When Maria and Bruce asked me to officiate at their wedding, I was flattered. I knew both of them more than most of my couples, and they’re really sweet people. They’re both into motorcycle riding, outdoors activities, animals… but more than their common interests, they have a great chemistry with one another. They’re both compassionate, caring, and have a great sense of humor together. In fact, they’ve been together for 11 years and have been living together for many—I actually assumed they were already married. So when they asked me, I was all in—especially because how they wanted to get married.

Every year on the Fourth of July, Bruce and Maria have a huge picnic and party at their home in Westchester, New York. They rent tents, have a huge cook-out, there’s music, the whole nine yards. Since their closest friends and family were going to be there anyway, they wanted to surprise their guests—twice! First, Bruce was going to propose to Maria during the party, and an hour later, we were going to spring the wedding ceremony on the guests. This was going to be fun!

If the weather held out…

Bruce & Maria

The Happy Couple

I met with Bruce and Maria to make sure we’d get the ceremony just right, including the story of how they went on a first date motorcycle ride. They wanted a good sense of fun during the ceremony, especially given how people were expecting to come to a picnic and not a formal wedding. They got the marriage license, the ketubah… they set up tents just in case it rained…

July 4th arrived. Hot and sunny in the morning, it looked like we’d be okay. I show up with my family, keeping up the pretense of attending a picnic. Everyone was having a good time, eating and drinking. The DJ was in full swing in the back yard. With two hours to go, Bruce made the announcement that he proposed to Maria, and taking the microphone, she enthusiastically accepted his proposal! There was applause and hugs to go around, and people were still in the dark about the wedding to come.

And then the dark appeared. In the form of storm clouds.

At first, we thought this would simply be a weather front moving in, bringing in a deluge of rain for 15 minutes and passing—and in actually that happened. That is, until the second front closed in on us.

The bridal party gathered in the house as they got dressed and ready. I put on my clergy robes, and we thought we were all set. Guests had moved their chairs to where the wedding was originally going to be… and the heavens opened up. Like, a lot.

Cantor Contzius running

Me running down the aisle to stay out of the rain!

Change of plans—we’re doing the wedding back in the tent! Some quick thinking guests helped organize and move everyone back from under the rain. Finally, we were ready. We signaled the DJ, and to get everyone’s attention, they played the Rocky theme, “Gonna Fly Now.” It was coming down in buckets, so I ran down the aisle in to the tent. The rest of the bridal party did likewise until finally the groom and bride were inside and we were ready to go.

I welcomed everyone in attendance: “We welcome Maria, Bruce, their family, their friends…” BOOM. A huge clap of thunder interrupted us. “God, apparently.” Mother Nature was upset we had forgotten her invitation, apparently. I continued with wireless microphone in hand, trying to make the most of the situation. I had the two glasses of white wine set behind me on a small table to use for the rituals, but I didn’t notice how far behind me I had set them. The glasses were just outside the tent, and when it was time to bless the first of the glasses, I turned and saw the now diluted glasses. A little rain water didn’t hurt!

Maria walking down the aisle

Maria walking down the aisle

Half way into the ceremony, the rain kicked up, beating against the tent, and making my voice a bit difficult to hear. And then there was the matter of the electrical short! Lights out (not so bad as it was still daylight), and sound system out (very bad!). I put the microphone down and began projecting as loudly as possible for the 40 or so attendees could be involved as much as possible.

At the end of the ceremony, Bruce stepped on a glass, the bride and groom high-fived and kissed, and then… no music and a lot of rain! There was nowhere to recess! We sang a song of “mazal tov,” clapped, and stayed in the tent! Finally, the rain abated and we were able to relax a little more.

Thankfully, Maria and Bruce rolled with it and everyone had a good—and very memorable—time, to say the least! Congratulations to Maria & Bruce! May you have a long marriage and happy life together!