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What to Do When Natural Disaster (Like Hurricane Florence) Affects Your Wedding

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As the Carolinas are bracing for the impact of Hurricane Florence, the category 2 hurricane headed their way, many brides with an upcoming wedding in the area are in panic mode. While physical safety and well-being are of the utmost concern for all, there is an added stress to major storms like Hurricane Florence for those who plan to wed in affected or targeted areas.

Here are some actions you can take:

Purchase Wedding Insurance

According to Rob Nuccio, President of R.V. Nuccio and Associates (a.k.a. WedSure, who were the first in the country to offer wedding insurance in 1991, if wedding insurance was purchased prior to the storm, you may have recourse—in the event of a total cancellation, your losses may be covered. He advises that if a policy was purchased within the right amount of time, “You’re in good shape. There’s nothing to do now until you know whether or not you have or will have a loss. The only way you’ll know is when the storm has passed.” In the case of an evacuation, he explains, “the loss has already occurred. If you bought cancellation coverage for your wedding, it would be a covered loss.” However, you must have had the coverage before you first even heard of the storm.

Your coverage will directly depend on the type of policy you own. For example, Nuccio’s policies require purchase more than 14 days in advance of a potential weather event. He shared that while many brides who may be affected by Hurricane Florence are now attempting to purchase insurance, it is unfortunately too late for the coverage they are looking for, and will be for most if not all other policies, too. However, if purchased now, it could potentially cover other things that might affect a big day, such as the unfortunate loss of someone integral to the wedding, and even what they call “change of heart.”

Look at Your Vendor Contracts & Have a Conversation with Each

If you don’t have any type of insurance coverage, you may still have some hope of recovering funds in the event your wedding is completely off. If you are 30 days outside of your wedding, it is extremely important to carefully read all your signed contracts, including photographer, entertainment, beauty services, and flowers. Each vendor will have outlined their own time limits required for notice of possible cancellation or breaking of the contract. Depending on what you signed, you may be able to recover some funds.

Additionally, Nuccio shared that for some facilities, if completely damaged, it could become a legal issue between couples and the venue. If the facility was not able to have your wedding, it could be outlined in a contract or cancellation clause but you may have room to seek legal options in an attempt to recover your losses. It’s important to carefully understand and know the extent of any liability or cancellation clauses included in a contract.

Some vendors, such as Mikkel Paige Mihlrad, wedding photographer and owner of Mikkel Paige Photography, explains that her couples would be able to rebook their wedding within a year without any penalties. “As long as I have the data available, I’m happy to rebook!” sharing that while she never had a weather-related cancellation, she did have a couple reschedule due to Zika concerns surrounding their destination wedding in Mexico.

Remain Calm

Mihlrad offers some supportive words to brides facing both the stress and worries of the pending storms, and the effects on their wedding. “Remain calm and positive! It’ll help you face the situation with a clearer mind.” She also suggests that you “understand the effects the impending natural disaster may have as best as possible before you decided to rebook or not.” She says: “Are major roads closed? Are minor roads leading to your venue going to be affected, perhaps by flooding? Are airports closed? To what extent? If power goes out does my venue have backup generators? Enlist the help of trust friends and family to help you investigate. Contact key vendors to ask their thoughts as well.” If you do cancel, or if you have no choice but to cancel, there are ways to make that process a bit easier.

If You Are in This Situation, Practice Self Care

First things first—it’s important to acknowledge all your feelings and stressors. Mental Health Counselor Jody E. Smith, LPC, NCC says, “no feeling is ‘normal’ or ‘not normal,’ ” and being set to wed during such severe weather is quite complicated. “Regarding a wedding being affected by a natural disaster, the fact that you have spent tireless hours planning and looking forward to it, some of the most common feelings are frustration, sadness, anger, and grief. All of these are natural feelings because they are linked with the disappointment of expecting a big day and then having it changed because of something out of your control.” She adds, “Remember, whatever feelings you are feeling are natural and expected in light of any disaster affecting your world. The key is to not beat yourself up for feel guilty for being upset or disappointed because it’s a natural feeling, and a majority of people would feel the same.” So, in case anyone was wondering, she clarifies, “it is 100 percent OK to mourn the loss of your wedding.”

When it all gets to be too much, Smith recommends trying to disconnect. “On a daily basis, we are bombarded with negative news that we as individuals have very little control over. This can make a person feel helpless, leading to high levels of anxiety, which doesn’t help in any scenario.” She recommends trying exercise, meditation, and getting involved with local recovery efforts to give back to these communities affected by natural disasters, as well as “speaking with your healthcare professional if you feel like the anxiety is overwhelming you and affecting your daily life.”

