As the people of North and South Carolina are just beginning to feel the effects of Hurricane Florence, the storm has already changed the course of some people’s lives — including that of couples who had planned to get married there this weekend, many of whom will be postponing their big day.
Murrell’s Inlet, S.C., was the location that Tori Wiltrout had chosen for her small beachfront wedding — in tribute to her father, who died in January 2017, and who had loved the place for their family vacations.
“When it came to the wedding, we wanted to go down there so we would have a piece of him with us,” Wiltrout tells Yahoo Lifestyle. She and fiancé Andy Butler, who lives in Avon Lake, Ohio, planned the wedding for 35 people in a house they’d rented on the beach. “We’ve always gone in September,” she says, “and we’ve never experienced a hurricane there before.” But now her dream wedding locale is under evacuation orders.
Same for lifestyle blogger Ra’Nesha Wilson of Columbus, Ohio, who was set to get married at Ocean Creek Resort in Myrtle Beach, S.C. She’d been planning the event for nearly a year. “I’m not going to say it was perfect, because nothing’s going to be perfect, but it was the ideal I had,” Wilson tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “We’re lovers of nature and water and so for us to have something on the beach was important.” The venue even had options for an indoor ceremony, in case of rain, which was all anyone expected until late last week.
Even places not being evacuated — such as the town of Pittsboro, N.C., where Nashley Mattocks was scheduled to get married — suddenly posed problems. Mattocks loved the rustic barn and arbor of trees on the private estate called Het Landuis, and she was looking forward to staying in a pool house on the grounds with her bridesmaids the night before the wedding. But by Tuesday, with the forecast calling for heavy rain in the area outside of Raleigh, N.C., Mattocks and fiancé Hunter Banister could tell that flights were going to be canceled for all the guests coming in from Chicago, Knoxville, Tenn., and Houston, where the couple currently lives.
Postponements and relocations
Wiltrout and Butler left South Carolina on Tuesday night, and will regroup and plan something new once they’re back home. “[My father] always said, ‘It is what it is. It happened for a reason,’” Wiltrout says. She and Butler had insurance for their beach rental, so they’ll get their money back for the two days they won’t be staying there. But they won’t be getting back the $600 their caterer had already spent on food.
That wasn’t a complete loss for everyone, however.
“Since he already had the food going, [the chef] cooked it all, and he was going to go ahead and feed local families getting ready for the hurricane,” Wiltrout explains. “I figured that’s one less thing the locals have to worry about is a meal for the night when they have to get ready for this major hurricane coming at them.”
Banister’s parents and sister back in Knoxville, meanwhile, helped Mattocks quickly find a chapel at the Presbyterian church, as well as a local venue for the reception. She tried to get some of her vendors to come with her to Tennessee, but in the end, only the DJ was able to do so, while the rest are staying behind to weather the storm. The couple was able to hire a new baker and caterer who could meet Banister’s gluten-free needs, and some of their guests have volunteered to help get their flowers together.
“It’s been kind of a whirlwind,” Mattocks says. “Everything’s kind of drastically changed. But it will be the day that it’s going to be, and all the people that can be there will be there and we’ll just pray and hope for safety for the people that can’t be there.”
Unfortunately, Mattocks still doesn’t know how much of her deposits she’ll get back. “We’re hoping that we didn’t lose everything on most of our bookings,” she says. “Obviously, all the decorations that we bought and everything like that we’re going to lose because we can’t return that stuff.”
Wilson and her fiancé, Jeffery Springer, had also been hit with multiple family losses in the past year, so this latest bump in the road was tough on them, but also something they felt they could tackle together.
“It just confirms that we were meant to be together because we’ve been through things that not even people that are married have been through. So I don’t ask God to treat me differently in my life,” Wilson says. “I didn’t do this by myself — I couldn’t have done it without him.”
While she has received notice that all but one of her vendors want to give their deposits back, she isn’t sure the banks will receive those funds right away. “What it pushed us to do is basically deplete our account to cover everything that we need to still bring 85 people here,” she says, explaining how she’s relocated her wedding to Columbus.
Even upon hearing of her circumstances, Wilson said some vendors didn’t want to accommodate her last-minute request. But others were happy to help. The Boathouse at Confluence Park, which has sweeping waterfront views, had an opening this weekend. A Marriott nearby has given out-of-town family members good rates, and the airlines made it easy for everyone to fly back to Ohio.
“There was some support from the Costco corporate team in Seattle where they donated a monetary fund towards the cost of our cake on after hearing about our story, so we received some support from folks in different avenues and in various different ways,” she says. While she feels like the plan is coming together in the end, she tells Yahoo, “I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody.”
A lesson in caution
The possibility of a storm like this was not on any of these couples’ minds when they planned their weddings, but with increasingly bad hurricane seasons attributed to climate change, it might be a good thing for all couples to consider in the future.
“Last year, when we had Harvey and a few other hurricanes, 23 percent of our claims for wedding insurance last year had something to do with the weather,” Ed Charlebois, vice president of personal insurance at Travelers Insurance, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. That’s the highest percentage of weather-related claims the company has received in the 10 years it’s been offering plans for weddings.
With a wedding insurance policy — which can cost as little as $160 for a $7,500 wedding, or as much as $355 for $50,000 worth of coverage from Travelers — couples can recoup the money from lost deposits in situations such as this. Plus, they can get coverage for something called “additional expense.”
“To go out and get somebody else to do [your wedding], chances are you might have to pay more on short notice, [and] ‘additional expense’ can help you pay for that,” Charlebois explains.
This doesn’t do much to help couples in the Carolinas this week, since you have to have the policy at least two weeks before any weather event. But it might serve as a good warning for others planning their idyllic beachside nuptials.
In the meantime, Mattocks is looking on the bright side of things. Though she’s understandably disappointed that some friends and family won’t be able to make it to her Knoxville wedding, she’s got a new perspective on the event.
“The pressure to put on like a perfect party and host the best reception and have the prettiest ceremony [is gone],” she says. “We’ll enjoy the celebration of getting married — I can say that with confidence — so we’re still very excited.”
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