The Aquarena in San Marcos Texas, where underwater weddings are performed.
The Aquarena in San Marcos, Texas, where underwater weddings are performed.John Dominis—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
The Aquarena in San Marcos Texas, where underwater weddings are performed.
The Aquarena in San Marcos Texas, where underwater weddings are performed.
The Aquarena in San Marcos Texas, where underwater weddings are performed.
The Aquarena in San Marcos Texas, where underwater weddings are performed.
The Aquarena in San Marcos Texas, where underwater weddings are performed.
The wedding party during a rehearsal ceremony.
The Aquarena in San Marcos Texas, where underwater weddings are performed.
The Aquarena in San Marcos Texas, where underwater weddings are performed.
The Aquarena in San Marcos Texas, where underwater weddings are performed.
Bride and groom kiss after underwater wedding.
The Aquarena in San Marcos, Texas, where underwater weddings are performed.
John Dominis—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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How to Plan a Successful Underwater Wedding

Aug 03, 2015

The cost of the average American wedding reached an all-time high in 2014, surging past $30,000 for the entire affair—and as high as $76,000 in places like Manhattan. Under pressure to plan a memorably festive fête, couples shell out to extravagant caterers, top-notch florists and name-brand garment designers. But a simple shift in perspective might save the affianced a pretty penny.

In 1954, one couple opted out of the halls of worship and into the pool instead. For Bob Smith, a diving clown, and Mary Beth Sanger, an “Aquamaid” (presumably a synchronized swimmer), exchanging vows underwater was a romantic return to the place where they first met.

For modern couples looking to replicate Smith and Sanger’s aquatic ceremony, several of their tricks are well worth noting. First, they heavily employed lead weights—in his shoes and on her skirt—to help them balance underwater and prevent unwanted glimpses of flesh. Second, they used waxed cardboard to ensure that Smith’s freshly pressed shirt remained stiff underwater.

Finally, the pros at underwater breath control practiced the art of speaking and kissing while submerged: “They bubbled their ‘I do’s,’ practiced a damp kiss—and then emerged for the traditional dry rice.”

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.

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