To Jazmin Pruneda, a 21-year-old with a deep appreciation for science, nothing seems more sublime or sentimental than marrying the man she loves on the day of the solar eclipse.
"The sun and the moon, aligning perfectly in the spot that we met," said Pruneda, who is from a small town in Nebraska that lies in the path of totality. With her bright voice and delight for hot summer days, she likens herself to the sun. Her soon-to-be husband, Evan Mehne, 27, who she says is calm and rational, is the moon.
Their celestial-themed wedding is set for Monday, the day the moon will blot out the sun in the first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in the U.S. since 1918. The couple has incorporated red and blue — red for the sun, blue for the moon — into their invitations and wedding party. In anticipation of their big day, Pruneda and Mehne pierced their cartilages. Their matching earrings are of the moon overlapping the sun, "kind of like it's eclipsing," she said.
"It's a big thing. It's two minutes that won't ever happen to us again in the same spot we fell in love in."
The couple is among many people across the country who will embrace the astronomical occurrence as a cause for romantic celebration, a notion that is a stark shift from previous centuries. Some cultures still steer clear of eclipses, let alone celebrate them, equating their darkness with evil omens. Modern-day astrologers find people's eager anticipation of the eclipse to be curious and somewhat new.
Experts say Monday's phenomenon will be a backdrop to not only wedding ceremonies but proposals, too, thanks to a feature of the eclipse many call the diamond ring effect, during which the sun's bright corona surrounds the moon to form a ring shape with a bump on one side, resembling a diamond.
Because this solar eclipse is the first to occur in the U.S. during an age of social media and enhanced mobility, millions of people are expected to travel to see it, causing lodging and hotel prices to skyrocket in many of the places that fall in the path of totality. A mansion in Nashville has advertised the eclipse as a thing of grandeur and is allowing its guests to watch the eclipse from a "luxurious outdoor setting" with daybeds, telescopes and protective glasses for as much as $3,000 a night.
In Chicago, some enthusiasts plan to travel to Carbondale in southern Illinois, which falls along the path of totality. There, the moon will cast a 70-mile wide shadow as it comes between Earth and the sun. The sun will be completely blocked for more than 2 1/2 minutes.
Bright celestial objects have traditionally been associated with strength and vitality. To astrologers, light represents inherent goodness, and when the moon is waxing — or increasing in light — it means prospects are coming to fruition. Full moons, however, have been interpreted as the moon having too much strength, and therefore incline toward volatility.
Astrologers say investments and important decisions that rely on growth tend to be more prosperous when instigated while the moon is waxing. Wade Caves, an astrologer who in July published a 29-page analysis of the coming eclipse, cited a study the Royal Bank of Scotland released in 2011 as an example. The bank traded different stock market indexes over almost three decades based on phases of the moon. Their results, according to the study, showed that buying stocks on the new moon and selling them during the full moon often outperformed a strategy of holding an investment over the same period of time.
Similarly to investments, Caves said astrologers often suggest that the best time to get married is when the moon is waxing. They advise waiting until after the first quarter, though, which symbolizes a couple's move past tension and difficulty.
Because this particular eclipse is occurring in Leo, a sign associated with fire, the eclipse would traditionally be associated with destruction involving fire, astrologers say, which could include military firepower from guns to nuclear muscle.
"(Eclipses) aren't associated with nice things. They just aren't," said Caves, who said he personally wouldn't choose to get married during an eclipse. But he understands why people would embrace the event romantically.
"Because, astronomically, they're quite stunning, aren't they?"
Pruneda, whose father grew up in a rural area of Mexico, said he was a bit scared when she told him she wanted to get married during the eclipse. She understands the fear surrounding eclipses and compared it to being afraid of the dark.
"We're not worried about it," she said. "We see it as a scientific marvel."
Polly White, who chases solar eclipses around the world with her husband and runs the official Great American Eclipse website, attributes the current eclipse frenzy to social media. She expects this eclipse to be posted on Snapchat and Instagram accounts around the world. The last total solar eclipse viewed from the contiguous United States was in 1979, decades before social media became popular.
White also believes the rise of social media has led to many people traveling to the path of totality because they see Facebook friends posting about making the trip. The result is almost guaranteed traffic in areas where the total solar eclipse is visible, especially in busy areas like Southern Illinois. Those who travel should expect emptied convenience stores and poor cell service.
"There's gonna be a lot of people, starting now, who finally decide, 'Oh! Cool! I want to go,' " White said. "And they can just get in their car and go."
The most important factor Monday will be the weather. If a viewing spot is cloudy, people will jump in their cars and drive to someplace cloud-free, which could spur more traffic.
Weather is especially important for those who want to propose during the eclipse. White said a proposal is an easier task to manage during the short period of darkness than a marriage ceremony — Pruneda and Mehne, for example, will have their ceremony a few hours after the eclipse so their wedding party won't be distracted by the skies.
White expects many couples to get engaged Monday when the diamond ring effect occurs. This takes place when the moon crosses between the sun and the Earth. Because the moon isn't as large as the sun, the sun's bright corona will surround the moon, forming a ring shape. The ring will often have a bump on one side because of the moon's recessed craters, and will look like a diamond ring.
The phenomenon happens twice — the first diamond ring can be seen before the total eclipse and the second can be seen right after. It's common for a woman to look away from the sky after the second diamond ring sighting to find a third, real diamond ring before her, White said.
"It's a very, very rare opportunity to do anything while you're standing in the shadow of the moon," she said. "Whatever special occasion you want to have, it's worth it."