By BAIRD HELGESON
bhelgeson@tampatrib.com
Published: Sep 5, 2004

Found another classic article I’ve kept for years I wanted to re-share that has always struck a chord with me since Tampa happens to be a major “Bowling Pin” in “Hurricane Alley”.
As a wedding professional, I’ve learned that weddings can tend to be kind of like the U.S. Mail; “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night”… or PT Barnum’s, “The Show Must Always Go On”.
Some may go even further by claiming that “It’s Good Luck If It Rains On Your Wedding”.

PALM BEACH GARDENS – Even Hurricane Frances couldn’t keep Lauren Marks and Edwin Arias from getting married.

Sure, the guest list eroded from 130 to 30.

The DJ canceled. So did the woman hired to do Marks’ hair and makeup.

The cake was made, but the winds were too strong to risk driving it in.

Frances blew out the windows of the expansive hotel room where Marks planned to put on her gown. She dressed in her mother’s small hotel room instead.

Water leaked into several buckets during the reception, in case anybody forgot that the couple said their “I dos” during some of the most unnerving moments of Hurricane Frances on Saturday night.

But in a way, it was a perfect wedding for the couple.

“We always wanted a small wedding, and I guess in the end, we got it,” said Arias, 35, a sheriff’s deputy in Broward County.

The power went out momentarily just as Marks, 33, was about to go down the aisle.

“It’s OK. It’s OK,” she said.

Murray Lichtenstein, a relative of Marks who officiated the half-hour Jewish ceremony, talked about two people coming together, about remaining unique, about sharing.

Through it all, the lights flickered, but Marks’ and Arias’ determination did not.

They married in the Palm Beach Gardens Marriott, a hobbled hotel that spent much of the day on minimal backup power, with 650 evacuees and a full staff hunkered down until Frances passes.

The couple spent nearly a year planning the wedding. They chose the Marriott because the people seemed nice and easy to work with.

The two fretted over who would do the makeup, the decorations, the service. Thanks to Frances, the wedding barely resembled what was planned.

“I planned, I planned, I planned every last detail,” Marks said before the ceremony. “But it turns out, that was all just for fun, all for fluff.”

A flower girl, a ring bearer and other members of the wedding party were stranded elsewhere, or simply couldn’t risk trying to make it in. Those who made it relished the adventure of the couple’s nuptials.

“It really fits them [that] they would go through with this in a hurricane,” said Joe Hannibal, 44, a close friend of the groom. “They weren’t going to let anything stand in the way. I’ve been to a lot of weddings, and this is one I am sure we will all remember for the rest of our lives.”

Marks and Arias met about two years ago after being set up by mutual friends. The four met at a sports bar and had a few drinks. The two talked about politics, life and sports. Arias, a former New Yorker, loves the Giants. For Marks, the Miami Dolphins are king.

Marks, a famously bad pool player, shot a couple of games with Arias. He took that as a good sign.

Marks admitted that she initially didn’t want to get into a serious relationship and that she was cynical about men. “I kind of figured I’d be single the rest of my life,” she said.

But Arias’ easygoing tenacity proved impossible to resist.

He proposed at her parent’s home last Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year celebration. For the first time Arias can remember, she was completely surprised and speechless.

Someone blurted out: “So, are you going to answer?”

Nearly a year later, they stood together on a make-shift stage in a hotel ballroom in front of 30 of the most important people in their lives.

“The only thing I care about is starting our lives together,” Marks said before the ceremony. “None of the rest of it really means anything to me. There is nothing you can do about a hurricane.”

There had been some loose talk of canceling the wedding. The unknown path of the hurricane would surely be enough to unhinge even the sturdiest wedding planner.

But the hotel staff was willing to go ahead if the bride and the groom were willing. The hotel had backup power and plenty of steak, salmon and chicken already ordered for the wedding party.

“So why not?” Marks asked. “The important part is the marriage, not the wedding.”

Even evacuees got into the mood.

They bought the couple drinks at the bar, and contemplated the profundity of their Category 2 nuptials.

“It’s something their kids will tell their kids,” said George MacDonald, who lives in New Hampshire and was stranded in the hotel.

MacDonald fled his home near Miami after Hurricane Andrew ravaged the area in 1992. “My child is a product of Andrew,” he said with a laugh. “I know where this could be headed for the two.”

“They say it’s good luck if it rains on your wedding day,” said Jennifer Henderson, a friend of the bride and groom. “If that’s true, they are going to win the lottery.”

They’ll definitely need the luck. The couple plan to take a honeymoon cruise next weekend to the Caribbean, right in the path of what could become Hurricane Ivan.

Reporter Baird Helgeson can be reached at (813) 259-7668

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