Here’s why I’m not a big fan of DIY weddings.
Yesterday, Waters Mill was host of a June wedding. Nothing unusual about that. We do it all the time. Around Tuesday of this past week, the weather prediction was 20% of rain with a slight risk of a chance of severe thunderstorms. On Friday, the rain percentage was increased to 30%. Now, normally 30% is no big deal. I spoke to the family and the decision to secure a tent was declined. In retrospect, that was an excellent decision. Friday was an overcast day at Waters Mill with the highs staying around 80 degrees. It was a perfect day. During the rehearsal, hopes were high that Saturday would be a repeat of Friday. Not the case.
Upon waking up Saturday morning, the first thing I do on wedding day is watch the weather from several different resources. It was pretty much the same forecast rain with slight risk of severe thunderstorms.
The Waters Mill team began setting up at 11am on Saturday morning with the hopes we would have the ceremony outside and all would be perfect. The humidity continued to rise and the thunderheads were building. At 3:30pm, the clouds were turning a little more gray and now it was pretty evident we would have rain at some point but when. Watching the clouds, I was hoping and even praying the rain would blow on in and blow out. Not the case.
The staff at Waters Mill continued our set up and kitchen was in full blown preparation. In the meantime, I’m watching radars and developing our rain plan. At 4:00pm my assistant arrives at Waters Mill. She and I huddled in the office discussing the rain plan and how to execute. Still hopeful maybe we would have a miss and all would be good.
The Bride’s family were busy preparing the tables with the centerpieces which consisted of these beautiful lanterns they had collected and since both the bride and groom were avid readers, the centerpieces were stacks of books that the couple had read during both their childhood and adult years. It was interesting to see the literary works that had influenced their lives. Each centerpiece was used as table settings which means if we have to execute rain plan then the staff at Waters Mill must keep these in correct order.
The Bride’s Mom had kept everything for the centerpieces organized by recycling Wal-mart bags. I ask the Bride’s Mom if she would mind leaving the bags on the table “just in case”. She happily agreed for she knew we were already getting prepared for the worse case scenario. Rain.
For this wedding one of my favorite DJ’s that has worked with me since the beginning of my wedding consulting days was working with us today. I was grateful. John Heckert not only is an outstanding DJ but he is also a Sergeant with DeKalb Police and is accustomed to working with emergencies. John had the “look” on his face. After we greeted each other, he asked me the plan. We congregated in my office and huddled around the Mac computer staring at the radar trying to pinpoint the arrival of now an eminent storm.
My husband has taught me much in our 8 years of marriage. Not only is he a Sergeant with DeKalb Police, he is also passionate about weather and studies it daily. We even have our own weather station in which he gathers information. I have learned much about hooks, down drafts, updrafts, dew point and more. When John and I pulled up the radar, it was a sea of green with blobs of red and the nasty purple thunderstorm cells. My daughter’s favorite color is purple. I too like purple. Purple happens to be my favorite flavor of Kool-aid. But when I have a wedding with approximately 165 guests arriving on property, purple is NOT my favorite color. I asked John could he predict the arrival of the storm. He looked at me as if I had 3 heads and said, “Sure….I think” …..Maybe not the most scientific method but we took a post-it note and sharpie and measured the distance the storm was tracking from the North. John looked at me at said 5:30 the storm will be here. We have now changed our language from rain to storm due to the massive colors on the radar. We knew. I took all the Waters Mill staff on property at the time and briefed them on the rain plan and how we would execute. First thing first…we had to break down the front porch so that when early guests arrive they would have a place to brave the elements. The Bride’s father was sitting on the porch watching the clouds with hopeful anticipation the storm would pass. As we were breaking down centerpieces, tables, linens and chairs you could see the look of “why are they doing this…it isn’t even raining yet” look. I ignored the look of disappointment for I knew what was approaching. I had the team take a small break while I once again looked at the radar and waited for my amateur meteorologist husband. Jim, John and I huddled over the Mac computer which now has become the hub of the office. Watching you guessed it the radar. The radar is now “blowing up” with storms everywhere and where we once had a small break between storms, we no longer had this window of opportunity.
