One total eclipse, two chamber masterminds and 146 weddings make Tiffin the place to be on April 8

Apr 2, 2024 | Around Ottawa County | 0 comments

 

Bryce Riggs, left, and Marisa Stephens sit on the Frost Kalnow Amphitheater in Tiffin, where Seneca County Common Pleas Judge Damon Alt will marry 146 couples under the eclipse. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

 

BY SHERI TRUSTY

Last year, a small idea was sparked in Tiffin that quickly flamed across the nation. Seneca Regional Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Bryce Riggs, and Marisa Stephens, who serves as Director of Marketing for the chamber and Destination Seneca County, devised a plan to host an outdoor wedding in Tiffin during the April 8 total eclipse. They named the event Elope at the Eclipse and spread the word that couples could be married at Tiffin’s outdoor amphitheater during peak coverage. The couples would pay nothing more than the cost of a marriage license, and the only decision they faced was how to get to the wedding.

Elope at the Eclipse is part of the chamber’s multiday Seneca County Solar Eclipse of the Heart event.

Riggs and Stephens expected a few people to register for Elope at the Eclipse, but 146 couples from around the U.S. will travel over 16,500 miles to begin their lives together in total darkness in Tiffin.

“It was just an idea, and some people thought we were a little crazy,” Riggs said. “Now people are really excited about the opportunity to get married at virtually no cost to them. They only have the cost of the marriage license.”

News about Elope at the Eclipse spread across the nation when it was picked up by major media outlets including Martha Stewart, People, Fox News and Yahoo Life. Recently, Riggs and Stephens received a call from a New York Times correspondent hoping to do a story. Their small idea brought Tiffin to national attention, and now, on April 8, the country will keep one eye on the sky and one eye on Tiffin, where couples will marry in a once-in-a-lifetime, darkly romantic experience.

The couples will be married by Seneca County Common Pleas Court Judge Damon Alt at Frost Kalnow Amphitheater, where they will exchange vows, share their first toast and first dance, and then head to The Chandelier Community Event Center for wedding cake, more dancing and an elegant celebration of their new lives.

Bryce Riggs, left, and Marisa Stephens of Seneca Regional Chamber of Commerce brought Tiffin to the world’s attention when they planned Elope at the Eclipse, a group outdoor wedding that will take place during the April 8 total eclipse. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

Ironically, both Riggs and Stephens are engaged to be married this year – Riggs in the fall and Stephens in the summer. Planning a wedding is consuming and stressful, and yet they have chosen to plan 146 extra weddings this year as well.

“I haven’t done anything for my wedding yet,” Stephens said.

Riggs and Stephens’ selfless efforts to focus on the weddings of 292 strangers will create a lasting impact on the couples, many of whom have called the chamber office to share their personal stories. Some have been together for years, and the chance to get married under the eclipse sparked the thought, ‘Why not now?’

“One couple called us and said they’ve been dating for 40 years and didn’t even know where Seneca County was, but this was a sign for them to get married, that it was time to do it,” Riggs said. “There are a lot of these stories. Everyone has their own story. It’s been fun receiving calls from people all over the country.”

The wedding is just one of many events that the chamber – including Director of Internal Operations Deb Martorana and Marketing Specialist Judy Dezse – has planned for the Seneca County Solar Eclipse of the Heart event, which is expected to draw thousands of people to the county for shopping, dining, sightseeing and events like countywide Solar Eclipse of the Heart Bingo and the Out of the Dark Glow 5K & Fun Run. The multiday celebration of the eclipse will create lasting memories for local residents and the thousands of visitors that will join them in the dark.

“The great thing is, the whole county has embraced this,” Stephens said. “It’s one of those things that, looking back at it, we’ll all say we had a part in that.”

For more information on Seneca County Total Eclipse of the Heart, visit www.destinationsenecacounty.org/2024-solar-eclipse-in-seneca-county.

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