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Image: Marc and Janina Leibowitz at wedding
Jennifer Sosa
After an idyllic wedding, newlyweds Marc and Janina Leibowitz and about 60 of their wedding guests found themselves stranded in Pittsfield, Vt.
updated 8/31/2011 5:01:19 PM ET 2011-08-31T21:01:19

Marc Leibowitz and his fiancée, Janina Stegmeyer, were in Germany, snowed in last Christmas when they got engaged and picked a Vermont inn for their rustic farm wedding. Now they've been stranded again, in Pittsfield, Vt. — with about 60 of their wedding guests — because Tropical Storm Irene washed away bridges and their main road out.

At least a dozen of those wedding guests managed to get airlifted out on Tuesday. One guest contracted a helicopter because his mother was running out of breast cancer medication. He said the pilot made two other trips picking up groups of five, including an 80-year-old who also needed medication.

The newlyweds never imagined that the story of their wedding would turn out quite like this.

"Basically we had an unbelievable wedding. She told me on Saturday night it was the most perfect dream wedding she could have imagined," said Leibowitz, 31, an artist from Brooklyn, N.Y., "and then on Sunday morning ... the weather changed."

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The group expected heavy rains but thought the brunt of the storm would miss this tiny town in the Green Mountains. Many of their friends thanked them for getting them out of New York City, the projected storm target, and into Vermont, he said.

"And then it hit," he said.

The small Tweed Creek that runs in front of their bridal cottage at Riverside Farm bed-and-breakfast rose rapidly on Sunday and flooded the bridesmaids' studio apartment below, filling it with mud.

Leibowitz and his bride, 28, from Brooklyn, decided they needed to get to the farm's other inn, where relatives — many of Janina's from Germany and in the U.S. for the first time — were staying. The couple rushed out of their brunch with some of their bridesmaids, despite the owners' warning that the road was giving way and that they should move up the mountain to stay with them.

Their four-wheel drive rental car was able to make it over the bridge to the Amee Farm.

"After we passed, the bridge collapsed," he said.

All of the groomsmen and one of the bridesmaids were left behind at the inn now cut off from the road.

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On Monday morning, some of the groomsmen rigged up ladders to cross the stream and the remains of the bridge so that they could hike in and out and from inn to inn, about a mile over the ravaged road by walking and climbing.

"We were hiking in supplies, food and water," he said.

Video: Northeast still battling Irene aftermath (on this page)

They've been told that it could be seven to 10 days before Route 100, which goes through the town, is repaired enough for them to get out. The road, their only way out, is completely washed out in both directions.

To pass the time, the couple and their wedding guests have pitched in around town, shoveling mud from homes, getting supplies to elderly residents living in the hills, and working at the Original General Store, which has become the central gathering place in town. The wedding party has a history of helping others.

"A lot of my friends, we all went through September 11th together, and we all volunteered," Leibowitz said. They did the same thing during a New York City power outage.

Image: Storm damage in Pittsfield, Vt.
Vyto Starinskas  /  AP
Pittsfield, Vt., has been hit hard by Irene's ferocity. This house was destroyed about 1 mile south of the town.

Leibowitz said the general store's owners have been cut off from their own home and have been staying at the store overnight.

Oh no! 13 real-life wedding disasters

By Tuesday, guests were picking vegetables from the farm to prepare for dinner. Townspeople, without electricity or phone services, were encouraged to bring perishable food to the general store, where it can be stored in a generator-powered refrigerator, Leibowitz said.

"There's 60 of us in a town of 400 and we're becoming a major drain on their resources," he said. Another 60 guests were able to leave safely before the storm worsened.

The Leibowitzes were supposed to leave Thursday for their Hawaiian honeymoon.

To keep spirits up, they've been playing charades, and some of their musician friends who entertained at the wedding have been playing music at night.

