A Hurricane Crashed Their Wedding
When a great storm ruined their big day, this couple stayed focused on what's really important.
Rebecca Grantham and her fiancé, Matthew Zaro, never thought they would be inching along in evacuation traffic instead of celebrating at their rehearsal dinner. (Rebecca points out, with characteristic humor, that her fiancé and the hurricane that washed away their wedding share the same name.)
The two were all set to culminate their 10-month engagement with a week of wedding festivities. Having booked a house in Charleston, they were enjoying the mild October weather with family, everyone hoping that Hurricane Matthew's satellite images would change. Plans included a rehearsal dinner in the Citadel Alumni Center at Matt's alma mater; a ceremony for 220 invited guests at Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church; a reception at the Country Club of Charleston; and even a post-wedding Sunday brunch. But everything changed on October 6, when South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley declared a state of emergency and called for mandatory evacuation.
Thinking of the many people who lost everything in the storm, Matt and Rebbeca know how incredibly lucky they are. "Matt and I are doing just fine!" says the bride-to-be. "We are disappointed, but we have each other. We know that we will get married, no matter what, so we are just focusing on the next step. We could not have managed without the love and support of our family and friends. The vendors really stepped up to make themselves available and responsive to help us reassemble our special day."
If you're planning a wedding in an area where big weather happens, take advantage of what Matt and Rebecca learned. There are a few precautionary measures you can take early on. These include reviewing your venue contracts and pushing for a "natural disaster clause" that would protect at least part of your investment in the event of a major weather event; purchasing trip insurance; and even purchasing wedding insurance.
Should a storm force you to postpone, here's your game plan:
Step 1: Communicate with close family
Not only did Rebecca and Matt work as a tightly focused team, but they were in constant contact with their parents, who supported their eventual decision to postpone. Now is the time to enlist your familial army—nobody will have your back more than your maid of honor and your Momma.
Step 2: Be aware of venue and airline closures
Even before Governor Haley ordered evacuation, the couple's rehearsal dinner venue closed and evacuated, and flights were beginning to be canceled. Go ahead and cancel your honeymoon flights, and contact your honeymoon accommodations. Now, re-read your venue and vendor contracts, looking for that natural disaster clause.
Step 3: Obey government-issued warnings
"Ultimately, the Governor helped us make a decision that might have otherwise been difficult for us to make so quickly," says Rebecca. Listening to a higher authority takes pressure off making the cancelation call on your own.
Step 4: Contact your vendors—ASAP!
Once you make the call to postpone, the sooner you can start rescheduling, the better. Because guests will be blowing up your phone, we suggest using someone else's (like Dad's) as a central communication base. Or you can enlist the aid of your wedding planner, if you're working with one. Assisted by her day-of planner, Courtney Plotner, Rebecca first texted the woman in charge of booking at her church, who told her that the venue was open in November. Rebecca's mom contacted the country club to see about moving the reception, and the couple obtained their band's booking schedule. Aside from those who are key to your wedding party (parents, grandparents, maid/matron of honor, best man, officiant), the availability of venues will dictate your reschedule date—not your guests.
Step 6: Contact your guests (round 1)
Your vendors might not immediately respond, but once you decide to reschedule, you should let your guests know that plans are off, for the time being. Ask your maid of honor to send out an email, update your wedding website, and make a post on social media; your goal is to spread the word as efficiently as possible.
Step 7: Put the pieces together
After speaking with vendors, Rebecca began seeing a clear, do-able date: November 26. The sooner you can decide on a date, the sooner you can book your venues and beat the rush. Don't be dead-set on sticking 100 percent to your original plan. Rebecca and Matt couldn't rebook their rehearsal dinner venue, so they are finding a new one.
Step 8: Sit down with those spread sheets
Once you have a clear date set, it's time to revisit your spreadsheets. Although you might have collected your guests' RSVPs in perfect order the first time around, it's time to do it again.
Step 9: Contact your guests (round 2)
After the storm has settled and life is back to normal, tell your guests the new plan. There's no reason to spend money on invitations again; sending out an email and updating your website is perfectly fine. There will be some major changes to your guest list. For example, the husband of Rebecca's matron of honor won't be able to make the rescheduled date. "Our new date is the Clemson/Carolina game—the ultimate wedding-planning sin in South Carolina," Rebecca explains. "But we are hopeful that this year, our family and friends will forgive us and join us!"
Step 10: Rebook the honeymoon
Because there are only two schedules to coordinate, rebooking the honeymoon is the most flexible part of rescheduling a wedding. Don't worry about figuring this out immediately. Matt was smart: By purchasing trip insurance, he recouped most of their original travel expenses and used them to pay for their rescheduled honeymoon.