White Out: Blizzard Weddings

The infamous blizzard of December 11th covered the Twin Cities in snow and shut down nearly every business—but that didn’t stop two brave brides determined to get married, no matter what.

Twenty inches of snow. Plows pulled off of the roads. Three snow emergencies. Events cancelled all over the Metro area. The historic blizzard over the weekend of December 11, 2010, was a challenge for the winter weddings of many brides in the Twin Cities. Meet two brides who figured out that a wedding doesn’t have to go as planned to be perfect.

An accidental candlelight ceremony
Marcelline Rudebusch-Kong’s winter wedding was initially a matter of convenient timing: With a March engagement, the coming summer was too soon to hold a wedding and the following fall seemed too long to wait. So when the Minnesota History Center was available for that fateful Saturday night, Marcie and her groom booked it and looked forward to their winter wedding.

That morning Marcie realized the snow was coming down fast. But the tea ceremony planned at the Embassy Suites, where the wedding party and most of the out-of-town family members were staying, had gone as planned, so it wasn’t until a 1 p.m. phone call that Marcie knew something was really wrong: The judge was stuck in Burnsville and couldn’t make it to the ceremony. There’s no ceremony without an officiant, so the judge suggested another judge, and groomsmen called hospital chaplains to see if any could step in at the last minute while the bride and her bridesmaids had their hair and makeup done. Meanwhile, the florist called, apologizing that she couldn’t dig herself out of her driveway.

The power blew out at Marcelline and James Rudebusch-Kong’s Minnesota History Center wedding, leaving them with a surprisingly romantic candlelit ceremony. Photos by Vick Photography.

The power blew out at Marcelline and James Rudebusch-Kong’s Minnesota History Center wedding, leaving them with a surprisingly romantic candlelit ceremony. Photos by Vick Photography.

The judge called back: The alternate officiant was stuck, too, and couldn’t make the ceremony, and by the way, had they heard that the Minnesota History Center was closed?

Marcie called every phone extension at the History Center and couldn’t get a hold of anyone—not the event coordinator, not the head of security. With no officiant and no venue, it started to look like the wedding was off.

Finally, the wedding coordinator called. The History Center was closed to the public, but the ceremony would go on as planned. And when Andrew Vick, the couple’s photographer, called to confirm and heard about the missing judge, he mentioned that his wife Janelle was a licensed officiant. The wedding was back on!

Marcie’s extended family lives mostly in southern Minnesota, and had planned to drive to the wedding that morning. Of course, with the plows pulled off the roads and the interstates impassable, travel was impossible for most.  

The limo driver arrived at the hotel, though instead of a tuxedo, he wore snow-ready clothes. That didn’t stop him from rolling out the red carpet for the wedding party, who all piled in for the ride of their lives. “We got stuck at lights, behind other cars—we backed into barricades,” says Marcie. The limo got stuck more times than she could count, and at times the limo driver had to get onto his hands and knees to dig the wheels out of the snow.

The initial plan had been to take pictures in St. Paul’s Rice Park, but the couple had assumed that with the snow these plans were off, and they asked the driver to take them straight to the History Center. But the driver would have none of it, and stopped at Rice Park for a whirlwind set of photos.

When the wedding party arrived, the History Center was dark, although the Minnesota Jazz Orchestra, the cheesecake vendor and the florist (who had made it after all) had all arrived or were almost there. When the wedding party entered, they found out that the History Center had lost power an hour and a half earlier, and the few working lights were powered by a backup generator—until that failed as well.

No food had been prepared for the reception. The limo had been originally scheduled to pick up family members waiting at the hotel, including Marcie’s 101-year-old grandfather, but for everyone’s safety the trip was cancelled. Instead, the vendors and the wedding party set up an intimate candlelit ceremony overlooking the state Capitol and arranged for a small reception back at the hotel. 

Two guests arrived, carrying a large gift. “You came!” Marcie exclaimed. “Honey, we have guests. We have guests!” she called out to her groom. They were seated as guests of honor—and honored they were, since they were the only two of the 160 invited guests to make it to the ceremony.

