When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Nicole and Dan held little hope for their June 2020 wedding date. After all, the Rutgers graduates had bigger concerns. Nicole, a healthcare professional, was on the front lines. Their family members were getting sick. People were dying. Society was caving in.

The couple pushed the wedding to the fall. But as their original date neared, they could hardly look at the calendar. They spent the past year believing they’d forever celebrate June 26 as their day, and they felt that loss, however minor it might’ve seemed to others.

So, less than a week before their original date, Nicole and Dan resolved to go ahead with a much smaller ceremony in their backyard. With hectic schedules and little time, they didn’t know how they’d organize a wedding that, despite its toned-down ambitions, was something to remember.

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That’s when they called me. Nicole and Dan became the first client of Storyteller Weddings, a wedding officiant, planning and live music business, I co-founded with Highland Park’s own Tom Castles, a fellow former journalist. In four days, we booked a world-class photographer, secured a florist to transform the backyard, bought a cake to feed 14, mapped out socially distant seating—and, oh yeah, outlined, wrote and revised the wedding ceremony. The end result: Against all odds, Nicole and Dan got hitched, surrounded by their families.

Smack in the middle of the worst pandemic in generations might seem like a strange time to launch a wedding business. But Tom and I started Storyteller Weddings specifically for this moment. As thousands of couples postpone or cancel their ceremonies, the folks who decide to keep their date need a hand. And they deserve the most memorable ceremony possible—a skill that I honed during my time in New Brunswick.

Longtime readers of TAPinto New Brunswick might recognize my byline. In 2017, a busy year in news for this great city, I worked as a reporter for this website, covering stories on government and the people and corralling a small army of passionate freelancers.

What on earth could that have possibly taught me about the wedding business?

More than you might think.

As anyone who’s ever counted down the minutes to cocktail hour knows, wedding ceremonies often lack the fundamentals of strong storytelling, much less the garnishes that turn a passing moment into a memory. General platitudes and clichés make life easy for the wedding officiant, but they leave audience members yawning.

When it comes to wedding ceremonies, bad storytelling is everywhere. But in New Brunswick, it’s impossible not to stumble your way into some good storytelling.

For me, there was the piece on Chelline and Rick, two lovers whose shared heroin addiction led them to the streets. Even in their worst moments, after being robbed or painfully reminded of their past lives, they managed to snuggle up together with a few Butterfingers and a pack of smokes.

In a less tragic take on the love story, I spotlighted the New Brunswick Jazz Project and the prominent part it played in so many couples’ lives, from marriage proposals and weddings to one-night stands. “I don’t know if I would have been able to see him again after that first night,” one woman told me, “if it were anywhere other than the Jazz Project.”

Then there was my profile of the Corner Tavern. While not romantic in the typical way, this story was all about love—for community, tradition and, uh, beer. The piece focused on family and friends, with a deep look at a certain segment of New Brunswick’s history, both the good and the ugly. And, in some ways, it was a love letter to my more care-free youth.

The point is, I learned a lot about writing up love stories in New Brunswick. The tales often emerged from places I didn’t expect. And they always required skillful interviewing and thoughtful prose.

Now, I’m putting that experience to use in a way I never imagined. Storyteller Weddings is about connecting the dots—of your love story, packaged for a unique but complete ceremony—in a challenging time. If it weren’t for my time at TAPinto New Brunswick, I’m not sure I ever would’ve learned where to look for the dots, much less connect them.

Healthcare workers receive a 10 percent discount on all wedding packages booked before Labor Day. Check out Storyteller Weddings or contact Jack Murtha today to book your no-cost consultation.

Follow Jack Murtha and Tom Castles on Twitter.