Getting hitched—with a hitch
June 24, 2011
When Dalia Franco started planning her wedding more than a year ago, she decided to handle the nuptial logistics herself, from makeup to valet parking. It never occurred to her that less than a month before the big day, the most crucial guy on her wedding preparations list wouldn’t be a deejay, caterer or florist but LAPD Deputy Chief Kirk J. Albanese.
But there she was Thursday night, pleading for some help in making sure her beautiful occasion wouldn’t fall victim to some ugly timing. The impediment to true love—or at least to getting 130 guests to a lovely mid-July garden wedding on time—is the impending closure of the 405 Freeway for an entire weekend in order to demolish the Mulholland Bridge. With ramps and lanes closing on Friday, July 15, and the entire freeway shutting down for all of Saturday, July 16, and Sunday, July 17, Franco’s dream wedding—scheduled for that Sunday at a private residence in Bel Air—was giving her nightmares.
For most Angelenos, the prospect of a 53-hour freeway closure is aggravating, alarming or a good excuse to get out of town. For Franco and her fiancé, Moshe Shmuel, it’s personal—not to mention a direct challenge to the guests who will be coming from around the world to witness their vows.
So Franco, 25, who works for a music industry attorney, threw herself on the mercy of the “unified command” in charge of public safety and traffic planning for the big freeway closure.
“I am begging all of you for some assistance in getting my guests up Moraga Drive,” she told leaders of the command at a community meeting Thursday at the Skirball Center. “Can I get some confirmation that my guests can make it up within three hours? I am honestly speechless, I don’t even know…”
Her plight drew gasps from the audience, and, it appears, at least a little sympathy from the powers that be. Deputy Chief Albanese said he understood that the wedding is “a really special day for you,” and said his staff would give her a hand in informing guests on ways to get to the 5 p.m. wedding. But even so, they’ll need to allow plenty of travel time, he said.
“Here’s the thing that you need to understand, and your guests need to understand,” Albanese said. “They need to leave early. So you need to communicate with them that they need to leave early. Before you leave tonight, we’re going to tell you the alternate routes for them to get up there. But they’re still going to need to leave early. Really early.”
Franco and Shmuel aren’t the only engaged couple to find their wedded bliss threatened by the freeway closure. Another wedding set for that weekend at the Skirball had to be rescheduled to take place a day earlier, on Friday, July 15.
Franco, who attended the meeting with her mother and fiancé, said she first learned of the upcoming freeway closure about six weeks ago.
“My mom said it to me over dinner. ‘I’m going to tell you something. Don’t freak out.’ We all sat at dinner and said we don’t know what we’re going to do.”
Franco and Shmuel, who live in Marina del Rey, plan to send out an e-mail blast to all the guests with detailed information about alternate routes to the wedding, which will have “sort of a romance under the stars” theme. After the meeting, Shmuel said he was “a bit reassured” by officials’ response to their situation.
And at least they don’t have to worry about making it a memorable occasion, Franco said: “Let’s just say that this will be the wedding no one will ever forget.”