FRYING PAN SHOALS (WWAY) — A Pender County couple became the first couple to get married on Frying Pan Tower off the coast of North Carolina on Saturday.
Audrey and Ben Black live in Surf City but decided they wanted to get married in the middle of the ocean more than 30 miles offshore and 85 feet above the ocean.
“It was everything I’ve ever wanted, ever dreamed of,” Audrey Black said. “It was perfect.”
Frying Pan Tower was constructed in the early 1960s to replace a U.S. Coast Guard lightship that was stationed in Frying Pan Shoals for more than 100 years to help mariners navigate the shallow waters. The tower continues to help people safely maneuver through the area. It is used for environmental research and serves as a shelter to a natural ecosystem.
Richard Neal bought the tower at auction in 2010 and established the 501(c)3non-profit FPTower in 2018 to begin restoring the structure. He’s dedicated to the mission of restoring Frying Pan Tower to restore, protect and preserve the retired USCG light tower.
Ben Black volunteered to help with the restoration of the tower in 2020. Exactly one year ago on the day of the wedding, he sat on the helipad and prayed that his soulmate be placed in his life. Four days later, he got a notification on his phone alerting him it was Audrey’s birthday. They had been good friends for about a decade, but they’d lost touch and not spoken for years. He wished her happy birthday and the rest is history.
When Audrey suggested getting married at Frying Pan Tower, he was instantly sold on the idea. At 7:20 pm on Saturday, she walked out onto the helipad for the most special day.
“My heart skipped a few beats,” Ben said. “She was absolutely the most beautifully stunning woman I’d laid my eyes on.”
To their knowledge, their wedding was the very first ever held on the tower.
“It wasn’t necessarily a race to get out there to be the first by any stretch, it just so happened it worked out that way,” Ben said. “To be the first to get married out there is pretty cool.”
Local Photographer Jeff Wenzel and his assistant with Above Topsail Portrait Studio were charged with capturing the magic. Wenzel specializes in portraits and landscape artwork of Topsail Island, but when Ben asked him to shoot their wedding, Wenzel was excited to shoot the one-of-a-kind wedding.
“To be able to capture it, but more importantly for those images to be seen by them, by their children by their relatives, by their friends it’s just so important to me to not only capture the story but for them to be able to display it and see it,” Wenzel said.
Wenzel is working on the final product, but it is without a doubt going to be a beautiful story told.
“This is exactly what we wanted, this is the perfect way to start things off and for us to start our future together,” Ben said. “This isn’t the last time we’ll be back on the tower for sure.”
For more information on Frying Pan Tower, visit the website.