Spider bites. Broken ankles. Hot tub confinement. Runaway canoes.

Often it’s not what went right at a wedding, but what didn’t that makes the best memories.

Consider the bride who broke her ankle hours before her wedding. During a blizzard. While her husband-to-be was trapped in a hot tub.

And the pirate-themed destination wedding nearly waylaid by a poisonous spider.

And the lakeside Maine camp ceremony that incorporated a canoe, against the couple’s better judgment.

And the vows besieged by rain. So. Much. Rain.

Weddings are major productions, filled with people, pageantry and the pressure to get every detail right. Which means something is bound to go wrong.

Sometimes spectacularly wrong.

The Sun Journal asked readers and wedding professionals to share their mishaps, and they did: some funny, some scary, all with a happy ending and an “I do.”

From the stories also comes some sage advice, including roll with the punches, and realize that the best wedding story is often the one that isn’t perfect.

Also, perhaps, tie the canoe down.

All wet

Juliette Devaney’s figured the canoe probably wasn’t a good idea.

But she and her fiance, Erik, had rented Camp Waziyatah in Waterford for their September wedding and wanted to make use of its picturesque lake. Devaney and her father planned to enter the ceremony on a canoe decoratively draped in white tulle and pine boughs, and then she and Erik would leave on the same canoe, cuddled lovingly as they paddled off to their new life together.

If she didn’t, you know, end up falling into the lake first.

“We knew that throwing a canoe into the mix was always risky,” said Devaney, of Massachusetts. “I just thought I was going to go overboard because my father and I are both left-handed and terribly uncoordinated.”  

Despite the worries, their ride in full wedding attire went perfectly. Juliette’s father delivered her to the alter, beaming and dry. Crisis averted.

Until, in the middle of the ceremony, as the officiant spoke of loved ones who had passed away, the wedding guests gasped.

“We thought it was a really funny reaction the crowd was having to, like, dead relatives,” Devaney said.

Instead, bride and groom turned around to see their canoe, their ride out of the ceremony, floating away toward the middle of the 3-mile-wide lake. The groomsmen had forgotten to tie it up.

“By the time we realized what was happening, my father-in-law was already in the water,” Devaney said.

Alan Devaney dashed into the lake on a rescue mission. The wedding photographer captured him trudging back, suit pants soaked, runaway canoe trailing on a rope behind him.

It’s become one of the best go-to stories of their wedding.

Arrgh

Ashley Robedee and her fiance, Erik Herter, spent six months planning their pirate-themed wedding on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. Costumes mandatory. 

On the morning of the ceremony last May, Robedee’s mother went to the Westbrook couple’s gated villa to cook them a pre-wedding breakfast. She reached through the bars of the gate to activate the electric switch that would open it. 

The gate swung open quickly, pinning her arm before she could completely pull it out of the way. 

“So she still shows up to cook us breakfast, hiding her banged up arm under a dish towel,” Robedee said in an email. “I notice the dish towel is floating two inches over her arm, and I’m like, ‘What did you do?!'”

To Robedee, her mother’s arm looked mangled — swollen and bruised from elbow to palm. One of the wedding guests, a nurse, examined it and declared soft tissue damage, no break.

“An hour after that, while I’m still freaking out about mom’s arm, my husband-to-be declares he isn’t feeling well,” Robedee said.

When Robedee and Herter had woken up that morning, they’d noticed a red bug bite on his wrist, a small red streak extending from it. They didn’t think much about it at the time.  

But the red streak had grown nearly to the crook of his elbow and he was pale, weak, nauseated and sweating. Herter was rushed to the tiny island hospital with a tourniquet tied around his arm.

Everyone on the island spoke English — everyone, it seemed, but the two nurses on staff at the hospital. And even though the clinic was completely empty, Robedee said, it took almost 20 minutes for her fiance to be seen.

“Four hours before the ceremony and we have him hooked up to three different IVs for an infected spider bite,” Robedee said. “‘I can get you out in an hour!’ the doctor exclaims when we finally get to tell him about the pending wedding.”

The doctor was true to his word. An hour later, Herter was back at the villa, where he managed to take an hour-long nap before groggily donning his pirate gear and getting embroiled in a sword fight — with real swords — on the beach.

