FRYING PAN SHOALS (WWAY) – A Pender County couple became the first couple to tie the knot on Saturday at Frying Pan Tower off the coast of North Carolina.
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 ever wanted, ever dreamed of,” said Audrey Black. “It was perfect.”
The Frying Pan Tower was built in the early 1960s to replace a US Coast Guard flagship that had been stationed at Frying Pan Shoals for over 100 years to help sailors navigate shallow water. The tower continues to help people maneuver safely in the area. It is used for environmental research and serves as a shelter for a natural ecosystem.
Richard Neal bought the tower at auction in 2010 and established the non-profit 501 (c) 3FPTower in 2018 to begin restoring the structure. He is dedicated to the mission of restoring the Frying Pan Tower to restore, protect and preserve the retired USCG Lighthouse Tower.
Ben Black volunteered to help restore the tower in 2020. Exactly one year ago, on the wedding day, he sat down on the helipad and prayed that his soul mate would be placed in his life. Four days later, he received a notification on his phone warning him that it was Audrey’s birthday. They had been good friends for ten years, but they had lost sight of each other and had not spoken to each other for years. He wished her a happy birthday and the rest is history.
When Audrey suggested getting married at Frying Pan Tower, he was immediately won over by the idea. At 7:20 p.m. Saturday, she stepped out to the helipad for the most special day.
“My heart skipped a few beats,” Ben said. “She was absolutely the most beautifully stunning woman I had ever laid my eyes on.”
To their knowledge, their wedding was the very first ever to be held on the tower.
“It wasn’t necessarily a race to be the first from a distance, it just happened to be that way,” Ben said. “Being the first to get married there is pretty cool.”
Local photographer Jeff Wenzel and his assistant from Above Topsail Portrait Studio were tasked with capturing the magic. Wenzel specializes in portraits and landscapes of Topsail Island, but when Ben asked him to photograph their wedding, Wenzel was delighted to photograph the one-of-a-kind wedding.
“To be able to capture it, but more importantly for these images to be seen by them, by their children, by their relatives, by their friends, it is so important for me not only to capture the story but for them to be able to post it and see it, ”Wenzel said.
Wenzel is working on the final product, but it will undoubtedly be a great story told.
“This is exactly what we wanted, this is the perfect way to start things and for us to start our future together,” said Ben. “This is certainly not the last time we will return to the tower.”
For more information on Frying Pan Tower, visit the website.