Dulce and Ariel Gonzalez were set in late June to get married on a beautiful beach in Pascagoula, Mississippi. The bride looked stunning, the whole family was there and the arrangement was beautiful.
Everything was perfect. Until it wasn't.
The clouds that had been gathering on the Gulf all morning were moving in quickly and a violent thunderstorm erupted just as guests began to filter in.
Dulce Gonzalez, 25, was heartbroken. Her big day had been ruined — that is, until a couple of lookers-on stepped in with an incredible offer.
Cynthia Strunk and her husband, Shannon, live in a beachfront house near where the ceremony was scheduled to take place. The couple had watched the wedding preparations from their home all morning, just to see torrential downpour surprise the bride and groom.
"My family and I were just sitting in the car praying for the rain to stop," said Gonzalez. "I was about to have a breakdown."
Strunk, moved by what she saw, ventured out to Gonzalez's parked car with her "trusty umbrella," dodging a nearby lightning strike, according to both Strunk and Gonzalez, and offered the strangers her home as an emergency venue.
"The bride's father was saying 'thank you' over and over and the bride's mother was tearing up," Strunk, 67, remembered. "So I quickly ran back to the house and told my husband, 'We're having a wedding!'"
The Strunks arranged chairs in their living room and got the house ready for the ceremony as they would if one of their own daughters were getting married there, Strunk said.
All the original preparations had been damaged by the rain, but the Strunks and some other neighbors pitched in and the wedding forged ahead.
One neighbor offered a horde of umbrellas and helped escort guests from their cars, Strunk said.
"Once I saw everything, I had to completely hold back tears," said Gonzalez. "It looked so perfect, like we had coordinated with the homeowners from the beginning to have the ceremony there."
Afterward, the father of the bride gave a speech honoring the homeowners for their kindness, which the maid of honor translated from Spanish for the Strunks.
"Me and my husband are really taken aback that everyone thought it was such a big thing," Strunk said. "I really do think that anyone in the area, if they could've done it, they would've done it too."
The next week, the newlyweds came by with a Fourth of July flower arrangement and a cake to thank the Strunks. The week after that, the bride's parents dropped by with an orchid and a bottle of liqueur.
"It seems like we've made some new friends," Strunk laughed.
"We definitely plan on keeping in touch," Gonzalez said.