Robedee’s mom and the groom both ended up being fine.

“Aside from that, the wedding was fabulous!” Robedee said. “I guess you can’t have a pirate wedding without a maiming or a near-death experience.”

Ow

In 2006, Erin Pealatere and her fiance, Greg, planned an intimate, 12-person wedding in Alaska. The night before the ceremony, they stayed at a ski resort rental house across the street from the cozy chapel where they planned to get married.

The husband-to-be and his best man decided to use the outdoor hot tub while Pealatere and her maid of honor went to Anchorage to retrieve items for the wedding. It was cold and snowing. A blizzard was coming. 

Before too long, the groom — then an Alaska state trooper, now an Auburn police officer — and his best man realized they’d locked their keys inside the house.  

“They had to sit in the hot tub,” Pealatere said. “They had their phones on them, thank goodness, but I had the other key. They had no way to get back in. We were 40 minutes away.”

Distracted by her fiance’s predicament, Pealatere didn’t watch where she was walking.

“I stepped wrong off a deck and I rolled my ankle,” she said. “We thought no big deal. It hurt, but I’m like, yeah, I just sprained it.”

By 5 the next morning — just hours before the ceremony — Pealatere realized her ankle wasn’t just sprained.

“I couldn’t put any weight on my leg. I knew at that point I had broken it,” she said. “I got my maid of honor up and said, ‘We’ve got to go to the emergency room, like, right now.'”

The closest hospital was 45 minutes away. In the blizzard, it took two-and-a-half hours to get there.

“In the emergency room they’re like, ‘What’s your chief complaint?’ as you’re signing in with the receptionist. And I just started bawling. I’m like, ‘It’s my wedding day!'” Pealatere said.

Hospital staff members felt so bad that they sped her through the exam process. An hour later, she had pain medication and a diagnosis of, yes, a broken ankle.

“They wanted to put me on crutches and not let me walk. I can’t go down the aisle on crutches,” Pealatere said. “I talked them into a boot cast.”

She got back in time to finish preparing for the wedding. That afternoon, she made her way down the aisle.

“You could hear it on the video, the kathunk, kathunk, kathunk, as I’m walking down, because I’m limping with a boot cast down the aisle,” she said.

Pealatere and her husband couldn’t dance together at their reception, but the hospital had given her enough medication that she at least spent the evening without a lot of pain.

“We laughed about it the whole time,” said Pealatere, who now lives in Peru. “That’s really all you could do, just laugh.”

It’s raining, it’s pouring

Wedding professionals know well the calamities that can befall a wedding. 

“But that never happens. We don’t allow it,” joked Robyn Allen, owner of Maine Event Design & Decor in Topsham. 

There was the time the cake was delivered too early and melted in the August heat. The time the wedding couple insisted on putting up the lights themselves —  only to have the lights come crashing down during the reception. The times (yes, multiple times) that Allen went to set up for a wedding only to discover an earlier event was still going on.

“It’s never been that the client’s shown up and things are still screwed up, but it’s not unusual that things go wrong. Things go wrong all the time,” Allen said. “You’re dealing with so many things that are out of your control. . . . Things happen.”

One of the biggest: unexpected weather.

Amber Small, owner of Sweetest Thing Weddings in Bangor, recalled a coastal Maine wedding in which a sudden coastal storm came up, flooding the area with five or six inches of rain in less than an hour.

The water covered the reception tent’s electrical cords, forcing the band to stop playing for fear of electrocution. Guests moved tables and people took up push brooms to sweep out the water.

But while the water dampened the tent, it didn’t dampen the party.

“Everyone stopped and laughed and took pictures and took their shoes off,” Small said. “About 30 minutes later the band felt safe enough to play again. They started dancing and I kept sweeping out water. It was like a fun summer camp experience. They were amazing clients.”

Loie Merritt and her groom, Ben Rubin, experienced a similar sudden storm for their August 2014 wedding on Cliff Island in Portland. It might have been even worse. 

“Within 15 minutes of what we had scheduled to be the start time of the ceremony, it starts pouring rain. Thunder and lightning. It’s everything. Everything you sort of hope doesn’t happen,” Merritt said.

