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Government shutdown forces couple to move wedding from national park



Amanda McLearn-Montz had all the details for her wedding planned out. It would be an intimate gathering — just around 20 people — and it would be on the cliffs of Cabrillo National Monument Park, overlooking the ocean she and her fiancé both loved. The date was set: December 29.

And then the government shut down.

On December 22, after President Donald Trump rejected Congress’s bill to fund the government for another year, the federal government stopped functioning. The shutdown includes national parks, so San Diego’s Cabrillo National Monument Park was closed to visitors and the park rangers working there were sent home.

The news was particularly bad for McLearn-Montz and her fiancé, Ian Buchta, who had to find somewhere else to get married.

“During all of this, I’ve felt stressed and disappointed,” McLearn-Montz told INSIDER in an email. “I’m still disappointed we will not exchange vows at Cabrillo. Cabrillo is a beautiful place; its gorgeous cliffs and wildlife fit my fiancé and me so well and would have been the perfect setting to make our promises to each other. But we’re making the most of it.”

Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego, California.
REUTERS/Mike Blake

McLearn-Montz said she first heard their wedding plans would be ruined on December 20, when a park ranger working at Cabrillo called her and warned that a government shutdown might close down the park.

“We watched the news anxiously the next day and a half. We heard the update about the government’s official shutdown and waited for the ranger’s call,” she said. “On Saturday morning (Dec 22nd and one week before our wedding), the ranger called and said the park would definitely be closed. He apologized and wished us well. We were heartbroken but knew our wedding would still happen, despite the relocation.”

The only way the couple’s wedding could still happen at Cabrillo National Monument Park on December 29 would be if President Trump sign’s Congress’s funding bill before then. That’s unlikely to happen. The president trashed the bill because it doesn’t include $5 billion he wants to help fund a wall of steel slats along the border between the United States and Mexico. And Congress doesn’t seem interested in writing a new funding bill: It recessed for the holidays and isn’t scheduled to resume until the new year, when the 116th Congress is sworn in. (Some states are using their own money to keep a selection of parks open, but Cabrillo National Monument Park isn’t one of them.)

They wanted a wedding with an ocean view.

McLearn-Montz’s parents came up with a backup plan. They found a church where they could do the ceremony. And the couple had a restaurant with an ocean view booked for a reception, so they could still take the photos they wanted.

“We plan to do the ceremony [at the church] unless Cabrillo magically reopens,” McLearn-Montz said. “We will still do dinner at the restaurant on the bay and our photographer graciously said he would come to dinner so we can still get the gorgeous ocean wedding pictures.”

But the couple is still disappointed they couldn’t get the wedding they planned. The ocean is an important place for both of them, and they chose Cabrillo National Monument Park because of its coastal view.

The couple had a backup plan.

“[My fiancé] worked as a marine science teacher for two years, so the ocean is an important place to him and he would have loved to incorporate it into his wedding,” McLearn-Montz said. “But he keeps reminding me that he doesn’t care what happens on the 29th as long as he gets to marry me. I think he’d marry me in a dingy basement as long as he knew we would get to spend the rest of our lives together.”

And even though the government will likely be shut down through the new year, they’re making the most of it.

“Despite my disappointment, I know I’ll marry the love of my life on Saturday, December 29, 2018. And it’ll be the happiest day of my life whether I’m on cliffs overlooking the ocean or in a Christmas decorated church,” she said. “The most important thing is that I get to marry my best friend.”

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