Couple marry in St. Joe's ER after appendicitis thwarts wedding plans
Photo courtesy of St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor
Claris Hart planned to marry today - and a ruptured appendix that sent her to the St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor emergency room at 3 a.m. didn’t stop her.
In just under 40 minutes, hospital staff pulled a ceremony together today for Claris, 36, and her fiance, Christopher Berrey, 41, before she underwent an appendectomy at 2 p.m.
Prior to her medical emergency, the couple had planned to wed at the Ypsilanti home they share near the Huron River this afternoon at a small back yard ceremony in front of 30 family members.
That’s not what happened.
Berrey said his fiancee experienced severe stomach pain early Tuesday, just hours after they completed a month of preparation for their big day. They drove to St. Joe’s emergency room.
“She was very upset,” Berrey said, a few minutes after Hart’s procedure began Tuesday. “She said, ‘I want to be married today, no matter what.’”
Hart’s mind was made up. She told Berrey this morning, “ Let the dogs out, grab the license the rings, we’re going to have the minister come marry us before surgery,’ “ he recalled.
Berrey said the emergency department staff at the hospital sprung into action.
They made a veil of gauze, bought Hart a bouquet of yellow roses and hung ‘Congratulations ‘ signs.
Hart's unused wedding dress was blue - so they made sure she wore a blue hospital gown. They did her hair and makeup.
Hart was in a little pain, Berrey said, but pain medication helped. Staff contacted a nurse also happened to be an ordained minister.
Rev. Sheryl Colter, an ordained minister with Free Methodist Church and a Michigan State Police chaplain, came in on her day off to perform the ceremony, Berrey said.
Family, including the couples’ children from previous marriages, couldn’t make it. But plenty of staff members stood outside exam room No. 23 as impromptu guests, Berrey said.
Physicians served as witnesses, while the manager of the ER was the couple’s videographer. A staff member downloaded “Wedding March” from her phone.
In front of the ER staff and with Hart’s mother on speaker phone, they wed.
“It was pretty awesome and amazing that they pulled it all together to make this work for Claris,” Berrey said. “It made her very happy.”
Emergency department manager Jennifer Dunn said the ceremony was touching and provided a moment of calm amid the typical chaos of the ER; there were plenty of sniffles and teary staff members.
The ER ceremony was the first of its kind at St. Joe's.
The couple met online, Berrey said. The decisiveness Hart employed on her wedding day is what first caught Berrey’s attention.
She was looking for something long-term, she told him in that first message. And if he wasn’t, too, then he shouldn’t bother.
Turns out, he was.
Their first date was to the Renaissance Fair in August.
Berrey proposed this winter, dropping to one knee in front of Hart’s grandmother, who had given him permission to ask and also her antique ring and band.
“The rest is history,” he said.