"Different things to keep everybody from kind of freaking out. A couple of people have been freaked out and others have been really scared but we're trying to keep people calm."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Northeast still battling Irene aftermath

  1. Closed captioning of: Northeast still battling Irene aftermath

    >>> we really have seen an unbelievable turn of events following the storm here in the east named irene. long gone but it's continuing to unleash incredible damage and chaos. first, some numbers. 43 people are now dead. 3 million americans still without power going into tonight. 13 separate communities in the state of vermont alone are still cut off. there were 700 boat rescues today in just the state of new jersey . it goes on and on and connecticut, 1,000 roads, at least, still blocked. north carolina , this storm changed the map of the outer banks as they had feared. crippled infrastructure in new england. these power outages, 500,000 in connecticut. 300,000 in new jersey, have, as you might imagine, dramatically cut into the quality of life and people's ability to make a living. we begin with michelle franzen . she is in manville, new jersey, michelle, good evening.

    >> reporter: you mentioned the water rescues. it's not hard to believe when you're dealing with this storm. people are still not trying to escape the floodwaters. they are overwhelmed with the cleanup. rising rivers unleashed more pain today in the northeast. and help rushed in just as quickly to those areas hardest hit by irene. in patterson, new jersey, one family after another were rescued by boat as their homes and neighborhood fell victim to floodwaters. tonight, mandatory evacuations were ordered for 1,000 families in wallington with floodwaters on the move.

    >> the floodgates, we got to do something about this.

    >> and the governor surveyed the latest assault on his state.

    >> these floodwaters happen quickly and you can't survive.

    >> reporter: rivers in upstate new york overwhelmed from the massive runoff from the 'hurricane's rainfall quickly overtopped their banks.

    >> the challenge for us is to assess the damage and get back to work.

    >> reporter: in the catskills, towns like prattsville were among the hardest hit. today, looking where her daughter's trailer once stood.

    >> she lost everything. she has a 2-year-old baby and she's having a baby any time now.

    >> reporter: meanwhile, in land-locked vermont, people in more than a dozen towns are reportedly cut off after raging floodwaters badly damaged or even washed away roads and more than 200 bridges. after getting married over the weekend at her childhood summer camp .

    >> the wedding was beautiful. the rain had not set in. it was gorgeous.

    >> reporter: the wedding party and more than 100 guests might be trapped for days until they can replace the washed-out bridge. in ludlow, bulldozers cleared debris. neighbors got to work, too.

    >> is there anything i can do, really?

    >> we're probably going to run out of groceries.

    >> reporter: in manville, new jersey, resources and emotions stretched to the limit.

    >> it's tough, but life goes on, you know? my dad built this house. and now i lost it.

    >> reporter: brian, there are decisions being made all up and down the east coast , whether it's worth rebuilding or whether people should cut their losses and go.

    >> unbelievable scene. you work for something all your life and comes along quarterback barely a category 1 storm at the tail end of its life. and it just keeps on going. michelle franzen from new

Explainer: Brides and doom: 13 wedding disasters

  • Image: Wedding disasters
    Getty Images stock

    Many women spend their entire lifetimes dreaming about their wedding day.

    But could anyone ever imagine that bridal bliss could turn this sour?

    We’ve found tales of women vomiting onto their wedding dresses, being catapulted out of horse-drawn carriages, swallowing their engagement rings and tangling with the police.

    One bride even got hauled off to jail and had her mug shot taken — in her wedding gown.

    Here are 13 — that’s right, 13 — eye-popping tales of nuptials gone awry.

  • Now that's a mug shot

    Image: Adrienne Samen
    South Windsor Police Services
    And yes, the person in the mug shot is wearing a wedding dress. Meet Adrienne Samen, a Connecticut bride who had quite the wedding night back in August 2003.

    Several things went wrong:

    First, she apparently got intoxicated.

    Second, she yelled obscenities and threw cake and vases at her new husband.

    Third, witnesses told police that she “flipped out” when the bar at the reception stopped serving drinks for the night.

    And then there was the obscene gesture at the police, the attempt to bite an officer who put her in the back of a police car and the moment when she kicked a police-car window out of its track.

    Charges: breach of peace and criminal mischief. Fine: $90.

  • Get me off this island!