After the ceremony, everyone grabbed the floral arrangements and decorations and headed to the hotel in its shuttle. Back at the hotel, they ordered from the restaurant menu, the cheesecake table was set up just as planned, everyone took turns taking pictures in the photo booth and the couple showed off their choreographed waltz as the Minnesota Jazz Orchestra played their first dance.

As now-husband James said to Marcie many times that night: “This is the best wedding ever!”

The world’s bravest wedding guests
Blizzard weddings run in Debra Arbit’s family, so her own shouldn’t have been a surprise. Her parents married during the longest consecutive snowfall in Minnesota history, and her grandparents married during one of the biggest blizzards in Minnesota history.

Three-hundred-and-ten guests braved one of the worst blizzards in Minnesota history to attend Debra and Alex Arbit’s wedding at The Depot. Photos by Red Ribbon Studio.Debra wanted a winter wedding as well, and on top of that, she wanted to marry on a Saturday night. In Jewish tradition, marriages can’t be held on Shabbat, observed from sundown on Friday night to sundown on Saturday night. December 11th happened to be the shortest day (and earliest sundown) of the year, so Debra planned her wedding for that night, hoping for a little snow. She got quite a bit more than that.

Staying at her childhood home in Minnetonka, Debra couldn’t make it downtown for pictures as planned, due to the snow. Her soon-to-be-husband Alex instead met her in Minnetonka for some indoor pictures as her parents scrambled to move furniture and stash any clutter, as they hadn’t planned to host a photo shoot.

“It wasn’t how I had pictured it,” says Debra, “but it was all for the best.” The pictures of her getting ready in her childhood bedroom ended up more meaningful than the urban Minneapolis photo shoot she had planned.

Three-hundred-and-ten guests braved one of the worst blizzards in Minnesota history to attend Debra and Alex Arbit’s wedding at The Depot. Photos by Red Ribbon Studio.

While pictures were underway, trouble was brewing at Adath Jeshurun Synagogue. The parking lot was so full of snow that no one could get to the building to open it; for 20 minutes it seemed likely there would be no wedding. Luckily for Debra, her bridesmaid—a corporate building manager—called some friends in the snowplow business and saved the day.

Debra’s guests had heroic blizzard stories of their own. Friends who recently moved to Minnesota from Miami shoveled their rental car out of a snowbank with only a baking sheet. Another couple enlisted a passing plow to push their car out of their driveway, causing significant damage to the rear end of their expensive car, all to make it to the wedding on time. And guests staying at The Depot in downtown Minneapolis were told that the ride to the Adath Jeshurun Synagogue could be dangerous and that the Minnesota Department of Transportation had pulled buses and taxis off of the road. 

No one flinched. “We’re going!” said a guest.

Expecting 398 guests, about 310 showed up, and The Depot managed to accommodate them all by recruiting wait staff from nearby venues where events had been cancelled. Of all of the vendors, the only one not to make the wedding was the string quartet for the ceremony. A pianist filled in at the last minute. “You plan and you plan and you plan,” says Debra, “but you never remember the song anyway.”

Snow even followed Debra to her Italian honeymoon. Rome saw the biggest storm in 30 years with 9 inches, which shut down the autostrada, a main Italian highway, and turned Debra’s three-hour drive to Tuscany into a 14-hour crawl. The mishaps didn’t end there: an accident in the Leaning Tower of Pisa left Debra with a crushed ankle, in the hospital for a week.

And through it all? “Our sense of humor has prevailed,” she says.

No regrets
Moreover, neither bride would have changed a thing about their blizzard wedding. “If you want a winter wedding, go for it!” Marcie says. “There’s always the potential for bad weather in any season.” 

For Debra, the key to a successful wedding was having fun and not panicking, even when the day wasn’t going as planned. “No one looks back and wishes they had panicked on their wedding day,” she says. 

Every bride will remember her wedding day, and every wedding day is special, but these blizzard brides will have an unusual story to tell for years to come. “There’s an old wives’ tale that says it’s good luck to have rain on your wedding day,” says Marcie. “If that’s true of snow, then we are the luckiest people alive!”

Web exclusive!
For more of Debra and Alex Arbit's celebration, watch their festive stop-motion save the date video via Red Ribbon Studio followed by their big day wedding video, blizzard and all, via (Best of 2011 best videography winner) Capture Studios.

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