By Katie McFadden
Is the editor of The Rockaway Times’ wedding newsworthy? I don’t know, but Father Bill was expecting a story. I told him I’d be on my honeymoon in Hawaii. But I’ve found some time between activities in and on turquoise waters and Mai Tais at sunset. If anything, let this be a guide on how to survive your wedding day during a mini hurricane. But if Rockaway has proven anything, it’s that we know how to survive a storm. And I have Rockaway to thank for getting me through one of the most important days of my life.
A week before 9/23/2023, the forecast was perfect. Sunny skies and 74 degrees. When I booked the date over a year in advance, it sounded great. The cool of fall starting to set in but with Indian summer holding on. Silly me for forgetting about hurricane season. As the forecast started to change, I prayed to God to spare us a hurricane. I guess I should have specified a “tropical cyclone” with downpour rains and 60 mph gusts, too.
I remained hopeful but as a realist, I started preparing for backup plans for our photos and transportation. When my then fiancé proposed in December 2021, I knew immediately I wanted to get married at St. Francis de Sales. The church where I was baptized, grew up in, and as of late, had been to far too many funerals, including my own mother’s two years ago. It was time for a positive celebration at my church. It’s what my mom would have wanted.
Next up was the venue. I love Rockaway but getting out of town for such a special occasion felt like the right move during planning, especially with so much family coming from out of town. We needed a venue that was small enough to accommodate a smaller wedding but large enough to accommodate our 120 guests. Stewart Manor Country Club in Garden City was that place. They gave us a deal we couldn’t resist, and it wasn’t too far, but far enough that we needed a limo. That’s where Anthony Choily of Serenity Car Service came in. I had done a story on him after seeing rave reviews and reached out to him when I needed a hand. Anthony informed me that he’d be celebrating his own big occasion, his 60th birthday, in Honduras, but he connected me with White Star Limo service to bring us around for photos and to the venue. All I needed was a ride to the church.
Months ago, I floated the idea of incorporating Whalemina, artist Geoff Rawling’s mobile replica of Rockaway’s beloved whale, that’s often featured in Poseidon’s Parade, to add a touch of Rockaway to the day. I reached out to Queen Mermaid Casey Brouder to ask when the 2023 parade would be as my wedding was 9/23. She told me it would be 9/16. I later learned she did this on purpose as to not affect my plans. I am eternally grateful to Casey and apologies to our Jewish friends who could not participate in this year’s parade due to it falling on Rosh Hashanah. But at the end of the day, I’m glad the day was gorgeous for Poseidon’s Parade. My big day, on the other hand, was more suitable for mermaids—wet.
As the weekend forecast called for 100% chance of rain, I had to unfortunately cancel the ride to the church on Whalemina and extend the limo service. I also inadvertently changed the whole day’s schedule by showing up almost an hour late to my own wedding. Thank you to my now husband, Paul, for joking with Fr. Bill and our guests that I was on “Rockaway Time” as he wondered if I was going to make it to the altar. Meanwhile, I was busy being glammed up by my makeup artists who had an easy time of making me look even more beautiful on top of the prep work Rena at Studio G had done on my eyebrows and the month-long cold plasma therapy treatment I had received from an angel of a woman, Pat Rorke of Spa Rockaway and Marissa. They had my skin perfectly hydrated, fine-line free and makeup ready for the big day. Also, a special thank you to my hair stylist, local Marishka O’Connell, for navigating my hair extensions under the pressure of running late and with a full camera crew trying to capture the process.
Finally, after my sister, Shannon, got me into my dress, we had to figure out how to get it from my late grandmother’s bungalow into the limo that couldn’t pull over on Beach 108th Street, while holding onto some clear umbrellas I ordered from Amazon two days before. Although late, a little wet, and extremely nervous, I made it down the aisle of St. Francis where Fr. Bill got Paul and I through the best part—becoming husband and wife.
While I had originally planned on taking photos at Riis Landing on the bay and the boardwalk on the beach, the rain and wind had other plans. Days prior, I had posted on Friends of Rockaway Beach on Facebook to ask locals if they could think of any covered or indoor photo spaces to use last minute, as my wedding brain was incapable of thinking of options. I am so grateful to everyone who came through to help. Thank you to John Cori for scoping out a location for me and even sending photos and video. Thank you to Terence Tubridy who graciously offered up The Rockaway Hotel as an indoor option. Thank you to those who suggested other local businesses. I reached out to Jeanie McHale at The Wharf as a spot to get those bayside shots, and it’s where my husband and I had our first dinner date.
Running behind schedule, The Wharf was the only location where my husband, my wedding party and I were able to take photos at the outside bar, as we ran out of time to go to the Hotel before needing to head to the venue. As my venue was landlocked, I did my best to bring the beach to it, with Rockaway sand filling the centerpieces and place card tray, perfectly put together by Stewart Manor’s magician of a maitre’d’, James. Councilwoman Joann Ariola’s chief of staff, Phyllis Inserillo, also helped me bring that beach vision to life with the most beautiful seashell covered wedding cake that she made for our big day. It was perfect. Thank you to Danielle’s Florist for the beautiful sunflower bouquets and Kevin O’Connor and John Fabry for delivering. And of course, I had to bring some bagpipes into the mix. A big thank you to my brother, John, and the Country Tyrone Pipe Band for playing some tunes on pipes and drums and giving me an opportunity to play the big bass drum for the first time.
Nothing about the day went to plan when I started planning, but it was a beautiful day despite the rain. Thank you to Rockaway for getting me through another storm.
Photo by Miralli Photography.