The fictitious perfect wedding, and other mishugas

Shmuel — whose last name we'll keep private — had a memorable wedding. Sure, everyone thinks his or her wedding is unforgettable. But this was really memorable.

"I started walking down the aisle, I looked up, and there was no chuppah there," he recalled.

What?

"They had just remodeled the hall. We were the first wedding to take place there since the remodeling. The caterer didn't think about it. The hall didn't think about it," Shmuel continued.

With the flowers and a skylight up front, none of the guests sitting in the room noticed it, either. Fortunately, the groom had packed his talit to use the next morning. His cousin ran to get it, and four people held up the corners of the makeshift chuppah.

His story, which took place in 1991, has a mythological side, according to Shmuel.

"My grandfather says he saw it first, my father says he saw it first. But I saw it first," he said.

The anecdote illustrates the unspoken, dark side of weddings: Things can go wrong. Families plan weddings for months, the bride and groom can pay attention to every last detail, but sometimes, there's just no stopping the more powerful forces. When that happens, the best defense is just a good sense of humor.

Take Carrie Kaye's experience, for example.

"A squirrel came into the hotel during the changeover of the room from the ceremony to the reception," the Chicago-area wedding coordinator said of a ceremony she did last year. None of the guests were in the room at the time.

"All the catering staff, some of the musicians and I were trying to not kill the squirrel but get it out of the room," said Kaye, who handles 30 to 40 weddings per year. Finally, a waiter used a broom to scare the squirrel, and it ran out a back door.

"That was fun," she said.

Of course, it wasn't her wedding.

Nature's impact on a wedding usually takes the more familiar form of weather. Heavy snow began falling on the Sunday that Nathan and Michal Fox were getting married outside New York in January 1996.

A quarter of the 400 expected guests didn't make it. In all, 15 inches of snow would fall, leaving many of those who did make it stranded at the hotel for the night. The groom's parents, Barbara and Jack Fox, hosted a lox and bagel breakfast for everyone the next morning.

Among those left in the lurch were professionals who had worked the wedding, who, like many wedding guests, had no change of clothes. At the breakfast sat 150 people, including stranded guests, the photographers and the band — all in their tuxedos.

Also present at the breakfast were many of the electricians brought in by the hotel to maintain the power lines. As Barbara was nearing the breakfast room, out walked the uninvited workers wearing jeans, boots and hard hats, carrying plates full of food. One of them said to Barbara, "Hey, lady, go in there, the food's free!"

"I just laughed and went in," Barbara recalled.

The wedding united more than just the bride and groom, added Barbara. "We had people from Chicago staying at the hotel Saturday night who didn't know each other. They're real close friends now."

At least the power didn't go out at the Fox wedding; other weddings hit by snow haven't been so lucky.

David Allswang, an attorney, is reminded of a wedding that he attended in Denver. The family went to great lengths to make it a memorable affair, but a heavy snowstorm hit Denver that day. Guests began leaving early as the word circulated that the airport would close. Then the power went out, leaving no lights in the room and — worse for the party — no electricity for the band.

Allswang explained the failed solution: "Some guys tried to sing [Jewish songs] at a high decibel, but…" The sentence needed no finish.

The unexpected events at Allswang's own wedding, which took place at the Seattle Sheraton Hotel in 1991, had a different spin. A beauty pageant was conducting a promotion in the hotel that weekend. Mrs. United States and Miss Universe were in the lobby, ribbons and all. Some of the guests found time to meet the beauty queens.

Were they taking pictures with her?

"Yes," said Allswang.

Did Allswang take a picture with her?

"I have a picture with her, yes," he admitted.

Adam Fishman has been to a lot of weddings, first as a singer with two Chicago-area bands and now with his own band, Nefesh (Hebrew for "soul").

Often the band must deal with last-minute situations when a musician can't make it or when the instruments blow a fuse. Once, however, the music stopped but the lights didn't go out, signaling that a fuse hadn't blown. Fishman looked around and saw a boy standing behind the stage. The boy had pulled out the plug. "The kid was a folk hero after that," quipped Fishman.

What did he do about it?

"I plugged it back in," he said.

Photographer Lawrence Stern recalled a summer wedding when the air conditioning went out. As the room grew warmer, the groom leaned over to the rabbi under the chuppah and said, "Can't we speed this thing up?" The microphone picked it up, sharing the remark with all the guests.

Later, at the reception, the best man gave a toast, during which he told the bride and groom how wonderful a couple's wedding night is.

Turning to the new bride, the best man remarked, "If he says 'Can't we speed this thing up?' you tell him 'No!'" Stern said, laughing at the speaker's wit.

An older rabbi was conducting another wedding Stern worked. Concerned that the rabbi might not remember the breaking of the glass, Stern, who was taking pictures from the back of the room, inched his way down the aisle and muttered "the glass" to the rabbi, but the rabbi didn't hear him. He inched closer and repeated it, but still no luck. He kept doing it. Finally the rabbi yelled out, "What did you say?"

"The glass."

"Oh, yeah."