Help Others

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, newly-married women have taken to Reddit’s wedding planning forum to offer up bridal gowns and wedding decor to Houston-area brides-to-be who lost their nuptial supplies and attire in the floodwaters. “Dress available for a Harvey bride,” read a thread posted by a user named Jenna, who happened to have survived another natural disaster—Hurricane Katrina—12 years before. “If you’re not familiar with that type of national disaster, if you’re not familiar with what it’s like to evacuate a flood-prone area, then you want to help but you have no idea how,” Jenna told Racked. “I was hoping my post would gain momentum. It’s good that other people saw that and were like, ‘Hey, that’s a good idea, I wanna [offer up my dress] too.’ ”

Since then, more and more Reddit brides have offered to ship their own wedding dresses to Houston brides in need. As the post has grown, even those without a gown to give have volunteered to donate venue decorations, dinnerware, and other wedding must-haves to hopefully ease these brides’ worries as they begin to rebuild their lives.

How Real Couples Are Dealing with Disaster

Texas bride Mackenzie Pinholster found herself boarding up her North Padre Island home and heading to a safer place to ride out Hurricane Harvey. The evening the storm raged on, she felt safe surrounded by her family and her fiancé. “I think throughout the whole night of the storm I was more nervous for our safety at our house than I was with our wedding,” she reflects. Mackenzie and her fiancé are set to wed next spring.

When the storm passed, although they were lucky enough to have minimal damage in their area, they received word that the city of their wedding venue, Port Aransas, was heavily damaged, and destruction was rampant through the entire city. In fact, Mackenzie said, “Our venue had the roof blown off with flooding inside, our caterer’s restaurant was torn down by the winds, and the condos we had all the rooms reserved for our guests were damaged from wind, rain, and flooding.” Mackenzie and her fiancé are now left to decide whether they should change their venue, or postpone their date, keeping the venue the same.

But that’s not the only decision they now have to make. Their much-anticipated honeymoon is set for Turks and Caicos. At the time of our interview, it’s right in the projected path of Hurricane Irma, and they won’t know the extent of the damage until it happens. She explains, “We won’t know whether we have to choose a new honeymoon spot, or just change our reservation.”

Throughout it all, Mackenzie has kept her focus on what is most important. “We have been very involved with helping Port Aransas. We have many friends who lost their homes and everything they have, so that has been our main focus. A wedding can be re-planned and postponed so we are focused on helping rebuild Port Aransas first,” she said.

For bride Alison N. and her husband, there were only five days in between Hurricane Sandy and their wedding. After the storm passed, power was out and they couldn’t get in touch with their venue. Eventually, local friends physically went to the venue and facilitated quick communication. Alison found out that “the first floor of the venue was completely flooded, but they never lost power and a cleaning crew was working tirelessly to make it presentable again. Fran [the wedding coordinator] reassured me my wedding was going to happen and everything would be as perfect as I’d imagined.” Luckily, her vendors were dedicated to making that promise a reality, too. “Our band, the Fuzz Pops, was ready to go, and happy the Waterside [the venue] was okay.” Her photographer, Gary Flom, helped create a backup plan for photos, and the owner of Nicole’s Boutique in Brick, New Jersey, actually met her friend on the highway to deliver the bride’s dress. Various businesses worked together to ensure the wedding would still happen.

Alison reflects, “Our wedding ended up being the first time most people saw lights, a hot meal, and a good time in a week. I will forever be thankful to the Waterside for making our wedding a day we will remember forever.”

See More: Harvey and Irma Have Been Married for 75 Years and No Hurricane Can Tear These Two Apart

Christine C. and her husband Brian also tied the knot in the midst of the Sandy aftermath, albeit not without some stress and luck on their side. When the storm hit, “it was rain and wind like we’ve never seen before,” she recalls. When it was all over, they were lucky enough to both still have power and be in an area not as affected as others. After calling their vendors and venue to confirm they were OK and still available, she realized, “they each had the capability of making everything I wanted happen.” Yet, on the day of the event, their venue, the Crystal Plaza, was still without power. In fact, their wedding took place entirely on generators.

For brides finding themselves in similar situations, Christine advises that they, “stay calm and stay positive. Think the best possible things as long as you can.” She continues, “But the biggest thing to remember is that no matter what, no matter what happened, what can’t go as planned, just remember that in the end you are marrying the love of your life and that’s what it is really all about.”

What’s even more stressful than a wedding after a hurricane? Getting married DURING a hurricane. Ryan Roberts and his wife, Samie, cofounders of Bustld.com, were having a destination wedding in New York City, and about 70 of their guests were able to brave the impending storm and make it in for their August 27, 2011 wedding, the day Sandy made landfall! At the height of the storm, winds reached 70 miles per hour, and 400,000 New York residents were left without power as the Hudson River flooded.

According to Ryan, “New York City streets were abandoned and everyone seemed to be gone.” Luckily, thanks to a few connections, makeup, hair, and transportation still happened, which they chalk up to the absence of typical city traffic.

When all was said and done, Ryan reflects that their reception location, the Omni, “did everything to make the day perfect. While half of their staff couldn’t get in, the other half made it happen: getting dinner out on time (and making it amazing!), keeping the bar refilled, and making the night an epic one. The bartender (who day-lighted as the coat check guy) was making strong cocktails and despite the air conditioning breaking, the lights stayed on.”

Erin Celletti

The author Erin Celletti

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