a Lifetime

On the day of their ceremony, the weather was so perfect that Brian and Hollis were able to tie the knot while standing on the water. Their guides tested several ice floe options for stability, finally deciding on this spot, with jagged Antarctic mountains as the backdrop and the mirror-like still water of the Lemaire channel below.

Black Wedding Bands

Brian and Hollis chose an unusual finish for their wedding bands. Since they were getting married on the White Continent, they decided to contrast their wedding bands against the landscape, opting for stainless steel rings in a matte black finish.

Handsome in Blue

With their wedding happening on the deep blue seas of Antarctica, Hollis opted for a tone-on-tone look. His Dolce and Gabbana suit is made of dark blue velvet with a brownish-black lapel that ties in with the rugged terrain of the mountains.

Dashing in Red

For a sophisticated and wintry touch, Hollis dressed Brian in a suit made of deep merlot-toned velvet. The richness of the red really pops against the stark white backdrop and offered a warm contrast to the coolness of Hollis' blue-toned ensemble.

Wedding Moment

Once the pair were in place for their nuptials, the Antarctic guides left Hollis and Brian to their own devices for several minutes to have their official wedding photo taken. During this time, the clouds totally disappeared from the sky, warming the Lemaire Channel up to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Special Fact: Since ice floes melt, break into smaller fragments and evaporate, no one will ever be able to get married exactly where Brian and Hollis did!

Wedding Banner

To commemorate the moment, the couple had a graphic designer create a custom banner to announce their Antarctica nuptials. Since it was such a rare, special situation, they wanted to capture the experience in as many creative ways as possible.

Harsh Conditions

Just a few minutes after having their wedding photo taken, the crew received word that the winds had picked up and were quickly causing the ice floes along the Lemaire Channel to lock together. To avoid the risk of getting stuck, Hollis and Brian jumped right back into their Zodiac, and the crew took them back to the ship to finish their wedding pictures on deck.

Front of Ship

Tour companies can't make any promises in regard to landing on the continent for wedding photos, and in the event the weather doesn't cooperate, they offer photos on the ship with the scenery in the background. After making it to and from the Lemaire Channel, Brian and Hollis had additional wedding images taken on the front of the ship, sans rubber boots since regular shoes are allowed on the ship.

Wedding Lighting

One of the reasons Antarctica is so spectacular for photography is the diffused light from its constant cloud cover. With the sun hidden by the wintry clouds, beautifully filtered light made for perfect, romantic wedding portraits.

Ice Caves

Several hours after their nuptials, Brian and Hollis decided to join a guided kayak tour near the spectacular ice caves seen all around the Antarctic Peninsula. Due to safety reasons, kayaks and ships must remain at a substantial distance from the icebergs and caves since they are constantly flipping and breaking apart.

Kayaking Guide

Due to safety, all kayaking in Antarctica must be supervised by a seasoned professional. Before setting out in their own kayak, Brian and Hollis followed an experienced guide from New Zealand who tested the waters before having them follow.

Life Suits

Before stepping foot in a kayak, anyone interested in kayaking must learn how to put on and take off a life suit. These yellow suits supply enough insulation and protection to keep people from going into hypothermic shock in the event they fall into the water. It takes approximately 15 minutes to put them on.

Kayaks for Two

Although single kayaks are a bit easier to operate, a two-person kayak offers a more romantic experience. Each kayaking adventure was a maximum of 90 minutes to avoid any exhaustion from rough waves or harsh winds.

Wildlife Encounters

In addition to the majestic landscapes, kayaking in Antarctica offers a chance to get up close and personal with penguins as they navigate around the water. While on land they seem clumsy and comical, in the water penguins are very graceful and nimble.

Port Lockroy

Although few and far between, there are some inhabitable structures on the White Continent. Hollis and Brian ended their trip by visiting Port Lockroy where researches live while gathering data. The red and black coloring of the cabins adds a stark contrast against the all-white backdrop.

24 Hours of Daylight

The sun never truly sets during the Antarctic summers. In the event of a clear, sunny day, visitors can find themselves kayaking as late as midnight or 2 a.m. with the look and feel of a bright and sunny afternoon.

Polar Plunge

A major bucket-list item for people traveling to Antarctica is to take the polar plunge into the ocean. To do this, tour companies tether travelers to a secure landing and have a medic nearby to ensure the experience is safe and quick. For Brian, it was an invigorating end to a whirlwind wedding day.

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