It's the day before his nuptials and Peter Zengel has come down with a wet, hacking cough that sounds like it ranks a 5 out of a possible 10 throat lozenges on the spectrum between the common cold and early-stage pneumonia.
A dreary, bordering on damp, evening in State College is probably not what the doctor ordered, but there are details that need attending outside — specifically a pile of stray tree branches with 24 hours to make great strides in its impersonation of a wedding arch.
There's also the matter of a passing drizzle, which has caused shallow pools of water to accumulate inside patches of uneven ground that, in theory, should have been protected by the overhanging tent pressed up against the side of the house. Oh and the photographer has just canceled.
Tally it all up and the cough really doesn't seem like that big a deal.
Zengel's fiance, Tanya Owens, agreed. "You'll sound like Darth Vader, so that's fine," Owens said.
Most people — basically anyone who did not receive an aqua-tinted invite to the Star Wars-themed wedding of Tanya K. Owens and Peter J. Zengel (by order of the Imperial Senate and Jedi Counsel, no less) — would assume that she was talking about his t-shirt, a black-on-black homage to the original Bad Guys' Bad Guy.
In actuality — and hold onto your hat, here— Owens was talking about Zenga's Jedi robes, that comfortable alternative to the traditional tux or suit for the groom who knows that getting married doesn't have to mean getting a dry cleaner. His bride-to-be will match him bold fashion choice for bold fashion choice. Her gown is patterned after the one Natalie Portman wore in the not-so-happily-ever-after denouement to "Attack of the Clones."
The "why" of it all is sort of inconsequential. Some people have Paris. The future Mr. and Mrs. Peter Zengel have "Star Wars."
Still, for those of you at home wondering how to take a multi-billion dollar piece of intellectual property and make it the centerpiece of your next major family event, here are some of the particulars.
Owens and Zengel connected two years ago, first on Match.com, then face-to-face at the State College Denny's, then face-on-face inside of a parked car. They entered into a relationship where the "Star Wars" franchise occupied varying degrees of importance. Zengel name-checked the franchise in his online dating profile. Owens had, you know, seen the movies.
"I'm a diehard fan now, thoroughly converted," Owens said.
When she pitched the idea of staking the first day of the rest of their lives on top of nine (and counting) fantasy films, it was with tongue firmly in cheek. The whole thing seemed funny and crazy and then finally just them.
Both Owens and Zengel have done "I do" before. A theme wedding seemed an ideal way to take a double-sided lightsaber to all of the pomp and circumstance.
"It's ours. We've done the traditional thing," Zengel said.
Even May 4 - a date stacked neatly toward the top of the oh-so-traditional summer wedding season - doubles as "Star Wars Day," a nationally observed, grassroots celebration that even caught the attention of whoever is manning NASA's Twitter account. If that seems outrageous to you, try very hard not to think about the grown man who drove from Connecticut to State College with an adult-sized Chewbacca costume in the car.
By the time Friday rolled around Zenga's voice had been reduced to a scratchy whisper. He made it through his vows though, which like the rest of the ceremony were peppered with references to the dark side, scruffy-looking nerf herders and other glorious nonsense that comprises the goofy beating heart of "Star Wars". The guests chuckled appreciatively and Owens was thrilled.
"It seemed like everybody enjoyed it. We wanted everybody to have a lot of fun. We wanted them to laugh," Owens said.
Following the ceremony they adjoined to a nearby hill for pictures, a Jedi, a queen and a couple of pint-sized Boba Fetts. After snapping a few shots, the photographer decided to try something different.
"OK," she said, "Now do one silly."