Inside, already in her dress, Merritt stood on one side of a wall and Rubin stood on the other so they could talk about the situation without him seeing her before the ceremony.   

The rain lasted an hour. By the end, the reception tablecloths were drenched. The picturesque spot where they planned to say their vows was flooded.

But island residents — Merritt’s longtime friends and neighbors — pulled together to dry out the tablecloths. The couple chose a different spot for the ceremony, about a half-mile away from their original. 

The wedding was three hours late, but it went on. With a bonus.

“We have these stunning photos of us standing underneath a double rainbow and everyone’s just laughing, ‘When do the unicorns show up?'” Merritt said. “I don’t really subscribe to all the traditions of marriage and weddings. You know, the whole ‘It’s good luck when it rains.’ I wasn’t on board with that. But it ended up working.”

[email protected]

Wedding day advice: Roll with the punches

Experts say wedding calamities can happen to anyone, no matter how well-planned the event. However, some mishaps are common. And, good news, they’re avoidable.

Transitions — getting people from wedding ceremony to reception, for example — are a known problem point. Amber Small, owner of Sweetest Thing Weddings in Bangor, strongly recommends that couples hire transportation to shepherd people, especially if it’s a destination wedding or a location guests aren’t familiar with.

“If you have a wedding in Wiscasset and it’s in the middle of the summer, you cannot trust your GPS that it’s going to be 15 minutes from point A to point B because the traffic is going to be backed up two miles by Red’s (Eats),” Small said. “I always say if you’re having a wedding in Wiscasset and you need to get from point A to point B, put in two hours, not 20 minutes.”

Another common mistake: doing it yourself and then trying to do too much. “It” being anything from the wedding favors to the entire reception.

Robyn Allen, owner of Maine Event Design & Decor in Topsham, said she too often sees couples pull a dozen professional-quality projects off Pinterest, determined to make those for their wedding.

“Because she chose so many, none of them came out great,” said Allen. “I tell that to my brides a lot. It’s like, what are you thinking?”

And sometimes there’s actual danger in DIY.

“You don’t want to be up on a ladder at midnight after you’ve been drinking trying to break down (the wedding decorations),” she said.

Ashley Robedee, the pirate bride with the spider-bitten groom, wished she’d hired a wedding coordinator, at least to help juggle things the day of the ceremony. Her husband had urged her to, she said, but she wanted to do it on her own.

“I’m such a do-it-yourselfer that I shrugged it off. But as you can see, you never know what will happen. It would have been really nice if I could have had someone at the ready to handle things while we were sitting in the hospital,” she said. “Our friends were great and did what they could, but they didn’t know everything that was going on.”

The most common piece of advice: Don’t freak out when something inevitably goes wrong.

“Roll with the punches and enjoy every mishap on that day,” said Juliette Devaney, the bride whose canoe almost got away. “It will make the memories that much more real and make for awesome stories.”

Pirate wedding? Aye!

Ashley Robedee of Westbrook talks about her pirate-themed wedding:

I’ve always been very nontraditional, and Halloween is my personal Christmas because I LOVE costuming. In fact, we have a huge Halloween party every year that I start decorating for . . . two months in advance. Ha.

I always knew my brother would officiate (my) wedding because we are super close. (We got him ordained online through Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster). So one night we were just joking around about the wedding and saying that we should make brother dress up like Elvis. Then it was Spider-Man, then it became a pirate, and you can see how it went from there.

No one was given the option to not dress up — costumes were mandatory. Our friends are just as “out there” as we are, so they were all really excited about it. Most of mine and Erik’s outfits were custom made and then tweaked by me (i.e., my hat was very plain, so I added lace, feathers, a bird skull, red lining, etc.).

A few of our friends went to a Renaissance fair with us and bought some pieces there, but at least 12 to 15 outfits I made myself for people by just hitting Goodwill three to four times a week and making things. I even taught myself a little leather working to make sword belts and wrist cuffs.

Our parents needed help the most. My parents are used to me, so they didn’t even flinch when I told them the theme (in fact, pretty sure my dad was more excited about dressing like a pirate than his daughter getting married, and mom was just glad there was going to BE a wedding), but Erik’s family was a little . . .  perplexed. But they played along well and never tried to say no!


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: