US shutdown: Four rearranged weddings

By Charly Jaffe
BBC News, Washington


As disagreements in Congress mean that "closed" signs hang outside national parks across the US, four couples explain how they've coped with their wedding venues being suddenly out of bounds.

Natasha and Sean - wedding Sunday 6 October, Los Angeles

When Natasha Juliao and Sean Coughlin walked on to Paramount Ranch just outside Los Angeles, they knew they had found their perfect wedding venue.

"The second that we stepped on the property, I knew it was where I was going to get married and we were jumping up and down and giddy," gushed bride-to-be Natasha.

So when she found out that the bohemian ghost town would be closed for her big day, she was crushed. "I immediately had a nervous breakdown and started crying at work, it was awful. I had no idea what to do."

With family and friends flying in from places as far as Taiwan, postponing the wedding was not an option. Unable to get a refund, Juliao and Coughlin, a nursing assistant and production co-ordinator, were nearly out of time and money to find an alternative. Then, through a stroke of fate and a stranger's kindness, Natasha managed to put together a new wedding in two days.

The owner of Wooden Nickel Ranch, two hours away from their original venue, found out about the couple's story in local media and then discovered she had a cancellation for the same Sunday.

Feeling for the couple's misfortune, she knocked down the starting price by 90%. Still a bit shaky from the entire ordeal, Natasha praised her wedding day hero: "She was really an angel for us."

Drake and Zach - wedding 13 October, venue unknown

Hoping to create an intimate setting for their families' first encounter, Drake Lucas and Zach Kouwe spent more than a year poring over Pinterest, planning a low-key wedding in California's Yosemite National Park.

"Ironically," Drake noted, "we chose it because we thought it would be stress-free." But with the park closed, the Brooklyn couple are scrambling to put together a plan B wedding in San Francisco, a five-hour drive away.

From the flowers to the venue, everything has to be found in less than a week, which means nothing will be quite as they envisaged.

In the midst of her hectic attempts to salvage her big day, Lucas, a grant-writer at Human Rights Watch, has some words of wisdom for Congress.

"If I can just share a little of the advice I've been given during my engagement, I might be able to help us all out. It's called compromise.

"I hear you have to do a lot of it in marriage, and it seems to me that you should have to do a lot of it in your job, too. You can't just give up if you don't get your way.

"And you have to pay your bills on time. Because we are in this for the long haul and there are enough real problems we will have to weather - there is no need to create ones you can prevent."

Genevieve and Michael - married on Wednesday in Arizona

"I never thought I'd hike in a wedding dress."

As an endurance athlete, Genevieve Jeuck knew how to push through in tough situations. But when she found out that her Grand Canyon dream wedding would be off limits, she stopped in her tracks.

"I got the call Thursday night. I cried. I was freaking out, and then I thought I was turning into a 'Bridezilla.'"

Jeuck, a violinist, and her fiance Michael Sallemi, a Harley Davidson salesman, hadn't connected the dots between the government shutdown and the national parks closing.

And with less than six days until the 2 October wedding, all options were on the table. But then the New Jersey couple were able to relocate to Sedona, Arizona, and the last-second wedding included an unexpected hike in the white dress.

Though she never cared for politics before, the new bride has spent her honeymoon closely following the effects of the shutdown throughout the country.

Angry and impassioned, Jeuck has vowed that her days of apathy are over. "Now, I'm sorry I'm following and I'm voting and I'm doing everything I can to have a say."

MaiLien and Michael - wedding Saturday, Washington DC

MaiLien Le and Michael Cassesso had planned a romantic wedding at the Jefferson Memorial, where they met for their first date more than four years ago.

Having worked in politics, the couple are no stranger to Capitol Hill antics, but that didn't soften the blow as their wedding became a casualty of the latest Washington crisis.

"It's gut-wrenching, frustrating, aggravating, disheartening to have our wedding turned upside down like that," says Cassesso, a legislative analyst. Le, a project co-ordinator at an executive search firm, had a more intuitive reaction, with an expletive.

As strangers started donating to their wedding gift registry, Cassesso and Le directed the funds to The Covenant House, a charity for homeless young people, a group the couple think will be adversely affected by the shutdown.

They have found another venue for Saturday's wedding in Washington DC, and he says the ordeal has a silver lining.

"Throughout all this there was no fighting, no arguing," Cassesso says. "It confirmed for me even more than I already knew that this is going to last, this is the right choice."