Government shutdown threatens weddings set for national sites

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By Eun Kyung Kim

The budget impasse has not only shut down the federal government — it has literally put up barriers to the dream wedding planned by a Washington couple.

Mike Cassesso and MaiLien Le are scheduled to walk down the aisle Saturday. Until a day ago, they thought that stroll would take place at the site of their first date, the Jefferson Memorial.

“I wasn’t worried about the government shutting down; I was worried about rain,” Le told NBC’s Peter Alexander.

The couple is among two dozen scrambling to find backup sites as they try to salvage their October wedding originally scheduled on the National Mall. Dozens more planned at national sites across the country are also in danger of being rescheduled — if they haven't been already. Eight weddings are scheduled in Yosemite National Park this weekend alone, and 11 are planned at Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco during the first two weeks of October.

Genevieve Jeuck learned she had to abandon her plans to get married Wednesday at the Grand Canyon just three days before she and her fiancé were scheduled to leave for Arizona.

The New Jersey couple not only planned their ceremony at the Canyon, they planned to honeymoon there as well, and stay at a historic resort located on the park grounds.

Though she spent the first day after learning the news “crying, being upset and doing that whole thing,” Jeuck, 29, said she then dove into full planning mode, finding alternative wedding sites as well as calling her guests.

“Literally, an hour before we flew out was when we made the decision to just can everything and go with Sedona,” she said from a hotel in Williams, Ariz. on Wednesday, her wedding day, where in just a few hours she would drive roughly an hour and a half to her wedding site.

“I don’t know how much more can happen unless we get a flat tire on the way to the location. At this point, it really doesn’t matter. We’d be happy getting married in a parking lot if we needed to,” she said.

Jeuck, who reserved her wedding site nearly a year ago, has still not received an answer as to whether she'll get a refund on the $250 permit fee she paid or the deposit she placed on the hotel resort.

“It’s been very emotional. It’s been an adventure, to say the least," she said.

Roshel Ryan, co-founder of My Yosemite Wedding, has been dealing with a lot of frazzled brides like Jeuck lately, including one client whose wedding was scheduled for this coming Friday at the national park.

“She’s very irritated and frustrated at this point,” Ryan said of the bride, who has wanted to get married at the park for years. “So we’re trying to come up with a suitable ‘Plan B.’ There are lots of gorgeous places around, but nothing like Yosemite. Yosemite is very iconic. You can’t replicate that.”

Cassesso and Le, who paid $50 for a permit fee to host their wedding beside the Jefferson Memorial, are now leaning toward holding their wedding ceremony in the restaurant where they are already hosting their reception.

Le, 30, and Cassesso, 29, first realized what kind of personal impact the government shutdown would have on them when they received an ominous email Monday morning from the permit office of the National Park Service’s National Mall and Memorial Parks unit.

“We aren’t going to have the wedding that we wanted or planned,” Le said. “After putting so much energy into it, it was really upsetting.”

Jeuck said the experience has left her and her fiancé mad at congressional lawmakers.

“This is such a waste of people’s time and money and they’re not thinking about us. They’re thinking about stomping their feet and fighting with each other,” she said.

Her fiancé, Michael Sallemi, 45, said he's not sure if politicians truly understand all the different ways their impasse has hurt Americans.

“Closing a national park? Closing monuments and museums? That has nothing to do with the government figuring out what it needs to do. It’s completely counterintuitive,” he said. “And besides, the government is just losing money by closing all these parks. It’s really unfair and has nothing to do with Congress being unable to figure out their mess.”

While the shutdown is disrupting wedding plans for some couples, it also is raising hopes of bringing other twosomes together – at least for one night.

People on Twitter, using the #shutdownpickuplines, have made light of the budget mess through humor. Here are a few examples.  

The+Smithsonian+may+be+closed,+but+we+can+go+back+to+my+place+to+look+at+some+national+treasurers+#ShutdownPickupLines +#governmentshutdown