wedding in a storm
Wedding in a Storm Courtesy of the Charleston Wedding Studio

Goodnight Irene. A Tale of Three Hurricane Weddings

Irene is a popular girl at the moment, but for all the wrong reasons.

Let us all be reminded that we are never in control of anything. Ever. Especially when it comes to weddings and Mother Nature.

I had three beach weddings scheduled to happen in Cape May County, NJ the weekend Hurricane Irene hit. Every one of my couples was impacted.

By Thursday night the frantic phone calls came, “How can we make this wedding happen?”

My first couple took every reasonable precaution for the weather. They had secured a permit for a beach wedding, and just in case of rainy weather, they also put a deposit down on a hotel space in the event of inclement weather. But when they got a call from the hotel manager saying that mandatory evacuations meant their wedding could not happen as scheduled, it was a blow. I offered to go into Ocean City that evening to marry the couple right then and there, but the bride wanted to wear her dress which was elsewhere, and of course, there was the issue of missing family and friends. The couple decided to marry inside their home, also within the mandatory evacuation zone, so I was unable to enter the location in order to officiate for them. Still, the couple found a solution by finding a local minister inside the zone to officiate the ceremony that I wrote for them. I was there in spirit.

Wedding in a Storm Courtesy of the Charleston Wedding Studio

My second couple had a beach wedding but no hotel back up plan. There was going to be no Sunset Beach wedding in Cape May for them. They called asking if I would be willing to change the location to marry them in another part of the state. I agreed and between family and friends, they managed to create a beautiful backyard wedding setting. When I arrived, I was amazed by how quickly they managed to set up all the tents, seating, and cooking areas. Love makes things happen, right? With guests in place, we waited for a break in the pouring rains and grabbed it. I married the couple without a drop of rain to spoil the event. It was a beautiful ceremony and a very happy day.

My third couple was my one casualty of Irene and one I will never forget. Their wedding was scheduled to happen at an Inn in Upper Township, NJ the next day. They too received the dreaded call from their venue that the wedding could not take place as planned since the Inn’s location was in the mandatory evacuation zone. The couple was faced with a license which would expire before the rain date could be scheduled. The bride-to-be was crying in the bathroom. The hopeful groom made an executive decision. He called me and asked, “Can you marry us now?” What could I say other than, “I’ll be right there!” I did notice that the municipality listed on the paperwork was not the municipality where the wedding was going to happen, but there have been other last minute changes in location in my experience as an officiant and they were all easily corrected by redoing the paperwork. In my training as a wedding minister I was told that it is the ceremony which makes a wedding legal, and paperwork can always be corrected. So no bells or whistles went off in my head.

I must say, this was the most exciting wedding ever, for its urgency and spontaneity. The bride wasn’t hung up on the fact that she didn’t have her pretty dress, or that there’d be no honeymoon. This couple just wanted to be married. We went on the beach on the verge of the storm, and an exciting and dark sky served as our backdrop. Witnesses were a handful of family members, bystanders on the boardwalk, and a family with beachfront property. (Who gifted them with a bottle of wine!) The bride and groom didn’t have their pretty clothes, and only a handful of their families were present. But this couple was determined to make it happen.

A local newspaper wrote up a story about their exciting experience and they had a very fun 72 hours, until the registrar called me to say that the marriage was null and void effective immediately. There was a bureaucratic glitch which determined the wedding was invalid since they were an out-of-state couple. I appealed to the higher county court on the couple’s behalf, but to no avail. (It seems to me that if officials can stay the execution of a criminal they should be able to make things right for this couple since it was during a state mandated emergency. But that’s just me.)

Still, their resiliency and commitment in light of obstacles is a testimony to their love and the couple has graciously accepted my request to allow me to ‘remarry’ them during their rain date reception offered to them by the Inn. It is a miracle unto itself that I have no weddings scheduled for their new wedding date, and I cannot wait to make this wedding happen for them.

Goodnight Irene.