When Tammy Gogel Hall began planning her wedding about eight months ago, there was no doubt where she wanted to get married.

“Cades Cove -- it’s beautiful. There are old churches, a pasture with a mountain view.”

Cades Cove is an isolated, picturesque valley nestled in the Tennessee portion of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

And therein lies the problem.

The government shutdown, which began Oct. 1, included closing the country’s national parks.

“I was kind of following the news,” Hall said. “I heard they were going to close the national parks and historic monuments, and I thought, ‘I’m not going to be able to get married there.’”

Hall’s fears were confirmed when she got a message on her phone at work.

“The Park Service called,” she said. “It was a gentleman calling. Can you imagine being the one who had to call all these brides?"

The message said Hall and fiance Steve Womack would “no longer be able to get married in the park, and (our) permit will be invalid and void,” Hall added. “That’s how we were notified.

“I admit I had a bit of a freak-out moment,” she said. “We were within two weeks of the wedding.”

Hall was told 28 weddings were scheduled at the park the first two weeks of October, and all had to be cancelled.

“Can you imagine those poor brides having church weddings who had to change plans within 24 or 48 hours?” she said.

Hall, a 1981 graduate of Cedar Falls High School, studied at the University of Northern Iowa, Kirkwood Community College and the University of Tennessee in Memphis. She is an orthopedic physician assistant living in Knoxville, Tenn., and Womack is a physical therapy assistant. The two met at work.

“To get married in the park, you have to apply for a permit from the Park Service,” Hall said. “There are all kinds of guidelines. Once you get approval, you can start the planning process.”

Hall had planned a small, intimate ceremony Thursday with only family members attending. With her siblings flying in from Iowa and Minnesota and Womack’s parents coming from South Carolina, postponing the wedding was not an option.

“We rented a cabin for family who are flying and driving in, and we decided why not just get married there?” Hall said. “It’s not what (we) wanted or planned, but what are you going to do?”

Hall said the Park Service told her if Congress does open the parks before the wedding, she can still get married there.

“There’s just a sense of not knowing what to do,” she said. “And it doesn’t look promising.

“Planning an outdoor wedding, I thought the biggest worry would be the weather,” Hall added. “According to the forecast, it looks like (Thursday) is going to be a beautiful day. But it’s beyond my control.”

Hall said no matter what, she will have pictures taken in her wedding dress with the Smoky Mountains in the background.

“I don’t care how many times I have to put my wedding dress on,” she said. “They can kick me out, but I’m going to get some pictures there.

“Maybe I need to find some vets,” Hall joked, referring to the group of veterans who entered the World War II Veterans Memorial despite it being closed due to the shutdown. “Maybe I can get some to go through the barricade for me.”

General assignment reporter and columnist at The Courier

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