June 27, 2015
The last four weeks have been just a blur for us here at Belle Grove Plantation. In that four weeks we have had five weddings. All of them have been beautiful and some more memorable then others. Our last wedding has to be the one we will remember for years to come.
In the weeks before, we had had the threats of rain, but those threats seem to just vanish into thin air as the wedding ceremonies took place. We even had one where we were watching on radar as a strong thunderstorm move over the wedding ceremony. But it never released the rain or lighting. We felt that we were living a charmed life.
Our last ceremony … the charm wore off.
Tammy, Brett and I were watching the weather through most of the day. We knew we had a threat of thunderstorms and rain. We just didn’t know when and how it was going to be. We had advised the bridal party so we had back up plans just in case.
The ceremony started and so did our nerves. Through most of the ceremony, Tammy, Brett and I were on the radar online watching a fast moving thunderstorm coming at us. Never have we wanted a ceremony to be short and sweet as we did this one. In the back of our minds, we could see everyone running for cover before the groom kissed his bride.
But we made it!
The storm held off for the ceremony. We rushed the family into the house and got the photographers started on their family pictures. We warned them that time was of the essence. Then it was a mad rush to move chairs and get things batten down before the storm moved in. We grabbed the valets and had them help put up the sides on the reception tent to protect the beautiful tables and the guests.
Before they could complete the sides, the rain moved in. We cut short the outdoor cocktail time under our historic Linden tree and asked the guests to move over to the reception tent.
After getting everyone seated and the catering stuff was just getting ready to serve, we checked the radar again. The storm had built to a point that was very concerning for us. So we asked Tammy to speak to the mother of the bride to see if we might want to consider moving into the house. The mother of the bride felt it would be okay to stay and rightfully so with all the work they put into the table settings. But just after Tammy return to tell us what the mother of the bride said the weather decided to turn even uglier.
Now, I need to tell you that I spent three years living in “Tornado Ally” in Texarkana. After a time, you can get a “feeling” about the weather. That day, I had one of those feelings.
Just as Tammy walked back across the tent to help people settle in, it happened. An alert came across my cell phone … tornado warning. Brett was inside watching the online radar so I made my way over to Tammy and told her about the alert and that I was making the decision to move everyone in.
Quietly we went from table to table asking people to gather their things and head into the house. When asked why, I simply told them that the weather wasn’t looking good. Thankfully, our basement door was just off the tent exit. So we moved everyone down into the basement. There were about 90 guests and vendors.
By the time we got everyone in, the sky opened up and bucket after bucket came down. Brett told me shortly after that the tornado had touched down somewhere between us and Colonial Beach, which is about 25 miles away. While we tried to calm everyone, the catering staff worked on bring in the food and cake.
Not 15 minutes after we had everyone in, one of the catering staff came in and informed me that the videographers had caught a second tornado. This time the center of circulation was forming right over Belle Grove’s mansion! Most of the guests were still in the basement, but we had several that had come up onto the main floor. So we asked those to move away from the windows and into the grand hall for their protection.
I slipped down into the basement to let everyone know about the second tornado, but assured them that it would soon pass. Tammy had made arrangement with the catering staff to move a bartender down into the basement, so everyone could get their beverages. I let them know the food was being set up in the formal dining room and that we would soon have everyone up stairs and eating within 30 minutes. I ended my little speech with, “Enjoy hanging out with our ghosts.” Later I would have several people come up to me and tell me that they thought it was funny that I made a joke about the ghosts in the basement. They didn’t know I was being serious.
As the storm moved through, I would walk around checking on everyone. After coming up from the basement, someone pointed out that the valets were on the front side porch. I ran to the door and told them that they needed to come in. Then we would hear that because the wind and storm was so strong, we had leaks going from under the library door, in the basement by the outside door and in the formal dining room down the chimney wall.
The last bit of news came from a guest that left just as we moved everyone down into the basement. They were our neighbors so they know us well. I received a voice mail from him informing us that we had a tree down in the entry lane. Off went Brett and the valets to see how bad it was and if they could move it. Thankfully they were able to move it off the driveway. We also found out that one of the awnings from the tent had been taken and mangled.
After about an hour, the storm passed and the guests got their dinner. Not in the beautiful reception tent that the bridal party had prepared. But the guests as well as the bridal party seem to roll with the punches. Tammy worked extra hard to make sure the bridal party had the chance to do all the things they had planned from the toast and speeches to the cake cutting. The bride even threw her bouquet from the grand hall staircase.
The guests departed with many compliments on the wedding and the staff that had worked so hard to ensure a wonderful event. The bridal party relaxed and quietly slipped off to bed.
The next morning at breakfast, the discussion was mainly around the tornadoes and how well everyone had performed. We couldn’t have asked for a better group of people than the ones that were with us that night.
Caroline Street Catering not only set up dinner, twice, but rolled with all the last second chances with no push back. D&J Talent Management’s valets went over and above in all that they did. Not only did they make sure that our guest made it to their cars safely, but were the spare hands we could not have lived without through this evening.
While Cakes in Art and The Floral Palette were not here during the fun, their work still can’t go without mention. The flowers on the tables as well as the alter were so beautiful and well done. It was ashame that we didn’t get to enjoy them more. Thankfully the cake made it in with just a few minor marks. It would be terrible if the cake had not made it in. It was so beautiful and tasted delicious!
When I spoke to the breakfast table, I told the bride and groom, “You know, anyone can have a wedding at Belle Grove Plantation. But you gave your guests an experience. One that they will long remember and talk about for years.”