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Guests come to rescue at Gettysburg wedding

| Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012, 5:32 p.m.
The Rev. Dr. Dennis H. Shipp marries Michele and Michael Roberts of Wilkes-Barre during an outdoor ceremony at the Battlefield Amphitheater outside of Gettysburg on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012.
The Rev. Dr. Dennis H. Shipp marries Michele and Michael Roberts of Wilkes-Barre during an outdoor ceremony at the Battlefield Amphitheater outside of Gettysburg on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012. CLARE BECKER | THE (HANOVER, PA.) EVENING SUN

Ruby Warren sat patiently in the pews waiting for the wedding to start.

With her gift by her side she squirmed at her seat, yearning to catch a glimpse of the couple.

“I don't even know them,” Warren admitted. And Warren wasn't alone. Of all the guests attending the wedding of Michael and Michele Roberts, none of them had ever met the couple. As the Roberts said “I do” at the Gettysburg amphitheater Thursday, they did so in front of a crowd of strangers.

When Michele and Michael first planned their wedding, they prepared for about 40 guests and a reception after. However, their plans quickly fell apart after distance and illness kept their families away. Only a few days before their wedding they realized that it would just

be the two of them and their minister, Rev. Dr. Dennis H. Shipp, at the ceremony.

But that was before Shipp stepped in to help.

“I saw a Cinderella story here,” Shipp said, “and I couldn't let Cinderella get married all by themselves.”

So Shipp put a letter into a local newspaper asking for guests, and within 24 hours the community rallied behind the couple. The Gettysburg High School autistic support class showed up, as well as several other residents including Adams County Commissioner Marty Qually, and the sculptor of the nearby Gen. James Longstreet statue, Gary Casteel.

“I have lived in Gettysburg for 50 years,” Warren said. “So I saw that letter to the editor and decided to come and help to wish the couple a happy life.

I am a helpless romantic, I guess.”

The ceremony was enough to bring any romantic to tears, as the couple professed both their love of each other and their gratitude toward their guests.

“You have truly made this the most wonderful and joyous occasion of our lives,” Michael said to the guests, small tears collecting at the corners of his eyes. “I promise that I will always remember this day and all of you.”

The day had particular significance for the couple -Thursday was Michael's dad's birthday, who lost his life to cancer seven years ago. It was also 1011/12, an anniversary date that they would not soon forget.

Standing in her white wedding dress and bright pink high heels, Michele spoke of the importance of Gettysburg to the couple as well.

“Our first date was here,” she said of Gettysburg. “This is a very special place for us. It is our getaway place.”

Michele has been traveling to Gettysburg for many years now on her motorcycle, and has always loved the town. When she met Michael 7 years ago, she taught him to love the area as well. The couple currently lives in Wilkes-Barre.

“We are completely opposite,” Michele said. “I am a Harley rider and have all these tattoos.” She points to the series of butterflies and birds that cover her arms and legs.

Michael said, winking at his bride, “But I am learning how to ride the motorcycle too. I have a good teacher.”

Michael and Michele, both in their 40s, have been married before.

“I have learned from my first marriage,” Michael said. “I have learned to take the time to really get to know the person and communicate.”

“He is my best friend,” Michele adds. “My mom always says that you should be friends before lovers and that is what we are.”

Before the ceremony Michele's mother called to wish the couple well and apologize for not being there herself. Tears swelled in Michele's eyes as she spoke, “I love you too mom.”

The tears didn't last long though as Michael came to her aid, wiping tears aside and walking her down the dusty aisle of the amphitheater.

The couple said their vows in front of a small crowd of Gettysburg residents, snapping photos and cheering as if the Roberts were old friends.

The class from Gettysburg High School made cards for the couple and baked cupcakes for all of the guests to enjoy. The Adams County commissioner offered the couple a cake and an afghan with the Adams County seal emblazoned on the front.

“I think we are going to have to move here now,” Michael joked with the guests about their love and support.

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