Everything—from the cake to the wedding dress—was donated.

By Meghan Overdeep
December 07, 2018
Cristy Nielsen

When her corporal suggested she date a firefighter, Brittany Medina, 29, was skeptical. "Cops don't get with firefighters," she recalled thinking to the Tampa Bay Times. But Ben Parham, 26, won her over—and it didn't hurt that he got along so well with her daughter, Skyla.

A year-and-a-half later, the couple was engaged. They planned to get married the following December.

Flipping through different Florida state parks, however, Brittany said they struggled to find the perfect location for their wedding.

"We couldn't really find one," Brittany told the Times. "And then the hurricane happened."

In October, Hurricane Michael's sights were set on their home in Mexico Beach, just a few blocks from the water. The storm's historic strength meant that even first responders like Ben and Brittany would have to evacuate.

Hunkered down in a hotel in Dothan, Alabama, the family watched from 100 miles away as Michael's Category 4 winds bore down on Mexico Beach.

Brittany was the first to return home. The drive back took 13 hours, and when she finally arrived, she saw that there was almost nothing left of their two-story house. No upstairs. No downstairs. Just piles of broken things. An empty slab where their home used to be.

Brittany told the Times she was struck by the random things that emerged unscathed, like a birdbath and some plates. They told Skyla that the Big Bad Wolf blew everything away.

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Last month she and Ben decided they would get married there, in the spot where they became a couple. And they would wear their uniforms.

When their neighbors heard what they were planning, they sprang into action. A dress, cake, and flowers were all donated. Someone brought in a tractor to clear heavy debris from the slab. Someone else made benches from logs and leftover wood. Orlando photographer Cristy Nielsen volunteered to document the event.

"Everybody that was there just donated everything," Nielsen told the Times.

In the end, 50 people were there to witness Brittany and Ben's nuptials on Saturday.

Cristy Nielsen

"We literally invited the whole entire city," Brittany said. "Come and actually smile. Have a good day. Because we haven't had a lot of good days."