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The Uninvited Guest Who Totally Transformed My Big Day

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WEDDING DISASTER
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I have a nervous habit that whenever I'm anxious about something big going on in my life -- I tell anyone willing to listen all about it. So, in the months leading up to my wedding, everyone within earshot knew what was keeping me up at night. People will forget and not show up! My dress won't fit! I'll trip down the aisle! Sharing these worst-case scenarios prompted everyone to tell me their tales of wedding disasters. I knew a bride that was so sick with the flu that she almost got married bedside... I watched a family feud erupt on the dance floor -- punches were thrown! I listened in horror, but each story ended with the same reassuring line -- don't worry, nothing that bad will happen on your wedding day, I promise!

When I first got engaged, the anxiety was over where to have my wedding. New York has been my home for over 12 years, but I grew up in Miami. I wanted a romantic city wedding and my parents wanted a sunny Florida party. When we finally agreed on August 27th, 2011 in Brooklyn, I was worried that my immediate family could have trouble coming in from Florida as that's the height of hurricane season. In August of 1992, I spent twelve hours locked in our guest bathroom with five other family members while Hurricane Andrew destroyed our house. But, my mom, ever the optimist, just brushed it off. Miami hasn't had a bad storm in years, it'll be fine. And so it was declared... everything would be fine. Nothing that bad could happen on my wedding day, right?

Well, the week of my wedding was a blur of natural disasters and false hope. First, our biggest fear came to fruition. Hurricane Irene was en route to Miami. My parents quickly got on a flight earlier in the week and before they even landed, Irene was now bypassing Miami. Then in a page straight out of a disaster movie, an earthquake hit the Northeast. But I thought someone was playing an elaborate and expensive hoax on me when the rumblings began that Irene was due to hit New York City on my wedding weekend. The night my husband-to-be and I got engaged, we actually were hungover from drinking too many hurricanes. I panicked, and wondered if that was a sign we should have paid more attention to. But at first, I was in denial.

First of all, I moved to New York to avoid hurricanes! And second of all, there was just no way two natural disasters could hit New York in one week. It was against the laws of nature, right? Unfortunately, Mayor Bloomberg disagreed. When he threatened to shut down the buses and subways and even the bridges beginning Saturday (my wedding day) I was helpless. My phone started ringing off the hook with the three words no bride-to-be should hear 24 hours before her wedding -- "I'm not coming." I seriously contemplated going into debt and sending a cab for every one of my guests -- even the ones outside of the five boroughs. I tried to tell myself that all would be fine and the storm would turn around. I even bought "Worry Dolls" at Barnes and Noble and begged them every night to take this away.

But instead, it was the beginning of more tears than I thought the human body was capable of producing. One of my bridesmaids had already managed to get on the last flight out of LaGuardia. We were down almost four tables. Our rabbi had already told us that he would break Jewish law and marry us on Saturday morning if we wanted to beat the imminent chaos. While our family and bridal party waited to leave for our rehearsal dinner, my husband-to-be and I broke away to make the most painful and difficult decision we ever had to make together: our ceremony would now take place first thing the next morning and we'd reschedule the reception for after hurricane season.

The moment that my husband-to-be looked me in the eyes and assured me that we were getting married no matter what, I finally felt like an excited, over the moon, in love bride-to-be. Miraculously, both of our immediate families -- including grandparents -- had made it to Brooklyn safely, so we took that as a sign. We clasped hands and tearfully announced our decision.

So what happens after you've canceled your hair and make up team and photographer on your wedding day? You watch the most beautiful display of love and support come beaming out of your friends and family. Everyone at the rehearsal dinner pitched in to text and call the remaining guests with the new plan. My friend Steven and his boyfriend -- both theater actors -- didn't even hesitate to pack up an arsenal of hair and make up supplies and fill in as my glam squad. Everyone took photos and videos -- probably more than a professional would have taken.

My venue (the New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge) set up my space for the ceremony exactly as it was supposed to be -- even using flowers from the hotel and setting up a complimentary "breakfast" reception for our guests. It was actually ironic that the Marriott staff was being so kind and generous. While one Irene was destroying my day one piece at a time... another Irene was making sure what was left of the day went off like a fairy tale. Yes -- my wedding coordinator's name was Irene, too! It got confusing for everyone as I cursed one Irene and sang the praises of another -- often in the same sentence.

As my remaining bridesmaids (painfully, two ended up going home before the ceremony) helped me get downstairs, I was overwhelmed as I caught a glimpse of the crowd. Thought it was sparse, I was overwhelmed to see that friends had driven in from as far away as Connecticut or risked coming in from evacuation zones just to be there. When my husband-to-be and I had a moment alone before the ketubah signing, the tension melted and I felt like we were sealed in our own little bubble.

Armageddon could have been going on outside and nothing would have wiped away the tears of joy or the smiles on our faces as the processional began to the strands of "All You Need Is Love." Our rabbi explained, when we first were engaged, that weddings are special because nothing else brings every important person in your life together to celebrate. It was that sentiment that connected everyone in the room during our ketubah signing and our unique and personalized ceremony forever.

And then there was the after party. Someone told me that the average bride and groom spend less than 30 seconds with each guest at their wedding. That night my husband and I spent the entire night with the out of town guests that made it in -- many of which were stuck in New York for a few extra days. We found the only two places left open in downtown Brooklyn -- Duane Reade (for beer) and Dallas BBQ -- and invited everyone up to our suite for our "reception." We laughed, we got drunk and ate greasy chicken and celebrated our marriage with an intimate group of friends and family that we never could have spent so much time with otherwise.

Some days it hits me out of the blue that had we chosen any other weekend, everything would have been different. But I have no regrets. I had the unique and memorable affair I was always determined to have and I married the love of my life. And, since rain means good luck, I hope that a hurricane is the equivalent of hitting the jackpot. I get to wear my beautiful dress again, and instead of falling into the post-wedding blues after we got back from our honeymoon in September,it was right back into party planning mode (our reception, take two, is in December). The truth is, everyone was right. Nothing that bad happened on my wedding day. In fact I would even go as far to say that my wedding makes lavish affairs like the one, say, Kim Kardashian had, look boring.

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