Forget runaway brides and shotguns and cold feet.
Kennedy and Jefrey Hambel have a wedding story they’ll be telling their children — three, max, Kennedy assures — for years to come.
You could call it the wedding of the off-site officiant.
It started with a perfectly planned union Oct. 10 at the Lake Anna gazebo in Barberton. Jefrey Hambel’s grandparents had taken him there when he was a child; he and Kennedy decided they would create their own memories.
With the lake’s famous mum display in full bloom, everything was going well for the couple. All 16 members of the wedding party were present, as well as about 100 guests. Angel King, mother of the bride, had been helping to plan the big event for three years.
She does the same thing for Miller’s Party Rental Center in Akron. She estimates she’s helped plan hundreds of weddings since the coronavirus pandemic began.
For her daughter’s nuptials, King left nothing to chance. Early on, everything was going according to plan.
But the Akron mom didn’t count on the officiant not showing up.
As the time approached for Kennedy to walk down the aisle and take her vows with Jefrey, guests and the wedding party waited.
Repeated phone calls to the man scheduled to marry the Hambels went unanswered.
“We called him 15 to 20 times,” King said. “[I thought:] something’s wrong, something’s not happening.”
Tina Nachampasak, Kennedy’s aunt, went to a nearby church in a desperate attempt to find a pastor. No luck. She went to the Barberton Police Department and knocked on a window.
Sgt. Michael Casey heard the knock and answered.
“He asked me to come in and I told him the story,” Nachampasak said. “He said, ‘Are you kidding?’ ”
Casey swung into action and called Barberton Municipal Court Judge Todd McKenney, who had just officiated a 3:30 p.m. wedding. The judge was on his way, Casey told her.
“Sergeant Casey made us cry,” Nachampasak said.
Meanwhile, Jefrey Hambel was at the wedding site as his bride rode around in a limousine with her father, unaware of the commotion.
“I was walking around, trying to keep everybody as calm as they could be,” he said. “We were just glad it was a nice, warm day.”
The Hambels had wanted Jefrey’s first look at his bride to come as she walked down the aisle. Instead, they took pictures to stall.
In seven minutes, McKenney arrived, King said.
“What I didn’t realize was, this was a really big wedding,” McKenney said in a phone interview.
Since the coronavirus pandemic struck in March, he and Barberton Judge Jill Flagg Lanziger have been performing as many weddings as they can schedule, and they’ve had their hands full. Akron Municipal Court judges aren’t currently conducting ceremonies and the word has spread that Barberton is offering the service.
“I’ve done over 80 since the virus started,” McKenney said. “We’re getting people from out of town.”
King said the judge calmed her down and got things rolling.
“I gave him a hug and he was really great,” she said. “He didn’t have to leave his family.”
McKenney gave a brief history of the swans at Lake Anna. Before long, he had started the ceremony.
“I’m about to do the vows and I heard the [officiant] was here,” he said. He handed off the ceremony — “It was kind of like tag-team wrestling,” McKenney said — and the tardy officiant handled the vows.
King said the judge’s quick action and professionalism made her a big fan of him and the city.
“Barberton will be forever special to me,” she said.
Back Friday from their honeymoon, the Hambels of Akron said the experience will come in handy when their own children get married.
“I’ll tell them: Don’t worry at your wedding,” Kennedy Hambel said. “This happened to us.”
Alan Ashworth can be reached at 330-996-3859 or emailed at a[email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @newsalanbeaconj.
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Lake Anna wedding nearly sunk before judge agrees to replace missing officiant