"Once you have the photographer and your tickets," says Marsha Prasse, 50, "it's kind of important to make your wedding date." Marsha, a Mission Viejo, Calif., relocation counselor, and husband-to-be Gene Prasse, 50, an attorney, had booked a Caribbean cruise for Feb. 20. So on the 19th, it was tie the knot or die trying. The couple, who had dated for seven years (she has four children from her previous marriage; he has one from his), did worry that El Nino might flood the canyon road leading to their Laguna wedding site and keep their 50 guests from attending. Turns out, they weren't worrying enough. Two days before the ceremony, a river of mud buried the restaurant, Tivoli Terrace, and tore away its hillside chapel.
The nuptials were hastily moved across the street to a sister location, Tivoli II. And though rain was predicted for the 19th, it wasn't expected until after the 7:30 p.m. ceremony. But as the couple stood before the outdoor altar, drizzle gave way to downpour. The candles winked out, and the minister's script, shielded by plastic, needed constant wiping. "We were all out there, crying and holding our umbrellas," Marsha's friend Ann Myslinski recollects. At the indoor reception, the drenched guests displayed high spirits. "The formalities were gone," says Gene, "which made it much nicer." Recalls Marsha: "Everybody said that it was good luck if it rained on your wedding day—the more rain, the fewer tears in your marriage
MONICA KELLY & RALPH WARREN: A Blizzard for the Bride
For East Coast natives Monica Kelly, 33, and Ralph Warren, 40, September in Telluride, Colo., the mountain resort where they moved in 1995, has always been "just the most beautiful month," says Monica. To take advantage of the natural splendor, they had planned to wed at 4 p.m. last Sept. 21 beside spectacular Bridal Veil Falls, three miles outside of town and some 10,000 feet above sea level. But the weather had plans of its own. As she finished dressing, Monica recalls, "all of a sudden I heard some tremendous wind. It was so strong, Bridal Veil was flowing up instead of down!" A sudden rain turned to hail and then to snow. The temperature fell to near freezing, and some of the 75 guests, caught coming up a treacherous mountain road in open Jeeps, were shaken up by the ride.
For Robert Sullivan, a Native American minister who conducted the wind-whipped ceremony, the event was magical. During the Lakota Sioux-inspired ritual, "we call in the powers from the universe," he explains. "Every time we did something, the weather would get more intense. It was like the spirits were sort of clapping." Nature provided an encore, too. During the tented reception down the mountain, the sun finally emerged. "It was such a beautiful light, and then a double rainbow came out," says Monica. "What a day! We got a little bit of everything."
ROZ CROMPTON & KEN BUCKFIELD: A Wedding Party Awash
In their quest for an exotic locale, London homeopath Roz Crompton, 36, and advertising executive Ken Buckfield, 40, got more than they bargained for. They were to wed last Feb. 16 on Corrie Island, an unspoiled strip of sand in the Port Stephens waterway in Australia, 125 miles north of Sydney. But as they and then-six guests—including Ken's parents, Kenneth and Trudy Buckfield—neared the island aboard the onetime Royal Navy minesweeper Kinkardine, a ferocious storm struck. Suddenly, Kinkardine, broadsided by a giant wave, heeled over at a 45-degree angle. "We were thrown across the cabin," recalls Ken. "Champagne bottles were flying, and there was broken glass all over." With the captain unable to right the boat or turn it into the wind, Roz says, "I was thinking, 'My number's up.' " Their island wedding site was submerged. "If we had landed there," says Roz, "there's no way any of us would be left." After three terrifying hours, the party was rescued by a police boat. Back at their hotel, "we didn't even realize that we weren't married," says Roz, who admits she had "like, 15 vodkas." But their hotel, Peppers Anchorage, hastily set up a candlelit ceremony, and afterward, local registrar Helen Scott, who officiated, gave the pair two wedding certificates—one for their hotel vows and one for Corrie Island that reads "canceled due to near-death experience."
KIMBERLY APPLE & JOHN HATALA: Her Perfect Dress Went Up in Smoke
Machine shop supervisor Kimberly Apple, 26, was watching a fire at Virginia's Village Marketplace Shopping Center on the news three days before her March 14 wedding to Richmond machinist John Hatala, 37, when the phone rang. Bridesmaid Kati Peregoy wailed, "Kim, that's Bridal Elegance! Our dresses are in there!" Hearing a noise, Kati asked, "Are you laughing or crying?" Said Kim: "I'm laughing."
Sure, it had taken four months to find the perfect dress, but Kim had reason to be less than distressed. She was married the first time at 15, and she says the union, which produced daughter Cari, now 10, was loveless. That first wedding was "fly-by-night," she recalls; "10 people there, no dress." Now, the important thing was the groom: "I knew John would be a nervous wreck, so I thought, 'Keep your chin up.' " She did, power-shopping through three stores the next day with her mother, Rosetta, and Kati before finding a size-4 ivory gown. After some heroic alterations by David's Bridal Shop, Kim charmed at the altar. Says John: "I couldn't keep looking at her or I would have lost it. She was absolutely, unbelievably beautiful."
CHRISTINE LAUNDREE & JEREMY DEVINS: Deep Freeze Debacle
Say what you want about small towns, when the (ice) chips are down, they're the place to get wed. The massive winter storm that struck the Northeast last January turned five Upstate New York counties into a federal disaster area. It put an even bigger chill on the marriage plans of Christine Laundree, a medical secretary, and Jeremy Devins, an Air Force mechanic, both 22, who had set the date for Jan. 10 to coincide with his leave. Their hometown of Plattsburgh was mostly without power, so just 24 hours before the wedding, the Methodist minister, the caterer and the American Legion hall that was to hold the reception all canceled. The city hall, where the marriage license waited, was closed. Says Christine: "We thought we might have to have the ceremony in my mother's living room."
But her mother, Diana Soloski, wasn't about to give up on a real do. She cajoled a Howard Johnson's that had electricity into holding the event and, because phones were out, got an area radio station to broadcast the change to the 200 invited guests. The family scattered to food markets to pick up snacks and cold cuts; Christine tracked down her father's friend who's a justice of the peace, while her grandmother, Marjorie Laundree, town clerk of nearby AuSable, scrounged up a license. Sixty hardy souls made it to the vows, and though the day was far from perfect, Christine speaks for all involved when she says, "It helps to live in a place where everyone knows just about everyone."
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