Megan & Benjamin were an amazing couple of ours from Virginia - both easy going professors with the cutest dynamic between them. We had our final meeting with them via FaceTime (as we do with most of our out-of-town bride and grooms), where we combed through their final details. They were planning a 100-person destination wedding at The White Room in St. Augustine, FL for Saturday, October 8th. The color scheme was set to be ivory, green, & gold. They were flying in musicians from Oregon to play for their ceremony & cocktail hour. We were going to make the announcements for cocktail hour and play for dinner & dancing. They were set on it being a nonconventional affair - no bridal party, no cake cutting, no garter/bouquet toss, and they were going to get all photos done before-hand so that they could enjoy the full cocktail hour fun with their guests. At that final meeting in September, none of us could've guessed the insane weather conditions that would hit Florida's East coast the day before their dream destination wedding.
The week of Megan & Benjamin's wedding, we realized that Hurricane Matthew was a reality for the Jacksonville/St. Augustine area. Locals started their hurricane prep on Tuesday, and evacuations for Jacksonville started on Wednesday with zones A & B. By Thursday, the entire city of St. Augustine was undergoing a mandatory evacuation, and the Channel 4 news anchor was standing right in front of our couple's venue when she announced the city's evacuation. I can't imagine the devastation this must have brought to our sweet couple. Rain had already started to fall and in just hours the storm surge would start to flood the streets of St. Augustine. Our Jacksonville mayor announced that power outages would be a definite and that bridges would close down after winds hit 40 mph. There are 7 bridges in Jacksonville alone, and any decision to evacuate would mean crossing a bridge, with uncertainty we would be able to return in time for the wedding. So, we made the decision to stay and bunker down. A local news anchor Tom Wills who has been delivering the news to us since our kindergarten days, choked up as he warned our city to evacuate, comparing the storm to Hurricane Katrina. We shared the video on Facebook, and a prior bride and dear friend of ours from out of state actually thanked us as it convinced her mother to evacuate her zone here in Jacksonville. By the grace of God, Matthew took a slight turn east late Thursday night and became less of a threat to our home here in the heart of Jacksonville. We were so grateful and relieved!
Meanwhile, we knew it would be impossible to throw a wedding in St. Augustine on Saturday in a city that was completely evacuated and due to be hit by a hurricane on Friday. The wedding was still on though, and if they were game, we were game! On Thursday, we went ahead and charged everything for the wedding: lighting, laptops, iPad, batteries, and our 2-way radios that we use at every wedding for communicating with each other. We sent the bride & groom an email just letting them know that we were praying for safe travels for them and their families and sending good vibes their way! We could only imagine the stress they were experiencing, and it was very important to us to stay as positive as possible when communicating with them. They already had enough on their plates, and the last thing they needed was vendor drama or complaining! We lost power Friday afternoon as the hurricane made land fall, and shortly after that we received an email from the wedding planner Katy saying that we were moving to "Plan B" for the wedding which meant an ocean front vacation rental home in St. Augustine. We told the planner no problem, and just keep us in the loop if anything changed, which she did, because she rocks. Later Friday night, the groom sent us an email telling us that the musicians wouldn't make it on time for the wedding due to flight delays, and he asked if we could play for their ceremony & cocktail hour. Of course we were happy to help and perfectly capable so why the heck not. At that time, we were relying on our battery powered radio and our cell phones to keep us in the loop, meanwhile our mini generator was there to keep our phones and laptops charged as we used them for essential emails and news updates. The musicians were legit, so they were actually able to send the groom quality recordings of the ceremony songs, which the groom included in his email to us, which was awesome! (Having that great recording quality was a major bonus, because you just never know with those things, and if the quality is bad, it makes us look bad when it comes out of our speakers, which ultimately makes the bride & groom's big day look bad.) All things considered, it couldn't have worked out more perfectly. So although it wasn't live, they still got the beautiful music they wanted for their ceremony! As for cocktail hour, the groom just told us in his email to pick whatever music we wanted. Since we knew the couple fairly well, and were relatively familiar with other aspects of them, from their taste in music to their overall vision for their wedding, we were fairly confident when making the cocktail playlist the night before.
The hurricane came and went, and Saturday arrived. Since St. Augustine was flooded and the National Guard had all entries leading into the city blocked off, Katy informed us that we had to move to "Plan C" which was the bride's mother's home in Jacksonville. Since the wedding was a destination wedding, a lot of the guests were unable to make it due to canceled flights, which dropped the guest count from 100 to about 30. Regardless, we had to adapt and overcome!
It honestly couldn't have been a more perfect Plan C. The bride's mother's home was absolutely gorgeous, Everything about this wedding was so intimate + sweet. You could absolutely feel the love from the ceremony and throughout the evening. There was a moment during their first dance where the couple was just swaying back and forth with their eyes closed just soaking in the moment. One of their grandmothers was sitting in a chair near the dance floor and just broke out into the sweetest applause during this intimate moment, and it was just perfect. The event that took the cake (bad pun intended) would have to be their Last Intimate Dance. The Last Intimate Dance is something that we recommend to every couple: After we play the last song of the evening and usher all the guests outside to line up for the Sparkler/Bubble Exit, we also ask all the other vendors to vacate the room so that the couple gets a personal intimate moment just by themselves. We then press play and exit ourselves. The videographers + photographers take a couple of shots but then leave the couple with the last few minutes of alone time. We always tell our couples that their wedding will fly by and the Last Intimate Dance is a great opportunity to slow things down to reflect. Now, back to the couple at hand. We started their song and then made our way outside to join the rest of the guests. We noticed through the window of the home that they were slowly inching towards the door that led outside to all of their friends and family. It was that moment when someone opened the door to allow them to continue dancing their way outside. Adapting to the situation, we opened the other doors so that the music from their last intimate dance poured out to where they were now dancing which was in the middle of all of their guests, outside, under swag lights in an intimate courtyard. I can still hear the sound of the groom's shoes crackling on the pavers as he danced with his bride. There wasn't a dry eye out there as they completed their last intimate dance!
Megan + Benjamin, thank you so much for letting us be part of this. We will never forget your wedding!
Wedding Planner: Katy Hurtig, Coastal Coordinating
Photographer: Stefanie Keeler Photography