It’s easy to compare romance to a roller coaster, with heart-racing highs, plunging lows and unexpected twists. But for James and Cortni Music, roller coasters are where they fell in love – and where they decided to make it official when they exchanged vows Thursday on the Fury 325.
The Mount Airy couple visited Carowinds for Fourth of July weekend in 2015. It was their first official date, after having known each other for about 14 years.
“It was kind of a spur of the moment thing,” said Cortni, 28. “We weren’t actually going to make the trip because he was sick, but he kind of sucked it up because he knew how bad I wanted to go.”
That’s when they fell for each other – and for Fury 325, the world’s tallest and fastest giga coaster, which stands 325 feet tall and reaches a top speed of 95 mph over 100-foot hills and nearly 180-degree turns.
No other ride compared to it, Cortni said, so they finished the ride and got right back in line for another several times that day.
“Our faces were fresh in the operators’ minds,” James, 27, said. “They were having a good time, and we were having a good time, and they’d seen us so many times that they started putting us in the front. We’d come up and they’d be like, ‘You’re back!’ ”
From then on, they knew they wanted to be together – no twists or turns. They moved in together quickly, and James proposed on Christmas.
Originally, they planned on a traditional country wedding. But they joked on and off about getting married on Fury, and it always seemed to come back to that.
“I’m not so sure if we were joking or subconsciously this is what we both really wanted,” James said.
After a couple of phone calls, the couple found the Carowinds staff supportive of the idea, along with most of their family and friends.
“A couple people were like, ‘Nah, that ain’t gonna happen, you can’t do that,’ but for the most part, everybody was like, ‘Oh, sounds like y’all,’ ” James said.
Cortni’s sister and bridesmaid, Rosa Sanchez, said she thought the two were joking when they first revealed the plan.
“But then afterwards, I thought it was actually pretty cool, like, ‘I think everybody would actually want to do that,’ ” Sanchez said. “They’re fun. Fun and crazy, that’s for sure.”
Carowinds spokeswoman Laresa Thompson said the Musics aren’t the first couple to tie the knot on Carowinds’ steel tracks. One couple got married on the Borg Assimilator, now called the Nighthawk, and another exchanged vows on Thunder Road. Thursday’s nuptials, though, were the first on Fury 325 since it opened in 2015.
Tying the knot at a high speed and altitude required a few safety adjustments. A long, flowing gown would have been a hazard, so Cortni wore a knee-length white lace dress. The bridal party wore wrist corsages Cortni had sewn herself, and bouquets and rings stayed safely on the ground.
Around 9 a.m. Thursday, an hour before Carowinds usually opens, the Fury 325 platform was a flurry of activity, with teal-shirted workers making sure everything was safe and in place.
“Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran played over the ride speakers as the couple climbed the different stairways to face each other tearfully across the tracks. The minister, Robert Hamilton, delivered an introduction James wrote.
“Love has its ups and downs, its turns and plunges, but that only makes it stronger,” Hamilton said.
Then they climbed into the teal seats and got strapped in for the ride of their lives – the couple and the minister in the front row and the bridesmaids and best man behind them.
“All clear,” the ride operator said over the speaker.
The ride has a 325-foot climb that lasts about 60 seconds, so Hamilton timed himself performing the ceremony beforehand to make sure he could finish before the drop – and before the ride crosses the state line into South Carolina. The couple had to yell “I do” to be heard over the clacking of the cart.
“I was extremely nervous, but it was so smooth,” Cortni said afterward. “It was exactly like we imagined.”
The ride coasted to a stop back at the beginning about three minutes later, the wedding party laughing and cheering as the minister introduced Mr. and Mrs. Music for the first time.
White rose petals dotted the stairway as the couple walked down to the ride’s souvenir shop, where they exchanged rings and received a picture from the ride’s camera of their first embrace as husband and wife while speeding over the ride’s 100-foot hills. A GoPro camera attached to the cart recorded the ceremony.
The couple don’t get much time for fun, with James working 12-hour days at a steel mill and Cortni working part time and taking care of their home and dogs. Thursday, they spent the rest of the day enjoying the park with the wedding party.
Will the unusual ceremony be representative of a roller coaster marriage? James doesn’t think so.
“We were just gonna get it all out of the way, all the ups and downs,” he said, laughing. “It’s gonna be smooth sailing.”
Rachel Herzog: (704) 358-5358; @rachel_herzog