The days before the wedding were all sun and blue skies. Then the winds came.
By GAIL WHITE
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
Every couple knows that for a marriage to work, they will have to weather a few storms.
For Jeff and Heather Rios of Brighton, Mich., formerly of Poland and Boardman, storms nearly blew them away before they had a chance to say "I do."
"We chose to have our wedding on Marco Island [Fla.] for the weather," Jeff said, laughing. "Beautiful scenery, lots of sunshine."
The couple arrived a week before their July 9 wedding date to finalize plans.
"The weather was absolutely beautiful," Jeff recalls the days before his wedding. "Perfect sun, blue skies."
But the winds of change were about to blow.
It was raining Friday evening during the rehearsal dinner. By Saturday they were experiencing "some pretty good winds," Jeff said, describing the weather.
While Heather was putting on her gown, the winds of Hurricane Dennis were blowing fiercely outside. The island was under a suggested evacuation.
"The room where I was getting ready was oceanfront," she said. They took a picture of the bride-to-be in front of a big window. "There I was in my gown, and the palm trees in the background were sideways."
Meanwhile, the electricity went out where the groom and his party were getting ready. He walked down five flights of stairs to meet his bride.
The San Marco Catholic Church was also without electricity. The ceremony was held by candlelight.
"It was a little hot," Jeff said, laughing as he remembered the lack of air conditioning. "I was afraid my best man was going to grab the holy water and dump it on himself!"
"In the middle of the ceremony, the priest said something about being enlightened," Jeff said, swearing to the truth of his story. "And the lights and air conditioning came back on!"
Family and friends celebrated the couple's union at the Hide Away Beach Club on the island while Hurricane Dennis raged on outside.
"People told us it's good luck to have rain on your wedding day," Heather said, reasoning a hurricane must be really good luck.
Having weathered their first storm together, the newlyweds headed to the Mayan Riviera in Mexico for their honeymoon.
After several days in the tropical paradise, they started hearing reports of a hurricane headed for the area.
"What do you mean hurricane?" Jeff said.
As they watched Hurricane Emily on Mexican television, Jeff prepared for the worst.
"I ordered a bunch of food through room service," he said. "Just to be safe."
"It was heading right to us," Heather said. "We kept hoping it would shift. It didn't. It was on a dead-on course right to us."
Making a run for it
Unlike the suggested evacuation for Hurricane Dennis during the couple's wedding on Marco Island, the honeymoon was put on hold as the Mayan Riviera was put on mandatory evacuation because of Hurricane Emily.
With only their valuables, a change of clothes and the blankets and pillows from their hotel bed, the honeymooners boarded a charter bus and were taken inland. They ended up at a grammar school outside of Cancun, sleeping on the floor of a classroom with 22 other people. For the next 29 hours, that is where the couple shared their new life together.
"We went from being at a resort where they bring you drinks every 15 minutes, to sleeping on the floor," Heather said, chuckling.
Some couples may have been disheartened by the weather that plagued these hurricane-prone newlyweds. But with love and laughter the Rioses weathered their storms "for better or for worse," proving that together, not even a hurricane -- or two-- can shake their foundation.
"We made it through this," Jeff said. "It's smooth sailing ahead!"