When Jennifer Morales Vitale's classic bridal gown was stolen from her car only a few days before her wedding, she thought the loss of this precious family heirloom spelled nothing less than the end of the world.
And while Cameron Barry loves her husband dearly, she will never forget the anxiety he caused her when he showed up late for their wedding.
Kathleen Cahill was halfway to her honeymoon at a West Virginia mountain resort when she suddenly had to rush her groom to the hospital, fearful he was suffering a heart attack.
Along with being happily married today, these women share one other thing in common: As brides, they were victims of an alarming nuptial version of Murphy's Law, which says that if anything can possibly go wrong at a wedding, it will.
Yet all three managed to survive their near-disasters, and somehow managed to skirt catastrophe at the last moment. Along the way, of course, they also learned a valuable lesson about the tricky art of getting married.
They learned that when it comes to walking down the aisle, "attitude" is everything.
Take Mrs. Morales Vitale, for example. She says the theft of her priceless gown almost two years ago taught her the real meaning of marriage. "I learned that losing the gown didn't matter," says Mrs. Morales Vitale, the vice president of World Travel Associates Ltd., a Timonium travel agency. "A wedding is a big party, and you're with family and friends. And we have a good story to tell our children."
Cameron Barry says her 1988 wedding brought her face to face with every bride's worst nightmare: being stood up on her wedding day. A half-hour before the ceremony was supposed to begin, her fiance was still a no-show. "Nerves got in the way," recalls Ms. Barry, a Baltimore public relations and marketing expert. "I refused to get dressed because I had convinced myself my fiance wouldn't show up because he didn't love me."
Twenty minutes later -- after escaping a massive traffic jam -- her husband-to-be finally arrived. For Ms. Barry, it was time for an attitude adjustment. "When he showed up, I made a conscious choice: It was my wedding, I adored him and I wouldn't let my wedding be spoiled," she says today. The result? Although a half-hour late, the wedding was a roaring success.
Kathleen Cahill is relieved to report that her new husband didn't suffer a heart attack in the hours following their May 1990 wedding. "Luckily, it was only pleurisy, an infection in the lining of the ribs," says Ms. Cahill, a Baltimore attorney. "He got some medicine at the hospital and we were home the next afternoon. As it turns out, it was a great honeymoon."
While these three worst-case scenarios sound a bit alarming, brides-to-be need not hit the panic-button: With just a bit of planning and an occasional "attitude check," most weddings should be safe from the worst ravages of Murphy's Law.
But what about the smaller mishaps that can provoke nail-biting and anxiety on and around the big day? While maintaining a positive attitude is always important, you can also take some practical steps to minimize the risks of the unexpected.
Let's start with the simple matter of getting to the church on time.
"I call it the Case of the Phantom Limousine," says Alex Karas, the owner of Karas-Alexander Studios in Baltimore and a 20-year veteran of the wedding business. "At 11 o'clock in the morning, the bride is standing in the door waiting for the limo to show. Then it's 10 after, 20 after . . . "
What happens next? In a frenzy, the harried bride calls the limo service only to get a recorded message: The number you have dialed is no longer in service.
"So instead of showing up for the wedding in a fashionable stretch, she jumps in the back of Dad's Chevy II for the trip to the church," says Mr. Karas.
He goes on to point out that there are several ways to avoid contracting with a "phantom" limousine service. First, he recommends visiting several limo rental companies before signing a contract.
"Even if they work out of their home, look at how they live," advises Mr. Karas. "Do they have a backup car? Ask to see their Public Service Commission six-month vehicle inspection report. And pay with a credit card. That way you have recourse if the operator is unscrupulous."
Sometimes, however, the problems begin when certain people do manage to make it to the wedding: the sort of obnoxious revelers who quickly earn the title of "Guests From Hell."
Don't laugh. Many engaged and newlywed couples say it's not a trivial problem. For example, Scott Broom reports his wife-to-be broke down in tears when told that a certain married couple -- friends of her parents -- would be at their wedding, held in Aspen, Colo., last May.