The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

This couple’s wedding was falling apart. Then an unlikely person stepped up to save the ceremony.

Kelsey and Andy Schneck at their wedding, which was officiated at the last minute by Manny Morales — the caterer who brought the barbecue dinner. (Photo: Sally Barker) (Sally Barker)
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The bride was trying to stay calm.

The 100-person wedding that she and her fiance, Andy Schneck, had been planning for the past year was unraveling.

At the rehearsal the night before the wedding, their officiant slipped and fell on a gravel road. Her ankle swelled severely, and she was taken to a hospital from the rustic and remote wedding spot in Camden, Ohio. She would later have surgery.

“I didn’t want her to be hurt, but in the back of my mind I was thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, what am I going to do?’ ” said Kelsey Schneck, 29. “I’ve been planning this for a year.”

Schneck had hired the woman nine months ago after searching the Internet, and the couple had met with her several times so she could tell their love story at their Sept. 1 wedding.

“I thought, ‘I am not getting married tomorrow,’ ” Schneck said.

At that moment, a food-delivery guy from City Barbeque showed up with the dinner. The bride told him she needed a minute, her officiant was injured and she wasn’t sure what was happening with the wedding.

“Well, I’m an officiant,” the delivery guy, Emmanuel “Manny” Morales, 35, told her as he got out of his car.

She thought he was joking.

“But he was like, ‘No, really, I am,’ ” Schneck recalled.

She replied: “Are you free tomorrow at 4 o’clock?”

“Actually, I am,” he said.

Though the truth was, he wasn’t.

As City Barbeque’s events coordinator, he had another event to work the following day at 4 p.m. But this couple seemed nice, and he wanted to help them. He thought about his own wedding — he has been married for 10 years and has five children. He figured he could work out the details later.

The bride’s father approached Morales to confirm that he actually was an officiant. As Morales set up the barbecue for the guests, he told the man about how he’d filled out a quick form and became ordained as a minister online last year and had performed two weddings in Ohio last summer.

“We bonded for, like, 20 minutes,” Morales said. “He asked me my religious background. I’m Christian, but I don’t go to any church particularly. I feel like you shouldn’t have to go to church to prove yourself to another person. I believe in the Christian philosophy you should do good things every day.”

As a matter of fact, Morales said his friends and family often get annoyed with him because he goes so far out of his way to help people.

The bride’s father told him, “I feel like it’s supposed to be you doing this tomorrow.” And he handed him the typed notes that the injured officiant had left behind.

Morales finished setting up the food and left, saying he’d be back the following day.

“It was a little nerve-wracking,” Schneck said. “I was thinking, ‘I just met this person, I really hope he shows up tomorrow.’ ”

A storm was ruining this beach wedding. Then a total stranger made the bride an offer.

As soon as Morales got in his car, he called his work and explained the situation. His work told him that someone would cover for him and to just go ahead and help the couple.

When Morales got home, he sat down for a while to look at the notes he was given about Kelsey and Andy’s love story.

“I read the whole thing, like, 20 or 30 times,” he said. “I didn’t want anything to go wrong. I didn’t want to start stumbling on my words.”

Once he felt comfortable with it, he went and got a haircut. The next day, he put on a suit and headed back to Camden to the nature-themed wedding spot.

At the ceremony, he started by making the crowd laugh. “Yesterday, I was a mild-mannered caterer. Today, I’m the officiant.”

He read from the script about how the couple had met on eHarmony and how Andy was initially worried about whether Kelsey would get along with his dog. He described how they love to cook for each other and how a cornerstone of their relationship is joking around and being silly together.

“He did it really well,” Kelsey Schneck said. “He really saved the day.”

A bride-to-be sent an invitation to the wrong address. It came back with this note.

After the ceremony, her father tried to hand him $300.

“I told him I can’t accept. But he tried really, really hard to give it to me. He said, ‘Please, you have to take something,’ ” Morales said. “I told him, ‘I don’t charge people.’ ”

In the end, Schneck’s father won out. "He ended up sneaking it in there,” Morales said.

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