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Couples can take the plunge with scuba weddings

A Florida company plans underwater ocean packages, in which guests on a boat will listen and watch through a video hookup. Jewish ceremony? They've got the glass-smashing figured out.

July 26, 2009|Alexia Campbell

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. — Getting married can be stressful enough. Now try it 20 feet underwater -- and make it a Jewish wedding, where the groom is expected to smash a wrapped glass with his heel.

No problem, says Debbi Ballard. The ordained Jewish cantor is training at a Fort Lauderdale scuba shop to perform underwater ceremonies where the groom can smash a lightbulb with his flipper and the couple can drink wine out of a sippy cup.

"Not everyone is cut out for a white wedding," said Ballard, 47.

Pro Dive International, which plans to offer underwater ocean weddings in the next few months, is looking for other clergy willing to take the plunge.

On a recent dive, Ballard tested a mask with a microphone that will allow her to talk to the bride and groom underwater while guests on a boat listen and watch through a video hookup.

Unconventional weddings are gaining popularity among young people, said Jannette Alix, president of the Miami-Dade and Broward County chapter of the National Assn. of Wedding Professionals.

Underwater weddings have been done before, but a Jewish one is rare, she said. "There's a new breed of people that want something unique."

Some rabbis don't know what to think.

As long as certain traditions are kept, the ocean wedding could be legal according to Jewish law, said Rabbi Barry Silver of Congregation L'Dor Va-Dor in Boynton Beach.

Rabbi Richard Polirer, of Congregation Beth Hillel in Margate, said the idea could grow on him, but he doesn't know whether couples ought to do it just for the sake of it. "Just because you can doesn't mean you should," he said.

The idea of underwater religious nuptials came six months ago to Pro Dive owner Doug Huberman and his wife.

They planned to retake their wedding vows in their scuba gear and decided to turn it into a business venture. Huberman expects to invest about $50,000 and offer wedding packages starting around $1,500. He said he didn't expect it to be a huge moneymaker.

And the ministers have to be a special breed. "We are looking for people who want to be pioneers," he said.

Ballard is one of them.

She has performed weddings for five years, but never considered learning to scuba dive until Huberman proposed the idea.

"I thought, 'Oh my God, this is crazy,' " said Ballard, who officiated at Huberman's wedding in St. Croix more than three years ago.

Now Ballard is hooked. She's even open to the idea of getting married underwater one day herself.

"Somebody else will have to officiate it for me," she said. "You can't marry yourself."

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acampbell@sunsentinel.com

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