After planning her wedding for a year, this wasn’t how Erin Lounsbury expected to spend her big day last Friday.
“We were sitting in the house, defrosting chicken and playing video games,” the 27-year-old Long Island resident told TODAY.com after superstorm Sandy shut down her Nov. 2 nuptials. (Unless you count a small celebration in Ohio, where the lone groomsman who was able to get his tux donned the suit and poured some vino to cheer the couple up.)
Lounsbury and her fiance are among the thousands of East Coast couples set to say “I do” on the post-Sandy weekend or later in November whose weddings were upended by the storm. Venues lost power or were waterlogged, hotels where guests were staying lacked power and downed trees and power lines made travel difficult if not impossible for guests and the couples themselves. More than 4,000 East Coast couples have had their weddings affected by Hurricane Sandy, reported wedding site TheKnot.com.
Lounsbury's wedding was taking place on Long Island, one of the hardest areas hit because of its proximity to the coastline.
At one point, Lounsbury’s flowers were ready but she couldn’t reach her guests’ Hyatt Place Garden City hotel in Garden City, N.Y., and the Jericho Terrace wedding reception hall in Mineola, N.Y., only had 25 percent power — did she want to choose between light or a DJ?
“What were we going to do? They were trying to get more generators,” Lounsbury said. “They called Wednesday night, ‘We’ll give you a new date.’”
Downed power and phone lines and spotty cell service hampered communications with vendors and guests so many couples took to Facebook. Lounsbury updated her status telling people that the wedding was off, but she had invited all 500 students at Wenonah Elementary in Lake Grove, N.Y., where she is a librarian, to the church and isn’t Facebook friends with any of them.
“I’m not sure if everyone knew that the wedding was off,” she lamented Saturday.
After Sandy, East Coast brides to be, many stuck at home due to the gas shortage, including Lounsbury, turned to a Facebook page set up by TheKnot.com: “Helping Brides In the Wake Of Hurricane Sandy” to exchange stories and try to fix their weddings.
Wrapped up in wedding replanning mode, Lounsbury is keeping the same hall but looking for a new hotel and new vendors for her Nov. 24 redo. She posted on The Knot’s Facebook page over the weekend:
“Wondering if anyone has leftover church decorations like the bows on the pews? My grandma made wreathes and her house was flooded. Thankfully I picked up my veil she made before the storm.”
Another poster said her friend had plenty of bows and would be “happy to help.”
Others offered to donate calligraphy to Lounsbury and remake her programs at cost. She posted she’d “pay it forward” to other brides. She said the wedding help has freed her up to donate to Sandy victims without basic needs.
“As much as I’m upset, if you think about it, we have water, food. Our family is OK,” Lounsbury reflected. “Some people don’t have working toilets. How can you be upset over your wedding?”
Anja Winikka, TheKnot.com’s site director, said the popular wedding site blasted the Facebook page to their network of brides, venues, vendors and wedding planners. The Knot employees were making calls on behalf of brides and helped one garner a generator to save her wedding.
“We saw big wedding venues flooding in front of our eyes and knew people wouldn’t be able to have their weddings there for quite some time,” Winikka told TODAY.com. “We needed a way to connect everyone.”
Kathi Evans, a New Jersey-based wedding planner at All the Best Weddings & Celebrations, was one of the lucky ones in her neighborhood to have power last week so she busied herself, calling contractors to update brides on The Knot's Facebook page. The spirit of generosity, she contended, spread to some vendors but not all.
“True wedding professionals that understand what’s going on are the ones being cooperative and more generous,” she said. “The new ones to the business or the ones only motivated by money might not be as accommodating and don’t understand what they do today will affect them tomorrow, years down the road.”
What brides expected to remember years to come as one of the happiest times has been a whirlwind of emotions.
Shana Rae Clavijo from West New York, N.J., thanks her fiance, Jeff Gelles, for being “the voice of reason” amid her crying. It’s been a roller coaster ride with ups — when her Nov. 3 wedding still seemed plausible — and downs — when it was pushed back to Dec. 8.
“He has been really great trying to distract me and stay really positive,” Clavijo, 35, gushed about her fiance. “There was a day there he didn’t know what to say. ‘Everything is going to be OK. Please stop crying.’”
Instead of completing their wedding checklist this week, Clavijo and her fiance were stormed in with their two pups, watching downloaded movies on their iPads (until the batteries died) and living off protein bars and shakes for a day and a half.
“It’s amazing, really tragic events, stress, can bring you closer together,” Clavijo told TODAY.com on the day she was supposed to marry Gelles.
Vendors and guests now have to save a new wedding date just weeks away.
For her rescheduled wedding, Clavijo feels lucky to keep her vendors, but she’s disappointed to lose guests. Clavijo planned a Jewish wedding that incorporates special traditions and honors guests specifically. With about half coming from out of town, and her fiance being ex-military, and inviting current service members who might not be able to get leave, they expect to lose more than three dozen.
“Nobody wants to walk down the aisle and see nobody there,” Clavijo said.
Sandy does have brides, some of whom notoriously plan down to minutiae, realizing that details aren’t everything.
“You can’t worry about the small details,” Lounsbury said. “It’s not the wedding I had in mind in the first place. I just have to be thankful that we’re OK.”
After Hurricane Irene foiled her fiance’s proposal to her last year at bed and breakfast Sayre Mansion in Bethlehem, Penn., and superstorm Sandy crashed her wedding this year, she’s wondering what’s going to happen on her honeymoon, also set at the B&B.
“I’m afraid to rebook at this place — they’ll be a snow storm or something,” the bride-to-be joked.
TODAY.com writer Jasmin Aline Persch is trying to imagine a wedding reception without light or a DJ.