PORTLAND— Karen Willis always wanted a winter wedding with plenty of snow.
Willis got her wish Saturday when she married Gregory Beal at Grace Restaurant on Chestnut Street at about 2:30 p.m.
A blizzard and a wedding is a bit of a family tradition, she said Sunday in a telephone interview.
Her parents, Dr. John and Lois Willis, were married Dec. 19, 1970, the day after a record-setting 22.8 inches of snow fell in Portland. That record still stands as the biggest snowfall in December in Maine’s largest city, according to the National Weather Service in Gray.
“I grew up looking at my parents’ wedding pictures and all that snow,” Willis said. “I’ve always wanted that. I’d hoped we’d get a few inches. I never imagined it would turn into the biggest storm of my lifetime.”
The Portland Jetport reported receiving 31.9 inches of snow in the blizzard, a record, according to the weather service. Not only did the storm dump more than two feet of snow in much of the state, it also brought 55-mph winds to Portland.
“Before we went to the restaurant, we wanted to have some pictures taken outside, so we went to Spring Point Light,” Willis said. “There was snow and ice everywhere and I thought I was going to get blown away. It felt like I was in a hurricane.”
Willis, 32, and Beal, 36, who live in Manchester, N.H., became engaged in October. They met online through the website Christian Mingle, she said.
The blizzard did prevent some cousins and friends from attending the wedding, but more than 80 of the 120 people who had said they were coming were able to make it.
“Direct family members were able to beat the storm and all arrived by Friday morning, but numerous flights and road trips were canceled,” Willis said. “Guests from Colorado and California had their flights canceled before the snow even started and there was no other way to Maine, since even the trains from Boston were not running Friday afternoon.”
At least one member of the wedding party arrived on the last flight allowed to land Friday morning at the Portland Jetport before the airport shut down.
Matron of honor Lisa Domino of Brooklyn, N.Y., arrived by train Thursday evening and best man Christopher Beal of Wilton, N.H., was able to arrive ahead of the storm.
The only person who did not make it to the wedding was the disc jockey the couple had hired from Boston. Gov. Deval Patrick issued a travel ban from about 2 p.m. Friday to 4 p.m. Saturday.
“He was stopped twice by the Massachusetts state police and they threatened to arrest him,” Willis said. “But he called a DJ contact in Portland and he came for us and was wonderful.”
Willis, who plans to change her name to Beal, said that her family knows what is to blame for the winter weather that has impacted marriage ceremonies for two generations.
“It’s the dress’s fault,” she said. “I had my mom’s wedding dress modified, so we decided that had to be what made it snow for both our weddings.”
Willis and Beal were scheduled Sunday to fly out of Logan Airport for their honeymoon in Switzerland and Austria.
“We really do love the snow,” she said.