Weddings

These Couples Are Preparing for Hurricane Florence to Hit Their Weddings

Something borrowed, something blue, and sandbags, generators, and cancelled flights, too.
Prepping for a hurricane wedding? Umbrellas are probably a good idea. Photograph by Wolfcrest Photography.

$30,000. That’s how much the average wedding costs according to Business Insider, and it’s a big chunk of money to lose if you have to reschedule or rework your vows due to Mother Nature. So yeah, it’s safe to say brides-and-grooms-to-be are freaking out as Hurricane Florence creeps near.

There’s the old tradition of burying a bottle of bourbon to ward off rain, but what do you do when a Category Four storm is barreling your way? No one’s really sure.

Ethan Wilson, a wedding planner and owner of Events by Ethan, says this is a new curveball. “We’ve had storms in the past, but nothing like this,” the 11-year industry veteran says of the huge storm. “This will be our first.”

With evacuations underway and unprecedented flooding anticipated, bride Valerie Baker laughs when I ask if she’s stressed. “That’s an understatement,” she says.

Her wedding is scheduled to take place this Saturday at Herrington on the Bay, a Maryland wedding venue that overlooks the Chesapeake. “This is literally a tropical paradise in Maryland,” says the self-declared beach bum of her venue. “The moment we saw it, we knew that was it.” She pauses for a minute. “Now it’s kind of working against us.”

She had planned for everything to be outside—the first look, all the wedding party photos, the ceremony, the cocktail hour, the reception. And there is no Plan B, she says. Valerie opted out of wedding insurance, and she doesn’t want to pay any cancellation fees to her vendors (not to mention forgoing the flowers she special-ordered from Thailand, which ran her $5,000). 

So unless the Herrington makes the decision to shut down its property for the safety of its guests and employees, the show will go on come hell or high water (quite literally—the venue is at sea level with the bay).

Her ceremony and reception will still be outside (the reception was already tented, but a tent will be added to the ceremony site), and there will be sandbags and generators at the ready. “I found out the tent that I’m using can actually withstand a Category One hurricane,” says Valerie. “So that’s pretty cool.”

Meanwhile, Ethan is busy carrying out a Plan B of his own. His clients, Casey Barrett and Katie Vorhis, are hosting their wedding Saturday at the Ocean Pines Yacht Club outside of Ocean City.

Ethan isn’t worried so much about the space—the club has a big enough ballroom that both the ceremony and reception can be hosted there. He’s more worried about the power going out and a dwindling guest list. A number of people have already cancelled due to dangerous travel plans or cancelled flights, and two bridesmaids from the Carolinas are trying to figure out if they’ll be able to make the journey.

“It’s kind of like the lesser of two evils,” he says of deciding what to do. “Do you postpone it and move it to a different date, or do you go through with the wedding and reception and lose power?”

Or you could decide to just stomach the costs and change venues altogether.

Hannah Winant and her fiance, Pete Macleod, had planned a mostly outdoor wedding this weekend: a rehearsal dinner and welcome party in Rock Creek Park, followed by a ceremony in Meridian Hill Park and dinner at Ghibellina.

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And, you guessed it—they didn’t have a rain plan, let alone a hurricane plan. But they’re adamant about sticking with their September 15 date, as it’s the same day both Hannah’s parents and grandparents were married.

“It’s a lesson for us,” she says. “I think we thought we’d be immune to something like this because you’re so happy-go-lucky when you’re planning a wedding. You think everything will work out perfectly because that’s what you want.”

Now the couple is hosting both their ceremony and reception in Ghibellina (which is so tight with their 70 guests, Hannah will have to forgo a walk down the aisle with her dad), and they’re crowdsourcing to find a place to host their Friday night rehearsal dinner. They had originally planned to do a grill out in order to keep costs down, but are now going to have to secure catering for the evening. Friends have offered the community rooms in their apartment buildings, open workspaces, art studios, and even posted on Reddit in search of a rehearsal dinner location for the couple.

On top of those unanticipated costs, the couple had also planned to provide wine and snacks from Trader Joe’s for the outdoor cocktail hour in the park following the ceremony—they now have to pay for an open bar at Ghibellina.

The moral of the story? It’s never a bad idea to over-prepare, whether it’s for rain or an all-out tropical storm, says Ethan. In his years of wedding planning, he’s learned it’s always important to have a backup plan in place. And remember—while you don’t want to put the lives of your guests and vendors in danger, it is your wedding day.

“I would say if all your vendors are willing to deal with some wind and rain and you have a second location set up inside and it’s going to be safe, I would try to do it,” he says. 

And, of course, do your best to stay positive. “Right now, I’m feeling like something will come through and it’s ultimately going to be a good story,” says Hannah. “I’m going to leverage it to get a dog and name it Florence. That’s really the only solution to this.”

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Mimi Montgomery joined Washingtonian in 2018. She previously was the editorial assistant at Walter Magazine in Raleigh, North Carolina, and freelanced for PoPVille and DCist. She lives in Adams Morgan.