This Minneapolis couple said ‘I do’ on leap day 32 years ago — or was it 8?

A couple poses for wedding photo
Julie and Dan Giesen pose for a photo inside a Fergus Falls church on their wedding day, Feb. 29, 1992.
Dan Giesen

Most married couples look forward to celebrating their wedding anniversary every year, but Dan and Julie Giesen’s’ special day only comes every four years — on leap day.

They tied the knot on Feb. 29, 1992, inside a church in their hometown of Fergus Falls. On Thursday they’ll be celebrating 32 years together, but technically it’s their 8th wedding anniversary.

“I think when we realized it was a leap year day, someone said, ‘Oh, you can’t get married on that day.’ And I thought it’d be something kind of interesting, and no one will ever forget your anniversary,” said Julie.

A couple walks down the aisle during wedding
Julie and Dan Giesen walk down the aisle on their wedding day in Fergus Falls on Feb. 29, 1992.
Courtesy of Dan Giesen

And every four years, the couple said friends and family always remember their wedding anniversary. But they still make an effort to celebrate their anniversary every year just like other couples, although they haven’t quite settled on whether that day is Feb. 28 or March 1.

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Their tradition is making a trip out to Bluefin Bay on Lake Superior, where they first spent their honeymoon together. When they had originally planned their honeymoon, their first choice was a cruise vacation.

“That’s what you do, at least in the ‘90s. We had even gone to a travel agent and put money down on a cruise. As we were driving back to Dan’s place, we were laughing that, ‘What are we doing this for?’ We’re kind of solitary people. We’re Scandinavian, pale-skinned people who will burn at the drop of a hat,” said Julie.

They got their deposit back and opted for the solace Minnesota’s North Shore had to offer, where they went snowshoeing and watched the waves crash against the shore. The couple said that’s when they fell in love with Bluefin Bay.

A person stands on an icy lake
Julie Giesen stands along the North Shore on a wedding anniversary trip on March 1, 2018.
Courtesy of Dan Giesen

Feb. 29 also signifies the day 16 years ago, on their “fourth” wedding anniversary, that Julie found out she had breast cancer. They almost canceled their trip to the North Shore after they got the news.

Julie said it was emotional for the Giesens. They ended up going to the North Shore to do four days of hiking and sit by the lake to help prepare them for what would be months of chemotherapy. She started the treatment shortly after the trip and beat the cancer 10 months later.

“There’s a certain trail we take every year we go. And we always walk by this one place where we just sat and processed the news. And it’s good to visit that spot and know that we’re done. And we’re healed,” said Julie.

Leap day and Bluefin Bay hold more meaning because of that. And Dan said as they’ve gotten older, they’re more grateful for the years that they’ve had together.

A couple takes a selfie
Julie and Dan Giesen smile for a selfie at Bluefin Bay on Leap Day in 2016.
Dan Giesen

“We’ve both learned with age too and with what Julie has been through that you become more and more grateful just for the times that are good that you have and just the normal times, times you can spend together,” said Dan.

When the Giesens have gone back to a favorite restaurant in the North Shore and been asked if they are celebrating a special occasion, they have said “We are celebrating our five-and-a-quarter year anniversary” or “We are celebrating 30 years of marriage and our seven-and-a-half-year anniversary.”

“There is usually a momentary pause and look of confusion. And as they realize we were married on leap year day, it usually results in a good laugh and often a ‘that’s really cool, special or fun.’ Having a leap-year wedding day is a very special way to make our anniversary unique and we have never regretted it,” said Dan.

The couple lives in south Minneapolis and has a son together, who is 29. Their plan for their wedding anniversary this year is visiting Bluefin Bay and continuing their tradition that has lasted over 30 years.