When county offices close due to snow, Cass County Sheriff’s Office hosts wedding for Illinois couple

Published 11:08 am Thursday, February 3, 2022

CASSOPOLIS — While most people spent Wednesday staying warm from the comfort of their homes or shoveling snow from their driveways, one Illinois couple was determined to hear wedding bells — and Cass County officials worked together to make that happen.

A snowstorm that swept through southwest Michigan Tuesday night and Wednesday closed the Cass County Administration Building Wednesday, causing all appointments, including scheduled wedding ceremonies, to be canceled. However, when County Clerk Monica McMichael learned that the date, Feb. 2, 2022, was important to one hopeful couple, she decided she needed a plan B to ensure the couple’s dreams came true.

Enter the Cass County Sheriff’s Office, which is always open during weather emergencies. A few phone calls and some planning later, Teresa Capua and Charlese Kaufmann, of Illinois, were married at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Cass County Sheriff’s Office. McMichael served as officiant, while Sheriff’s Office employees, including Cass County Sheriff Richard Behnke, served as witnesses.

“Weddings are of course a big event and emotional event, so we try to cancel at the very last option,” McMichael said. “When I called [the couple] to tell them our offices were closed, they were, of course, distraught, and that tugged at my heartstrings, so I said, ‘Let me see what I can do.’ … We all felt really great that we could make this happen so they could have their ceremony on the day they wanted.”

Capua, 55, and Kaufmann, 60, have been together for three years, and have always planned on having a private, casual wedding. However, there was one detail that was important to them — the wedding needed to take place on Feb. 2, which would have been Capua’s grandfather’s 100th birthday.

When they ran into trouble scheduling their wedding in their home state, they decided to get married in Michigan, and Cass County seemed like the perfect fit as Capua’s family owns a summer home on Diamond Lake.

“We’ve been coming up here for a long time,” Capua said. “My mom passed away in 2009, and she always loved this house. She loved it more than her home in Illinois. So, that was special, and the date was our biggest driving factor, so it seemed right.”

The couple drove to their Diamond Lake home Tuesday knowing they were taking a risk with the weather, but hoping they could still get married on their scheduled date. About an hour before their wedding, they were heartbroken to hear from McMichael that the county offices were closed, and they would have to reschedule — but their heartbreak was short-lived when McMichael called them to meet her at the Sheriff’s Office.

“We can’t thank Monica enough, and the Sheriff’s Office bent over backward for us,” Kaufmann said. “These were the nicest bunch of people I’ve met in a lot, a lot of years.”

A wedding at the Sheriff’s Office turned out to be especially fitting as Kaufmann is a Chicago police officer.

“I felt right at home, like I was in my own station,” he said with a laugh. “This is something we are going to talk about for years to come.”

While the day was a monumental one for Capua and Kaufmann, the Cass County employees who made it happen said it was special for them as well.

“During a snowstorm, it’s stressful, so this was a nice break,” Sheriff’s Behnke said. “My staff got excited about it. It was just a fun change of pace during a stressful day. It was nice to have something fun and positive to put out the community.”

McMichael relied on her car’s four-wheel drive to navigate snowy and icy roads to meet the couple for the wedding, but once she saw the joy on Capua and Kaufmann’s faces, she said it was all worth it.

“On a frustrating day, it turned into a joyous occasion,” McMichael said. “It definitely did my heart good. There were a lot of tears of joy, so that was absolutely all worth it. Sometimes our office has some sad occasions, but weddings are usually very happy occasions. This one was a little extra special.”

The Sheriff’s Office posted about the wedding on social media, where Capua and Kaufmann have received dozens of well wishes. While the couple was not looking for attention, they said they are glad they have a unique story that they can tell for years to come.

With their nuptials behind them, Capua and Kaufmann said they are excited to live out their golden years together and plan to visit Diamond Lake and Cassopolis often.

“We are ready to spend the rest of our lives together,” Kaufmann said.