Local Couple’s Ocean City Wedding Goes Off, Despite Storm Challenges

Local Couple’s Ocean City Wedding Goes Off, Despite Storm Challenges
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OCEAN CITY — Rising tides, road closures and power outages could not keep a local couple married during the peak of the Nor’easter from getting their new lives off to a memorable start on Friday.

The new Mr. and Mrs. Josh Kotis had their wedding as planned on Friday at Harrison’s Harbor Watch, but that was about the only element of their special day that went off as intended. Mollie and Josh began planning their wedding about a year and a half ago, including a beautiful ceremony at Sunset Park, followed by pictures on the beach and Boardwalk and a reception at Harrison’s Harborwatch.

Only the latter ultimately worked out as planned, thanks to the lingering Nor’easter that continually flooded the downtown area with rising tides, street closures and power outages, but with a little perseverance, ingenuity and resourcefulness, along with a firm resolve by everyone involved, the couple was married in a memorable ceremony and feted with an amazing reception despite the challenges.

“It’s obviously something we’ll never forget,” said Mollie Kotis this week. “It certainly wasn’t how we envisioned it when we started planning a year and a half ago, but you know what? It was really cool. Looking back on it, we wouldn’t change a thing and I feel like we can handle any adversity after that.”

Mollie looked back fondly on her unique wedding day after the tides subsided and she and Josh embarked on their next adventure, but she wasn’t always as calm or ecstatic in the days leading up to her special day. She said Monday she began keeping an eye on the forecast early last week as the huge low began forming off the coast and Hurricane Joaquin was gaining strength. Her friends began alerting her to the potential weather issues, but having grown up in Ocean City, she had seen similar forecasts in the past and wasn’t overly concerned initially.

“Usually, the first week in October is the best week of the year in Ocean City,” she said. “We had the deposits down for Sunset Park and Harrison’s and everything was moving along. My friends pointed out the hurricane forecast starting around Monday or Tuesday, but I reassured them they always predict the worst case scenario and everything was going to be fine. I grew up here and we were going to have pictures at Sunset Park and the beach and Boardwalk and a great reception at Harrison’s, where we went when we were kids.”

By mid-week, the forecast grew more ominous and conditions slowly began to deteriorate, but Mollie was still not overly concerned. On Thursday, the night before the wedding, Mollie and her bridesmaids took up residence in a condo at Emerson Towers on the bay-front at Wicomico Street, not far from the planned wedding venue at Sunset Park and just blocks away from Harrison’s. The plan was for the future Mrs. Kotis and her wedding party to enjoy a little girl time and prepare for Friday away from Josh and his crew. However, things started to go downhill by Friday morning.

“We could see the south end of town starting to flood and could see the water backing up around the Route 50 Bridge,” she said. “By noon, somebody called and said they weren’t letting anybody downtown and then the power went out.”

Delmarva Power purposely shut down electric service in the downtown area because much of its equipment was getting submerged in the rising tide and it feared a larger shutdown. The power was restored about two hours later, but the outage only exacerbated the growingly frantic situation with the wedding now just hours away.

“I had my hair person there and she was getting ready to start doing the girls’ hair when the power went out,” she said. “That’s when I started to freak out a little.”

Around then is when Mollie got a reassuring call from Director of Events Heidi O’Donnell at Harrison’s Harbor Watch, who was coordinating a Plan B with the restaurant’s ready, willing and able crew.

“Heidi called and told me to not worry about anything,” she said. “She had been in contact with my husband and they were working out the details. She told me to relax and let them worry about everything. I can’t say enough about Harrison’s. It really shocked me that all of these people were working to make sure my wedding went off while this storm was going on.”

Around that same time, Mollie’s sister was trying to make her way down to Emerson Towers with her children in tow for pre-wedding preparations. However, with the tides continuing to rise and Philadelphia Avenue now barricaded south of North Division Street, the trip became a little more treacherous.

“She came across the bridge, but they wouldn’t let her through,” she said. “She eventually parked at 2nd Street and waded with the kids through deep water about five blocks to get to Emerson Towers.”

Meanwhile, Mollie and her crew continued to watch the tide, which should have been receding by then. Of course, while it did recede somewhat, but another high tide was just hours away. Mollie said she and her husband continued to coordinate with Harrison’s and the new plan was to have the ceremony and reception at the restaurant, but there were still critical logistics to figure out.

“The new plan was for our guests to park at 15th Street and get shuttled down to Harrison’s,” she said. “I said that sounded like a good plan, but how is everybody going to get back out. I started losing it at that point.”

Ultimately, the guests did gather at 15th Street as planned, but the Ocean City Police escorted them downtown and through the barricades to reach Harbor Watch’s elevated parking garage. Mollie said despite the challenges and the forecast, around 150 of the invited 170 guests still came to the wedding.

However, there was still the issue of getting the bride and her party, including bridesmaids, her mom, and nieces ready and delivered to Harrison’s. Eventually, O’Donnell’s boyfriend, who was connected to the fire department, helped arrange a special escort.

“Around 5:30, we got a call advising us not to get dressed, but get our things ready and be prepared to get picked up,” she said. “I wasn’t sure what to expect at that point, but we went downstairs and there was this big covered truck with benches in it that looked like an Army rescue truck and there were National Guard guys all around to help us. All day, we had watched and waited for the tide to go down, but it never did and there was around two feet of water in the street, but there were these National Guard guys there and that’s when I calmed down because I knew everything was going to be okay.”

With the bride and her party delivered to the venue, and Harrison’s putting the final touches on the ceremony and reception, Mollie and her crew got dressed in a downstairs area of the restaurant as the guests began to arrive. Despite the weather, they did take pictures on the windswept Boardwalk and from then on, the wedding went off without a hitch, but the adventures continued for the new Mr. and Mrs. Kotis.

After the wedding, the newly married couple went out with friends to Seacrets with the bride and groom still in their formal attire. Later that night, they were being driven by a friend back to Emerson Towers, where they had planned a mini-honeymoon of sorts. The couple is planning a real honeymoon at a later time. As their friend drove them south through the downtown area, the flooding had increased and the new couple told him they would just get out and walk from there, with Mollie still in her dress.

However, the friend would not have any of that and told the couple he was taking them right to the door. When they reached Wicomico Street, which was still under a foot of water, the couple hopped out and walked the rest of the way to the condominium. The groom carried his new bride down Wicomico Street still in her wedding dress, which provided the opportunity for some memorable pictures and an unforgettable end to a nerve-racking but no less special wedding day that neither will likely ever forget.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.