Friday, September 16, 2005

An Affair to Remember

My husband and I just got home from the "Celebration Town Wedding." Although I don't have photos yet, I want to post an update so all of the people who sent such nice comments after my last blog entry will know how the fairy tale turned out.

For those who didn't read my last entry, a local resident has been housing 30 people from Louisiana who lost everything in Hurricane Katrina. Among them was a couple who had been planning to get married. They decided to go ahead and have a small ceremony by the lakefront downtown. Soon the townsfolk got wind of it (thanks to the Front Porch intranet) and turned into a real-life Cinderella story.

It started with an offer from a local photographer and mushroomed from there. Soon, everything from hairstyling to flowers to food to entertainment was being donated by local businesses and restaurants. The best part is that it all came together in less than 48 hours, and most of it was planned online. The posts flew fast and furious as residents coordinated every last detail of the big event.

I had originally volunteered to provide champagne for the wedding toast. Unfortunately, I discovered that we couldn't have alcohol in the area (the ceremony took place in front of the lake, but the reception was held at Lakeside Park). No problem...I figured I could switch to sparkling grape juice. This afternoon, I headed out to Sam's Club with a fellow resident to load up on the juice and some bottled water. Surprise, surprise...NO sparking grape juice! One of the clerks informed us that it wouldn't be in stock until the holiday season.

Our next stop was Target, where they did have some juice, albeit red instead of white. At that point, we were desperate, so we bought a dozen bottles of the dark stuff. At least it would still be bubbly and non-alcoholic.

Another resident had provided plastic champage glasses, so my husband and I picked them up on our way to Lakeside Park. We headed out early to help with the set-up; I wanted to see the big event come together from start to finish. I had witnessed the thread take on a life of its own on the intranet, and I couldn't wait to see how the fairy tale would turn out.

Our own local "Griswolds" were already there (at Christmas, their home is straight out of the classic "Christmas Vacation"). The wife had stepped forward as planner/coordinator, and along with a team of other intrepid souls, she had somehow managed to pull everything together without forfeiting her own sanity in the process. As the clock ticked closer to 6:30, she made sure that everything fell into place.

The weather was rather sticky, but at least there was no rain. The couple had lost everything in Hurricane Katrina; now, ironically, Hurricane Ophelia was keeping the wedding day dry (its position farther down the coast as kept the rain away from Florida for the past week or so).

Everything was rapidly coming together, both down by the lake and in the reception area. The stairs downtown were festooned with flowers and an archway. The green expanse of lawn at Lakeside was suddenly dotted with tables and chairs. Since the bride's favorite color is blue, there was a definite blue color scheme. Even most of the guests donned blue clothing.

Once everything was set up for the reception, we headed down to the lakefront stairs. The bride and groom pulled up in a horse-drawn carriage, and I broke out in was so beautiful! We're less than 10 miles from Cinderella's Castle in the Magic Kingdom, but right before my eyes a real-life fairy tale wedding was taking place. The bride looked as radiant as any princess (and perhaps a bit overwhelmed by the vast sea of strangers that had turned out to wish her was definitely a case of the old axiom" "A stranger is just a friend you haven't met yet."). She and the groom exchanged their vows in front of the misty-eyed crowd. Then, it was off for a carriage tour of Celebration while the party moved down to Lakeside.

Virtually everything was covered, even down to small but important details like insect repellant (in Florida, the bugs declare war at sunset). We did temporarily run out of bottled water, but one resident had a stash that he was able to quickly bring. At first glance, it didn't look like there would be enough food for the vast, hungry crowd (just a little over 100 people had RSVPed, but the turnout appeared to be closer to 200). But somehow there was plenty; as my husband commented, it was like the Biblical story of the loaves and fishes. Olive Garden had donated salad, breadsticks, and lasagna, and residents had provided some other items to supplement the Italian feast. There was lemonade, coffee, bottled water, and for dessert there were cookies and brownies to supplement a lovely wedding cake donated by Goodings.

So many local businesses provided items; it would take forever to list them all. The residents opened their hearts, too, and packed the gift table until it was nearly sagging. The bride and groom are generously going to share their good fortune with their fellow Louisiana "refugees."

I hadn't met the happy couple until the day of the wedding. They were so sweet! After losing their home, car, and virtually all their posessions to the flood waters, they deserved a day of happiness. Hopefully, in time the memory of their Celebration wedding will overshadow the memories of loss.

They had all of the traditional wedding activities: first dance, toast, wedding cake, etc. The crowd ate and danced and generally partied as the sun slowly set in the background. But all good things must come to an end, and the "town wedding" finally wound down. As the guests departed, the cleaning crew swept in with such efficiency that when they were done, you never would have guess that any event had taken place.

This festive affair was a vivid reminder of why I live in Celebration. I can't even begin to imagine something like this ever happening in any of my former home towns. In most places, people live an isolated life, even when they are surrounded by others. In Celebration, we're not just a bunch of individuals...we're a real commmunity, and the sum of our whole is great than its parts. People who think we're a Stepford town, or worse yet a snooty community, would have quickly changed their opinion if they had witnessed the wedding. We were simply a bunch of people banding together to help others in need and to bring some happiness of a terrible tragedy.

Photos will be coming in my next blog entry.

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1 comment:

Two4Disney said...

Oh wow, Barb! Reading this gave me goosebumps. What an amazing, unforgettable experience and definitely reason to be proud of your community there in Celebration.