Most people who elope to Las Vegas end up in a small chapel, perhaps with an Elvis impersonator presiding over the ceremony. But on March 31, 2001, Merri Wood and Rodney Schultz, both Los Alamos National Laboratory employees and former designers of underground nuclear tests, drove from New Mexico to Nevada for an unconventional elopement.
“Our youngest child was still at home,” Merri explains, “but we had other children spread across the country, so we decided to elope.” The couple originally considered a wedding in Las Vegas, she says, “but we quickly wondered if the test site would be an option.” During their careers as test designers, Merri and Rodney both spent time working at the Nevada Test Site (now the Nevada National Security Site), just north of Las Vegas, where 928 nuclear tests were conducted between 1951 and 1992.
Merri contacted the Department of Energy’s Nevada Area Operations Office to request use of an old chapel there that Rodney remembered. The person Merri spoke to said, “If it is was me, I would get married at Sedan Crater.”
“That was perfect for us,” Rodney says.
The Sedan underground nuclear test was carried out in 1962 by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, not Los Alamos—but the setting was ideal. “As the largest crater at the site,” Merri says, “it is a spectacular example of nuclear weapons effects, and its modern and safe viewing platform made it very practical for a ceremony.”
On April 1, the couple was married by an officiant from a Las Vegas wedding chapel who had to obtain a temporary uncleared security badge. The captain of the Nevada Test Site guard force served as both official witness and wedding photographer.
“When we returned to the security center at the entrance to the test site,” Rodney remembers, “we found that a mini reception had been provided, with a carrot cake for us in the guard break room.”
“We are both proud and happy that we were afforded the honor of being married at the Nevada Test Site because of its contributions to national security,” Merri says, “and its importance in our own work to support nuclear deterrence.”
For more of Merri Wood-Schultz’s work in underground nuclear testing, see “Bridging Divider” in the spring 2021 issue of this magazine.