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Cornhusker Canadian Clinical Conference and Wedding Bells

nov. 20, 2013


Cornhusker Canadian Clinical Conference  and Wedding Bells.....What do those things have in common?

Nothing much without context…..but all these elements came together at Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge over five days this July. It’s all very simple if you follow the dancing ball.

It all started at the annual “Aikens Lake Shore Supper” in Lincoln, NE back in March 2013. Pit (co-manager and partner) and Pat (sales manager) had invited area physicians to attend the Lincoln shore supper. The CCCC (Cornhusker Canadian Clinical Conference, ) had decided to move their long standing Continuing Medical Education Conference to Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge. The Lincoln shore supper was the perfect opportunity to explain the program to veterans of the CME Conference but also to whet the appetites of those considering signing up.

One of the physicians attending the gathering, Dr. Kathleen Ogden, was listening very carefully to Pit and Pat’s presentation covering the luxury accommodations and fine dining, as well as the extensive services when her focus took a romantic turn as she began to imagine her looming wedding. After all, she was engaged to be married to a great guy who happened to be an avid fisherman. The more she listened, the more she thought, “What a great place to get married!” She approached Pit and Pat after the presentation with the wedding bells still ringing loudly in her ears and asked them if this crazy idea was even possible at Aikens Lake. They told Kathleen that Julie (co-manager and partner) would probably be intrigued by the idea and that they would follow it up and let her know.

We want you all to know that the conference went very well and that the first wedding ever at Aikens Lake was a huge success. We interviewed Dr. Kathleen Ogden and Mark Kavulak, now Mr. and Mrs., in order to share their thoughts about their unique “Aikens Experience”. We also interviewed Julie in order to find out how she pulled it off and delivered a memorable ceremony for the “Happy Couple”.


First Wedding at Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge

Dr. Kathleen Ogden and Mr. Mark Kavulak from Omaha, Nebraska

Gerry: Whose idea was it to have this wedding at Aikens Lake?

Kathleen: Mine! It started when Pit and Pat cane down to Lincoln Nebraska last winter to host a shore super for the local clientele. My friend, Dr. Kohl had invited me to this function because he wanted me to attend the “Continuing Medical Education” seminar which was to be held for the first time at Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge in 2013. As we were watching the great slides and videos and being carried there by Pit and Pat’s presentation, I started thinking to myself, “What a beautiful place to come and get married!”. As we were eating shore supper and learning more about the amenities and services of the lodge, the idea dept growing and getting more interesting. Mark and I had gotten engaged in September and we both knew that we did not want a big fancy wedding. So, after the supper and conference, I went up to Pit and Pat and asked them” Have you guys ever hosted a wedding?” They said, “No, we’ve had birthdays, anniversaries, and a few honeymooners, but no weddings.” I said, “Would you consider hosting my wedding? Pit said, “Oh my god, my wife, Julie, is always up for a challenge and I bet she would love to do something like that!” Let me see what we can do”

It really took off from there. Julie was so great at everything and so accommodating. We started emailing right away and she informed me of everything we had to do to have the marriage be legal in Manitoba. She researched all that she had to do in order to become a marriage commissioner who could legally perform the ceremony.

The more we thought about it and the closer it got, the more we got excited. Mark and I talked about it and just decided to keep it quiet, have our dream wedding and then come back home and tell everyone about it. It seemed like the perfect option……and it was!

Gerry: What did you think of all this Mark?

Mark: I’m Catholic and this is my first marriage. At this stage of my life, I really didn’t want a big church wedding. I have always loved fishing and Kathleen is enjoying it more and more each time. So for me, this was a perfect option. I liked the simplicity of a marriage in the wilderness. I told her I’d always seen marriage as vows between a man and a woman in front of the “big guy”. I don’t think we can get closer to God than being our here. So this is perfect…….best decision ever!

Kathleen: We met at Mark’s brother’s brewery pub in Papillon, Nebraska, so it’s kind of ironic that we got married in Big Molly’s Bar!

Gerry: Is this your first fly-in fishing trip and if so, what do you think of the experience?

Kathleen: This is our first fly-in. I got to ride in the co-pilot’s seat on the flight in and OMG that was awesome! Seeing everybody on the dock to greet us as we pulled up and feeling the warmth of the welcome was amazing. But it wasn’t just the welcome, you always get pampered and treated life family! It makes for a very friendly and relaxing atmosphere.

