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Ice Sculptures for Weddings & Special Events: Ephemeral and Elegant

Part fantasy, part function, part art and magic, ice sculpture is a unique addition to any wedding.

Two newlyweds embrace each other. The bride, dressed like Scarlett O'Hara, sparkles, radiant light pouring from her face and spilling across the room. Her husband looks into her eyes, his adoring gaze frozen in time.

A striking picture carved in ice, this famous scene from Gone With the Wind is duplicated for a pair of movie-buffs on their wedding night, their faces etched in place of Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable to create a romantic vision that becomes the centerpiece of the evening.

From the practical to pure spectacle, ice sculpture is made to order, fitting any style, theme, or occasion. "The key is to make it as specific [to the event] as possible," says Shintaro Okamoto, creative designer and sculptor for the New York-based Okamoto Studios. On the other hand, he says, "When a couple calls us up and says, 'I want an ice sculpture, but I don't know what I want,' it's a chance for us to dig and learn what they really want and to come up with something they hadn't even imagined."

In addition to renderings of the bride and groom, ice artisans can carve the likeness of favorite pets or replicas of famous works of art, as well as altars, ice "luges" for poured shots of liquor, and bars for drinks, seafood, or caviar. "We've done a series of full-figure Italian sculptures by Leonardo and Boticelli," notes Okamoto.

Each sculpture is carved out of large, slow-frozen blocks of ice, using a variety of custom chisels and power tools. Okamoto uses ice blocks weighing 300 pounds each, with many installations requiring several blocks to be fully realized.

Versatility and creativity are central, with sculptors playing the part of lighting designers, artists, and architects. "One client wanted an ice sculpture in the middle of his pool as part of a seafood buffet," recalls Mark Daukas, a 30-year veteran and six-time national champion of ice sculpting. "So, I engineered a scaffolding and made a 60-foot-long display with all these lights shining up underwater through the ice. It was just incredible."

Sari Gorman, a wedding designer and founder of GMB Culinary Productions, Inc. in Toronto, says her work on high-end weddings has included everything from ice curtains and chandeliers to a 40-foot ice bar for serving food and drinks. "I really like to create around the element," Gorman says. "Rather than just saying, 'Hey, let's put an ice bar here,' I make the ice sculpture a part of the design."

Even the most static ice displays can be surprisingly interactive. "Most people can't believe stuff is made out of ice," says Okamoto. "There's a lot of touching, which I really encourage."

Elegant and ephemeral, ice sculpture create memories of a couple's first, fleeting moments together as husband and wife that won't soon melt away.

"When I set up a wedding piece, it's usually no longer than a half hour before people see it, so often I am able to hear or see the results," says Daukas. "For example, there's an angel I did – the husband wanted to surprise his new wife with it. It touched her heart; she was just taken aback, so surprised."


> Written by Christopher Curley

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