    Image: Beach in Santo Domingo
    Erika Santelices  /  AFP - Getty Images
    Like many couples, British citizens Simmone Edwards and Samuel Hibberd thought a destination wedding in the Dominican Republic would be romantic and memorable.

    But because the couple had been given incorrect information about the Dominican Republic’s wedding waiting period, they had no choice but to wed three days earlier than planned without any of their guests present.

    Then on the day of the reception, the bride, groom and many guests got food poisoning.

    “I was so ill ... that I vomited outside the restaurant where we were eating three times and almost fainted,” the bride told the UK’s Evening Post. “It completely ruined what was supposed to be the best day of my life.”

  • Horse ran roughshod over her big day

    Image: Wedding carriage
    Sophie Clarke, 29, of England spent three years planning a fairy-tale wedding that included a $3,000 dress, handmade invitations and a horse-drawn carriage.

    But during the carriage ride to the church with her father, Clarke almost lost her life.

    The horse got spooked and bolted, throwing the driver and his assistant from the carriage and leaving no one at the helm.

    As the horse sped into the pathway of an oncoming truck, Clarke’s father pushed his daughter from the carriage and jumped out after her. Clarke was left badly injured with a concussion and covered with blood.

    In January, six weeks after the accident, she eventually married her fiancé in a much more intimate ceremony.

    “I had a life-changing experience,” Clarke told the Daily Mail. “It put into perspective for me that all of the fancy things, the posh invites and parties are not important. The only important thing is becoming Karl’s wife.”

  • Jilted bride throws party for retirees

    Talk about a Halloween nightmare – initially, at least!

    Teanne Harris' fiance stood her up shortly before their planned Halloween-themed wedding on Oct. 31, 2009. Harris, 34, of Illinois, tried to get her deposit money back from the reception hall, but she was denied because she made her request too close to the date of the event.

    Crushed, she sat with her mom in the reception hall parking lot — and then she noticed the Asbury Court Retirement Community across the street. In a matter of minutes, an idea was hatched: Instead of hosting a wedding reception, Harris would throw a Happy Halloween party for hundreds of senior citizens.

    The party was a huge hit. Harris also donated her bridal bouquet to the retirement community's chapel, and she made her way to Hawaii honeymoon destination on her own.

    "I say good for her," Mary Eichenfeld, the retirement community's resident services director, told the New York Daily News. "I hope she finds a nice guy who deserves her."

  • Gimme those conga drums

    Image: Fabiana Reyes, left, Elmo Jesus Fernandez
    Port Chester Police Department
    Fabiana Reyes, left, Elmo Jesus Fernandez.
    Fabiana Reyes and her husband, Elmo Jesus Fernandez, thought it would be nice to renew their wedding vows last year — in a church this time, since they didn’t have a church wedding the first time around.

    Everything went fine until the reception, when the band stopped playing to give the DJ a turn.

    Reyes got so frustrated that she “knocked over and damaged the band’s conga drums valued at $600, a speaker valued at $350 and other equipment,” according to the New York newspaper The Journal News.

    A fight ultimately erupted between police and Reyes, her husband and their 21-year-old daughter. All three family members went to jail.

  • You may not touch the bride

    Sure, the bride and the groom had endured their share of troubles. They had even been married once before, and she had once gotten an order of protection against him. But should that really stand in the way of their second wedding?

    Well, when the pair tried to tie the knot in New York last summer, groom Timothy Cole was arrested and charged with first-degree criminal contempt for being too close to the bride.

    The arrest probably wouldn’t have happened if Cole hadn’t quarreled with one of the wedding guests.

    When police arrived, they recognized Cole from his previous arrests and his past clashes with the bride.

  • Want my dress? I'm not using it!

    Image: Richard Jefferson
    D. Clarke Evans  /  NBAE via Getty Images file
    It made national headlines in July 2009 when NBA star Richard Jefferson dumped former Nets team dancer Kesha Nichols just five days before their $500,000 wedding. (And he broke up with her via e-mail!)

    Nichols was devastated — but since the high-profile split, she's been bouncing back nicely. She started her own dance troupe and has been filmed for a reality TV show.