Mark: This is beyond my imagination. How can a lodge this far from roads and civilization be so beautiful, so luxurious and comfortable while offering some of the best fishing in Canada? This is a guy’s dream, as far as exciting! To me, it’s off the Richter Scale!

Gerry: Kathleen, other than attending your own wedding and fishing with your new husband, you are attending the Continuing Medical Education Conference. How cool is that?



Kathleen: I have attended the CME Conference in many places and usually we end up visiting the city or town and doing a little shopping……but never anything like this! Nothing is going to top this….except for maybe next year!

Gerry:  What do you get out of the CME Conference professionally?

Kathleen: You get your medical education certificate. People did a great job putting the speakers and lecturers together and I’m sure everyone benefitted. It’s kind of demanding to sit through a two hour evening lecture after being out on the lake all day having a great time, but that’s where you have to focus because it’s the only way to combine education and pleasure and I’m now convinced that this fly-in program is the best way to get my Continuing Medical Education. And by the way, I want to thank Dr. Kohl again for inviting me to participate and for being so supportive of our entire adventure.

Gerry: Mark, you are not a physician so what did you enjoy the most about your experience?

Mark: I got married here! That was a perfect occasion and certainly the highlight of the trip. I got to do more fishing in the evening while she was in class, but the fishing experience is like nooooo otherrrrrr!!

Gerry: Pit and Pat and the rest of the marketing team always like to wrap up all the components of your trip into what they like to call the “Aikens Experience”. It’s supposed to be the same for everybody and yet unique for everyone. How would you describe your “Aikens Experience” in only one word.

Kathleen: “Therapeutic”. Mentally calming and relaxing……and that’s really important especially for physicians. I would be remiss however, if I put this word ahead of “Grateful” to Pit and Julie especially and to their staff for all they did to accommodate us but also to Dr. Kohl for his support an the entire CME team for the most wonderful experience ever! 

Mark: My word is “Heavenly”. You might think I am really strange but a long time ago, I thought of eloping with a certain girl but it didn’t happen so when my mother found out, she made me promise I wouldn’t get married without her being there. She passed away 5 years ago. So before we came up here I invited her and some of my dearly departed friends and relatives to join us up here at Aikens Lake and be a part of the wedding. I prayed that they would come and that the “Big Guy” would be there to bless our union. I literally felt they were here. Kathleen felt her Dad was with us the whole time and he passed away 22 years ago.

Gerry: Only at Aikens Lake where a “normal” adventure is an oxymoron!


Interview with Julie

Gerry: What was your first reaction when Pit and Pat told you about Kathleen’s request?

Julie:  At first, I was excited about the opportunity to do something so different here and also honoured that they would involve us by having us perform the ceremony for them!

Gerry: What was your role in the marriage ceremony and how did you have to prepare for it?

Julie:  I was the temporary Marriage Commissioner. That was my official title. In order to be able to marry someone in this province, you have to work with “Vital Statistics” of Manitoba and fill out all the paper work they require in order to marry the couple legally. This is a ”onetime” only privilege issued to individuals in Manitoba and if I were to do it again, I would have to apply for a Marriage Commissioner’s License and meet all of their standards. There is also certain wording and processes that you have to use in the ceremony so I made sure that the necessary words were included in my part of it. That was the technical part of it and no big deal to prepare for it.

For me, what was as important was the fact that we wanted to make it very special for them. Since it was my first time in that role, I did not know what the expectations were. I did my research on destination wedding and got ideas from here and there on how we should proceed in order to meet their wishes. They wanted something special to them and yet something very simple and outside of the conference’s agenda. So by choosing certain elements from various destination weddings, I tried to create a setting and a ceremony which they would take with them and remember with pride for the rest of their lives.

Gerry: What is your most lasting impression of officially saying, with all the legal connotations.” I now pronounce you husband and wife”?

Julie:  My special memory of impression I guess was the look on Mark’s face when he looked into Kathleen’s eyes as I said that!  That look said to me that we had achieved our goal and the love I saw in their eyes made their union offical. I was very proud of that and happy that everything worked out so well for them.

Gerry: Now, you guessed it! It’s time to describe your experience as “Marriage Commissioner” at Aikens Lake in just one word.

Julie:  Pride! I was very proud to be able to do this for them. I’m also very proud of everything the lodge and the staff and even my own kids contributed to make their wedding such a special memory for them!