Among the 200,000 people evacuated from their homes near Lake Oroville in California on Sunday was one couple who had a very different week planned.
Leotta Litke and Henry Rueda were going to get married on Valentine’s Day. Though the threat of flooding from the Oroville Dam meant they were still in a shelter on Tuesday, their wedding happened after all — in front of 300 new friends.
“I was just going to have a small little wedding for me and her, a couple of our friends,” Rueda told Fox40 News. “The Oroville Dam, that destroyed our Valentine’s Day.”
When the couple of 10 years told fellow evacuees at the Placer County Fairgrounds in Roseville of their dashed plans, community members rose to the occasion and pitched in to plan a wedding in mere hours.
“This young couple, Leotta and Henry, planned to be getting married today at their home church in Olivehurst,” read a post on the Placer County Facebook page on Tuesday. “Instead, they’ll be honoring us today at our evacuation shelter. To help Leotta and Henry. To make this day as special as it should be, we need a wedding dress and suit ASAP! Message us if you can help, and please join us in wishing them congratulations!”
A local Men’s Wearhouse and David’s Bridal donated attire for the bride, groom, and wedding party. Origin Coffee & Tea donated refreshments. Pastor Braden Kok of nearby Locality Church officiated. Others donated flowers, live music, and a limo ride to a hotel room for the night.
“I just want to thank everyone. I’m just happy to be Mrs. Rueda,” Litke told CBS Sacramento.
The water level dropped on Monday, and the evacuation order was downgraded to a warning, but many residents stayed away from their homes for one more day while engineers inspected the 770-foot-tall Oroville Dam, and the people of Roseville were still eager to donate and lend a hand at the shelter.
“We often don’t meet our neighbors, we don’t know the people around us, and here we are able to help out, so it’s really cool,” an attendee told CBS.
“What started as bringing coffee to those who had been evacuated turned into something way bigger than I could have imagined,” Kok wrote on Facebook after officiating the wedding. “We were able to help pull off a last minute wedding to make a brides dream of a Valentine’s day wedding come true.”