    And she decided to make quite a production out of offloading the $10,000 wedding dress that she never got to wear. Her plan? To give the dress away to an essay writer who could explain how she "danced through life" and overcame adversity.

    "I'm sure I could have sold the dress for a good amount of money," Nichols told the New York Post. "But I would rather give the dress to someone who would never have the chance to wear a $10,000 couture, one-of-a-kind dress."

  • Massive brawl wrecks lesbian wedding

    When firefighter Vanessa Mayo married her partner, Gail Hines, at a civil partnership ceremony in England in 2006, she never imagined that the reception would turn so violent.

    A male relative made a comment that got the people around him all riled up, and within minutes, about 20 guests were embroiled in a full-on melee.

    Mayo wound up with a black eye, and the reception abruptly came to a halt.

    She left sobbing as she headed off for her honeymoon in Turkey.

  • One of Hollywood's shortest marriages

    Image: Eddie Murphy, Tracey Edmonds
    Kevin Winter  /  Getty Images
    Eddie Murphy and Tracey Edmonds had a lavish — and non-legally binding — wedding ceremony on a French Polynesian island on New Year’s Day in 2008.

    The ceremony, part of a multiday occasion rumored to have cost $500,000, happened at sunset and was the stuff of fairy tales.

    A mere 14 days later, the couple split. Rocky relations between Edmonds and Murphy’s mom were said to have contributed to the speedy breakup.

  • Gulp! I swallowed the ring!

    Image: X-ray showing wedding ring
    Reed Harris put a lot of thought into how he would pop the question to the love of his life, Kaitlin Whipple.

    In the end, he decided to hide the engagement ring in a Wendy’s Frosty milk shake and let her discover it.

    She reached the end of the milk shake, and — uh-oh. No ring. It took an X-ray to make Whipple believe Harris’ urgent story about what had happened.

    Once Whipple was in possession of the X-ray image of the ring inside her, Harris dropped to one knee and proposed.

    Yes, Whipple did manage to retrieve the ring, clean it and wear it.

    Video: Milk shake proposal gone awry
  • What would you do if you learned your fiance was cheating?

    Image: Kyle Paxman, right, and Patricia Carbee
    Caleb Kenna
    Kyle Paxman, right, and her mom Patricia Carbee.
    How about if you received news your fiance was cheating mere weeks before your elaborately planned wedding day?

    Here’s what Kyle Paxman decided to do: She went ahead with her Vermont reception anyway and turned it into a charity benefit to honor strong women.

    Money raised from the 2006 event went to the Vermont Children’s Aid Society and CARE USA.

    Yay, Kyle!

  • A proposal to remember

    Image: Don Walling, Gina Pellicani
    Don Walling wanted to propose to Gina Pellicani in one of the most memorable settings imaginable: on the pedestrian walkway above the Brooklyn Bridge, with a sweeping view of New York before them.

    Walling took Pellicani to the perfect spot earlier this year for the big moment.

    “I got on a knee, said, ‘Will you marry me?’ opened the box, and it flew out,” Walling told TODAY.

    He watched the ring fall to the roadway below, and then he acted fast by climbing down the bridge’s superstructure.

    This sparked a suicide-jumper alert, but he managed to make police believe that he had no plans to jump.

    After all that, he did retrieve the ring.

    Video: Fiance: Ring ‘fell out of the box’ on bridge
  • Those stone crabs can really get you

    Mary McPhail of Ohio has one of those legendary wedding-day horror stories.

    "We had our rehearsal dinner at the restaurant where my husband and I met, and as a surprise gift, they gave us this big, beautiful tray of stone crabs,” McPhail told LifeWire. “The next day, I had a very upset stomach but just attributed it to nerves.”

    It turned out that she had food poisoning. At some point during her lengthy ceremony, she clamped her hand over her mouth. The priest quickly wound things up and sent the couple back up the aisle.

    “We got to the back of the church and I just lost it all over my gown,” McPhail recalled. “It was a really small wedding, and everybody knew. I was mortified, but it was the highlight of everyone’s day.”


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