When Ryan Tripician and Christina Culler of Ventnor decided on their wedding day, June 30 seemed a perfect date — nice June weather, and well before the height of hurricane season.
Of course, nature had other plans. So on the day after a massive thunderstorm left thousands without power across the region, a late afternoon reception at the Atlantic City Country Club in Linwood was a no-go.
“It was 1:30 (p.m.), and we said, ‘What’s everybody going to do?” recalled Rosemary Tripician, of Ventnor, the mother of the groom. Then the bridal party had an idea: “How about the Old Waterway Inn?”
Asked about the last-minute reception, Rich Donato, the owner of the venerable Atlantic City institution, had his own description.
“Are you speaking of the miracle?” Donato joked.
Roll back the clock to Saturday morning, when the families of the groom, a Ventnor paramedic, and the bride, who works at a surgical supplier in Lower Township, awoke to discover their power was out. After an emergency visit from the hair stylist, the decision had to be made.
“My daughter-in-law was very resourceful,” Rosemary said. “We could have postponed it to the end of the month, but we had to feed our guests, and the guests were already here from the night before.”
But as it happened, the bride had run into Donato a few weeks earlier and had been given his card.
“(They) called and said they needed to do a party at our place for 150 people,” Donato said. “I said, ‘What day?’ ‘We need it at 5:30 today.’ I said, ‘You’re kidding, right?’ I thought it was one of those ‘punked’ moments.”
Even more fortuitously, Donato had ordered a 100-kilowatt generator following a “situation” with Atlantic City Electric, so at least there was power. Not that the Inn was totally out of the woods.
“The crazy thing was, the night before the storm destroyed our awning, ripped off the kitchen roof, ripped the hood for the kitchen system right off. ... But they seemed like real nice people. We had staff there cleaning, and I told the guys, ‘We can do this!’”
In the meantime, the Tripicians, Cullers, friends and family gathered at St. James Church in Ventnor for the wedding itself — “A ‘candlelight wedding’ where the only thing missing was the candlelight,” as Rosemary described the darkened, electricity-free ceremony. ‘The organ wasn’t going, but the keyboard had battery backup. There was a violinist and a vocalist, and we had wonderful, wonderful music.”
Back at the Old Waterway, the staff was quickly gathering everything they needed for dinner, which was prepared at Donato’s house.
For their part, the wedding party had no complaints.
“For a small place like that to come to the rescue?” Rosemary said. “They really, really came through. ... It was a perfect, perfect evening. We had drinks, we had food, and everybody was fed.”
“And the bride and groom were glowing,” added Rosemary of the newlyweds, on the way to Mexico for their honeymoon. “Nothing spoiled that.”
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