What to Do in Case of a Wedding Weather Disaster

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, are you worried that a natural disaster will derail your big day? Here, real brides who were affected by the storm share their stories. Also, New York-based event planner Shawn Rabideau gives expert advice on what to do in this tough situation.

Jillian Migliaccio and Nicholas Stugard were set to wed on Nov. 2. In the days leading up to their nuptials, as “Frankenstorm” media coverage mounted, they decided they would get married—no matter what. Their original venue in Monmouth Beach, New Jersey, was severely flooded, so they improvised and said their “I dos” on the front lawn of the bride’s childhood home.

That same day, Long Island couple Erin Marie Lounsbury and Matthew Marone wasn’t as fortunate. Thanks to uninvited guest Sandy, their best man was stranded in a different state (his flight was canceled), the men’s tuxes were lost in transit, and the pew decorations even got swept away in the flood. When they heard that their venue had only regained about 25 percent of its power, they made the tough decision to postpone their wedding to Nov. 24.


Photo Credit: Mel Brocking

TIP #1: Purchase wedding insurance before the big day.
When Sandy touched down, Lounsbury recalls that the ground started shaking, a tree crashed into a nearby fence, and the wind howled as if it would rip their house apart. She and her fiancé sat huddled in the living room under candlelight, reading advice cards from the bridal shower. “I am still in shock—in no way could I imagine its aftermath."

She didn't buy wedding insurance, which could help couples recoup costs in case of a weather-related emergency. According to Rabideau, the average cost of wedding insurance is $500 and most policies will cover up to about $50,000. Shop around and ask each carrier what their rules are regarding the various vendors.

TIP #2: Develop a plan B in case of weather-related calamities. 
First, check your contracts for a Force Majeure clause. It indicates that in the event of “Acts of God” (i.e. fires, earthquakes, hurricanes) venues and vendors have the right to cancel your wedding. Ask if they will reimburse you in full, or if they’d be willing to reschedule your event at no additional cost. If you're able to defer the wedding, check in with all of your vendors to see if they’re available on the new date before you make the final call.

“The bottom line is that your vendors are there for you! The last thing they want is to see you upset…most vendors I work with are willing to accommodate the best they can to ensure that my bride has a fabulous wedding,” said Rabideau.

If bad weather is still on its way, consider the following factors: If roads are closed, airports get shut down and your wedding hotel is evacuated, where will out-of-town guests stay? It’s also important to consider the safety of local guests and vendors as well, especially if they live in an evacuation zone.

“My fiancé and a few family friends suggested to just have the ceremony anyway, but it didn’t feel right…How could I celebrate when people no longer have a home? Who would want to dance when they’re worried about looters or running water?” said Lounsbury.

TIP #3: Let guests know ASAP whether the wedding is still on.
For Migliaccio, the worst part was “not knowing” right after Sandy hit. Two days went by before she heard anything from her venue about whether they’d be able to host her wedding celebration. 

Manage guests’ expectations by setting up a wedding website (if you don’t have one already) or a Facebook event page where they can check the status hour by hour. Or, appoint a loved one as the contact person, as long as they don't release any info that hasn't been approved by you first.  "If you take control of the situation and let guests know that you are in charge and informed, they will feel better and be less likely to contact you," said Rabideau.

TIP #4: Enlist help!
Wedding planners are worth their weight in gold—they have the resources to help shuffle things around. For example, Rabideau designed a wedding recently where the couple had to scrap their wedding venue after Sandy hit. With the help of their planner and Rabideau's design prowess, they were able to transform the groom’s law office into a gorgeous makeshift venue. “The last thing he wanted was to get married at his office, but it was the only option…we turned it into a fabulous-looking reception space that he couldn’t even recognize!”

Don’t have a wedding planner on speed dial? Ask friends and family members if they can lend any items or replace missing vendors, like Migliaccio did. The groom’s brother stepped in for their officiant, friends organized decorations and baked a new wedding cake, and the bride's parents tracked down the wedding rings.

“It was like everything kept falling into place! All of this happened in less than 48 hours because of our amazing friends and family. Nick and I both said that this wedding was even better—by leaps and bounds—than anything we ever could have planned,” she said.

TIP #5: Keeping a positive outlook during a rough patch.
For Lounsbury, every item she owns is engraved with her original Nov. 2 wedding date, serving as a painful reminder that events don't always go according to plan.

However, she's focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel: "We’re getting through these next few weeks and then all of our family and friends will be together on Nov. 24 to dance, celebrate, and enjoy great food!”


Photo Credit: Mel Brocking

—Stefania Sainato


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