Before heading to their reception, newlyweds Johnny Benson and Laura Loretz stopped by a nearby Colorado reservoir to get some photos at their favorite hiking site. But that’s when an unwelcome wedding guest paid them a visit.
After shifting from one site to another, they headed to a spot their photographer had scouted earlier.
“We were on the path 50 feet from the parking lot and this rattlesnake just came out of the grass and bit Johnny right on the leg,” photographer Maddie Mae Wilbur recalled for TODAY. “It happened super fast. He got bit, we heard the rattle, and that’s when I saw the snake.”
Benson pulled up his pant leg and rolled down his sock to discover two tiny puncture wounds the size of needle marks. Fortunately, a park ranger drove by around the same time, prompting the wedding trio to wave him down furiously.
After initially yelling “congratulations” to the couple, the ranger rushed over to provide help. Paramedics were called and medics soon were trying to assess whether the rattlesnake had injected any venom into its bite. That would have escalated Benson’s danger exponentially and possibly led to several days in the hospital, the group was told.
But since Benson wasn’t experiencing any pain, swelling or discoloration — common symptoms associated with venomous bites — he was taken by ambulance, with his new bride by his side, to the emergency room.
The ER staff hustled and, after determining Benson had a “dry bite,” discharged the patient.
“The people at the ER were really fantastic. We were back out of the hospital within 20 minutes of getting there, which was amazing,” said Wilbur, who kept clicking away on her camera as the drama unfolded.
The trio ended up only an hour late to their reception, where they received "a super loud, emotional, extremely happy and joyous" welcome.
"The couple is amazing. They were in super good spirits through this whole event," Wilbur said. "And everyone was full of laughs and jokes through the whole night. It was a fantastic wedding to be a part of."
The photographer even heard Benson crack a joke to guests: "I don't always get bit by rattlesnakes, but when I do, it's on my wedding day."
Maddie Mae Photography normally handles adventure and destination weddings, and Wilbur often finds herself heading to exotic locations or out in the wilderness to capture elopements. She said she’s waded in neck-high water to get the perfect shots and just recently returned from Costa Rica, where she hiked 8 miles into a jungle for a waterfall photo shoot.
“I never would have thought that my only church wedding this entire year, my only Fort Collins wedding this year, which is where I live, would be my craziest wedding story and the biggest adventure I’ve had thus far,” she said.