Despite the Texas Winter Storm, Weddings Went On

Despite the Texas Winter Storm, Weddings Went On

Battered already by a year of coronavirus devastation and postponements, couples in Texas who had hopes of marrying in mid-February, had another unexpected hurdle to overcome before finally having their wedding day.

An unusual winter storm hit the state with snow, ice, and far below-freezing temperatures that stretched over three days. Approximately 4.3 million in the state reported power outages and the Texas Department of State Health Services has said it will likely take several weeks before it can determine how many deaths are related to the storms.

Still, couples — and possibly even more amazingly, their wedding planners and vendors — found ways to persevere and be resilient during and after the costliest storm in state history.

“This was definitely a tough one because so many people in the city were struggling to stay alive,” said Camille Parker Ross, the owner and principal wedding planner at Elsie Event Company in Austin. She scrambled to help one of those couples, Aaron Clarkson and Kelly Moses, keep their Feb. 20 wedding date intact.

“The couple was completely understanding if vendors couldn’t make it,” Ms. Ross added. “Their safety was the couple’s priority and that mixed with our industry struggling to survive and people needing to earn a living kept us moving forward.”

With Ms. Ross’s help, Mr. Clarkson, 29, and Ms. Moses, 28, planned a ceremony in downtown Austin at the historic Brazos Hall, a 1900s former grain mill. It was to include a rooftop ceremony and cocktail hour and dinner in the reception space below. “But as the snow kept falling into Thursday, we got concerned,” Ms. Ross said.

Two pipes burst in the building, 36 hours before the wedding. Plumbers rerouted the full plumbing to the downstairs only and then fixed the hot water the morning of the wedding. In the meantime, Ms. Ross secured a backup location. “Aaron and Kelly were prepared to invite guests to their home to witness the vows and celebrate over pizza,” Ms. Ross said.

The venue was ready to go, sans the rooftop plans, and much more went on behind the scenes.

Their florist, Lindsay Dietsch of Botanical Jane in Temple, Texas, never received her flower order from the wholesaler because of the weather problems.

“All the while the bride and groom were super supportive, telling me that they completely understood if I didn’t feel comfortable driving and would be fine without flowers at their wedding,” Ms. Dietsch said.

“I wasn’t going to let that happen, so on Friday around 1 p.m., my husband and I drove an hour to Austin to a couple of wholesalers I reached out to trying to find the right flowers. I tried to work as fast as I could, probably taking too many bathroom breaks because I’m 20 weeks pregnant. The night hours ticked away in super speed. The only sleep I got was on the ride to the venue.”

Quack’s, the couple’s baker in Austin, lost power, water and their ingredients. The cake designer was able to work at another bakery to create the cake. Their DJ, who lives in the Texas Hill Country, slid his equipment down his icy driveway to where his truck was parked. Then he drove about 25 miles on treacherous roads to make it on time.

Despite it all, the couple said they were “pretty calm and collected” throughout. “We knew we were going to get married on Feb. 20 no matter what happened. We just didn’t know where,” Mr. Clarkson said. “But never in a million years did we think the worst snowstorm in the history of Texas would pose a threat to canceling this.”

He was right, they were married, with 88 guests, on the day they planned for.

“It’s always tough to celebrate anything when people are suffering,” Ms. Ross, their planner said. “The reality is that they had invested thousands of dollars in the day and were employing several teams who have been struggling to earn a living this year. The reality is the vendors wanted to be there as tough of the week as it was. We are fighting to keep our businesses afloat.”

Julia Mcewen, 29, and Chris Keton, 38, got engaged in January. In early February, with the country still gripped by Covid-19, the couple who live in Allen, Texas, decided to have a micro-wedding about 200 miles away in Austin. They planned a Feb. 14 wedding at Sekrit Theater followed by a rooftop dinner at the townhouse of the groom’s sister.

Despite the forecast, everything somehow seemed to be OK. That is until four hours before the wedding.

Their stomachs sunk when they got the call. “The elopement company we hired informed me that everyone lined up for our event had canceled, except our violinist, Emily Bishop,” Ms. McEwen said. “The panic began to set in and all I kept thinking was I guess she can come play while I cry.”

That’s when the groom’s sister, Katharine Keton, 35, stepped in.

She asked friends, Jessica Johnson and Ryan Williams, if they could use their Austin backyard for the wedding. She posted an Instagram story to find an officiant in the city. A friend, who was a Universal Life minister, said he would do it. Another friend was a photographer and volunteered to shoot the wedding, but first borrowed a camera because the roads were too icy to pick up her own. Ms. Keton then hired a driver to get people to the location.

When their driver delivered the wedding party to Ms. Johnson and Mr. Williams’ home, their photographer and violinist were there waiting. Then the bride realized she had forgotten her dress. Their driver returned to Ms. Keton’s house to retrieve it.

