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Posted on Tue, Jun 21, 2011 : 2:59 p.m.

Couple marry in St. Joe's ER after appendicitis thwarts wedding plans

By Juliana Keeping


Claris Hart and Chris Berrey married Tuesday afternoon in the St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor Emergency Department after a ruptured appendix thwarted their 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.

Juliana Keeping covers general assignment and health and the environment for Reach her at or 734-623-2528. Follow Juliana Keeping on Twitter



Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 10:41 p.m.

they ended up with a better story to tell :)


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 11:35 a.m.

Thanks for the lovely story! Congrats to the bride and groom and kudos to the staff at St. Joe's for pulling this together for them!


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 2:53 a.m.

Seriously, you guys don't have enough news to report ! Good Day


Tue, Jun 21, 2011 : 9:36 p.m.

Congrats to the happy couple! EOM...I think the usage was right...just no accent marks. Fiancee=a woman engaged to be married; a woman to whom a man is engaged. Fiance=a man engaged to be married; a man to whom a woman is engaged.


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 1:16 a.m.

Really? I'm asking too much to have an editor used in the town "paper"? I don't think so. Didn't think that having a paper without errors was something one should "get over". It should be expected, by everyone.


Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 12:57 a.m.

@eom Oh, for pity sake, get over yourself. It's not The New Yorker we're reading.


Tue, Jun 21, 2011 : 10:12 p.m.

fiancée....isn't quite right, any way you look at it...


Tue, Jun 21, 2011 : 8:46 p.m.

What a story. Congratulations to the couple and thanks to the hospital staff for all the help in pulling this off. Good Luck Chris and Claris .


Tue, Jun 21, 2011 : 8:45 p.m.

Haha, I love it. Congrats!


Tue, Jun 21, 2011 : 8:39 p.m.

Cute story -- but are you sure she had a ruptured appendix and not appendicitis? I'm rather surprised. When my bro-in-law ruptured his appendix and was so ill, he required four surgeries and 19 days of hospitalization. Either way, she looks lovely - and the story is indicative of how I've found most of St. Joe's staff to be. Congrats to the bride and groom!

Barb's Mom

Tue, Jun 21, 2011 : 11:16 p.m.

I would like to know how they knew it was a ruptured Appendix before she had surgery. It used to be if the Appendix was ruptured, they wouldn't wait all day to do the surgery because they didn't want' the toxins in the abdominal cavity that long to cause more problems.

Matt Cooper

Tue, Jun 21, 2011 : 9:16 p.m.

Most ruptured apendices only call for one minor surgery and 2-3 days in the hospital. Your brother-in-law was an extreme, and rare, example.


Tue, Jun 21, 2011 : 8:34 p.m.

fiancée - in case it's not obvious.

Jen Eyer

Wed, Jun 22, 2011 : 1:34 a.m.

eom: What you saw was not a typo, but rather a problem that occurred when the system converted the file from our edited version to the published version on the site. It couldn't process the accent mark, which looked correct in the edited version. Once it was noticed on the site, the strange characters were removed.


Tue, Jun 21, 2011 : 8:06 p.m.

Love this story! Congratulations Claris and Chris - I wish you a very happy, healthy life together! Such a wonderful group of hospital staff making a dream come true for an emergency room patient. It sounds like it was a fun wedding. A great picture of the couple. This is a wonderful, romantic, and happy story. I hope that Claris' operation was successful and that she recovers quickly.