“The violinist begins to play. It was so windy and cold and snowing,” Ms. Mcewen said. “But we did it, and I know it’s a day we will never forget.” Thirty family members witnessed the ceremony via Zoom.

“Honestly, it was a miracle wedding thrown together in two hours,” Ms. Keton said.

That Sunday evening, the couple ate at Ms. Keton’s house shortly before she lost power, internet and cell service until Tuesday. Water pressure was low and soon a boil notice was announced. She was housing five people by then: the newlyweds and their daughter and two friends whose houses had also lost services. She was stocked up on food. But they walked each day to find water.

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Justin Blake Dye, 24, and Katlyn Marie Sustaita, 25, decided to simply keep the faith. They planned to wed Feb. 20 at Stoney Ridge Villa in Azle, Texas, and they did.

As weather alerts and forecasts and warnings poured in, Ms. Sustaita called her planner, Kendyl Martin of Everything Bridal, based in Bedford, Texas.

“Despite the once in a lifetime polar vortex of 2021 that hit Texas, the whole time we had faith in God that the day of our wedding he was going to take care of it,” Ms. Sustaita said. “What helped us hold up faith was that our weather app said it would be sunshine and low 50s.”

She told Ms. Martin, her planner, that the wedding would go on as planned.

Ms. Martin then spoke to the baker about coming to her own home to bake the cake if the bakery didn’t have power. She alerted the venue and the owners, Missy and David Parrish, who then “spent countless hours shoveling snow and preparing the property.”

Early in the week, friends and family lost water and power and the couple helped loved ones. Then, 48 hours before the wedding, the hotel where they had their room block canceled reservations because it was without power and water. “We rushed to find a new hotel with power,” Ms. Martin said.

The roads were safe again and the sun was shining on their wedding day. “All of our vendors showed up. The venue got rid of any remaining ice. The wedding went off perfectly even though only 130 guests, or half of their originally guest list, were in attendance,” Ms. Sustaita said. “There was not a cloud in the sky. Still chilly, but nothing a few space heaters, blanket party favors, a fireplace, and a few drinks couldn’t take care of.”

The entire experience left Ms. Martin feeling grateful and hopeful. “This couple’s wedding shows how resilient Texans can be. I am so proud of our state and how they handled this storm,” Ms. Martin said.

Harmony Forestieri, 26, Andrew Forestieri, 30, who live in Humble, just north of Houston, were set to be married Oct. 10, 2020. But because Mr. Forestieri learned he had the coronavirus three days before their October date, they had to postpone.

Feb. 20 would be their new date, “which we all know now is when a once-in-a-100-year snowstorm decided to show up,” Ms. Forestieri said.

They planned to have their ceremony and reception at the 1877 Tall Ship Elissa in Galveston, Texas. But once the storm hit, they weren’t sure they would be having the wedding at all. “Between nobody having power or service, my vendors were difficult to get a hold of understandably. We had never imagined the electricity would be down for as long as it was,” Ms. Forestieri said.

Starting Sunday night, Feb. 14, the couple lost power and water. It wasn’t remedied until Wednesday. “Halfway through we couldn’t stand the cold anymore. Our house was in the 30s,” Ms. Forestieri said. So they grabbed their pets and headed for their in-laws home, who lived about eight miles away.

With news of the incoming weather, they swapped their outdoor reception plans for indoor ones at the Ashton Villa, also in Galveston, with just a quick ceremony on the ship. “We did it. But we were definitely freezing,” Ms. Forestieri said. About 20 percent of their guests were unable to attend. “It was a complete roller coaster from start to finish but I am thankful we did not postpone it again. The day was still beautiful despite everything leading up to it,” Ms. Forestieri said.

Couples weren’t the only ones negatively affected. So were vendors, including Ashley Longoria, the owner of TR Floral in Caddo Mills, Texas.

On Tuesday, Feb. 16, her wholesaler told her they would not be able to deliver flowers until the next day. “This seemed OK as our weddings were Saturday and Sunday,” Ms. Longoria said. But Wednesday arrived and no deliveries. Ms. Longoria called a friend with a 4-wheel-drive truck and the pair drove more than an hour away to get the flowers. “We were one of three florists who braved the road conditions to get our flowers,” she said.

But when she arrived, she was told that her direct orders from Holland and Miami, more than half of her original order, did not make it. “We substituted a lot of the missing flowers and made due with what the wholesaler had,” she said. Along with her lead assistant, she pulled together three weddings in two days “Normally a four-person job over four days,” she said. “Even through rolling power!”

Her brides were incredibly grateful. “The last two weeks were not profitable at all, but knowing that we made our brides happy made it all worth it,” Ms. Longoria said.

Ms. Ross, the events planner in Austin said that Texans — couples, vendors and planners — will have further resolve to go on with hopeful celebrations, like weddings.

“Everyone is so passionate about what they do and not only that, they’ve struggled to survive the year,” she said. “We love our industry and we’ve fought hard to save it. This weekend was no different. We will make it.”

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