(After the devastating Tornadoes in April in the South, the National Weather Service came out with a new app for smartphones you could download which would warn you of an approaching dangerous storm for the area in which you are located at the time of the storm. I downloaded the app on my phone. It functions much like a weather radio but it is on my Iphone. Since downloading, I have only heard the warning go off a few times so therefore I am not familiar with the ringtone yet. )
Jim pulled me to the side and told me this was a fast moving system and we needed to be ready. He went to the parking lot to greet guests and move them to the front porch. I once again gathered the team and we began breaking down the ballroom and transforming it to a ceremony site. It is quickly approaching 5:30 and the rain has started. The Waters Mill team quickly took orders from me and upper staff and set up the room just in time for the first arrival of guests. I had the kitchen team set up our small tent on the back patio to house the tables in which we would move back inside once the ceremony was completed and we would set up the reception.
My phone is now going off with a ringtone I’m not familiar. I continue directing the staff when i realized that was the weather radar going off. We are now under a severe thunderstorm warning and it’s 5:30 with guests arriving. It’s just rain. A lot of rain but just rain. I quickly went to the kitchen to find my husband bursting through the backdoor and was grabbing my 74 year old mom and told her to get away from the windows and get down. He looked at me and I knew what I had to do. I ran into the ballroom and barked orders for all guests to get inside, away from windows and get down. The wind was whipping around Waters Mill like nothing I have ever seen with the exception of a small hurricane I rode thru back in 1993 on the Panhandle of Florida. We were experiencing Tropical Storm winds at Waters Mill. All the guests calmly moved inside, did exactly what I asked them to do and were safe. I then walked in a calm manner and checked on my bride. Did I mention the electricity was going on and off? My bride was in the center of her 8 bridesmaids, 2 moms and God only knows who else sitting very calmly in bride’s suite with no lights. No lights. I quickly moved into the office to the fuse box and yes one of the fuses had been tripped. Not a problem. Now the bride’s suite has lights.
The rain was so hard, the lightening so intense and the wind so mighty but we had to get guests inside. Waters Mill staff were busy preparing the inside with some make shift decorations for the ceremony site and i must say it looked nice.
My husband was standing in the parking lot greeting guests while holding a lighting rod (umbrella). I grabbed an umbrella and escorted the lady guests to safety. The umbrellas where not of much help since the wind was turning the umbrellas upside down inside out. The groomsmen had been watching from the groom’s cabin as my husband and I were fighting drenching rains and cracks of lightening to get the guests to safety. They immediately grabbed umbrellas and began escorting guests. You never know what your duties as a groomsmen might entailed.
The worse of the storm was now over. What seemed like forever was really probably about 30 minutes of intense thunderstorms. It was still raining a little but not what we had quickly become familiar with. I was in the front of Waters Mill with the groomsmen parking cars when I began to smell fresh cut timber. In October of 1993, our region experienced the first tropical storm ever in the North GA mountains named Opal. She ripped thru our mountains laying thousands of trees on the ground and we were out of electricity for a week. I still can hear the cracking of pine trees that we heard during that scary scary night in my mind. The next morning following the Tropical Storm Opal the air was heavy with the smell of Pine Sol. It wasn’t Pine Sol….It was the smell of thousands of pine trees fallen on the roads. We were trapped in our own homes. The GA Department of Transportation worked around the clock literally cutting the trees off the road so that we could travel. No one could get to us. Not even emergency vehicles.
Now, 18 years later, I recognize that smell as I stand on the front lawn of Waters Mill….Pine Sol…..must mean one thing trees down. My sweet husband calls me on the Iphone and tells me he suspects trees are down and that he was going to go check on the roads.
I ran inside to check on everyone inside…..all was good with the guests except the Groom’s Mom. She had a look of panic on her face with cell phone in hand. I knew something was wrong. My Mom met me at the door and said the Groom’s sister and Aunt were trapped from fallen trees and they couldn’t get to the wedding. The Groom’s Mother stated to me, we can’t start the wedding without them. I asked the Groom’s Mother for a phone number of the sister so that I could locate her and go get her. She gave me the number and at 6:08 I am trying to call the Groom’s sister. No answer.
I texted my husband and told him we had guests trapped on the roadway and couldn’t get to us. Jim immediately came back to Waters Mill and picked me up…off we go to locate the missing family. Jimmy asked me,” Do you know where they are?” and I told him I had no clue. He dodged a couple of small trees on Wesley Chapel and we decided to go East on Hwy 52 to try to find the family members.
Now, while I was standing in the front of Waters Mill waiting on latecomers with the groomsmen, a white utility truck went down Wesley Chapel in quite the little clip. I recognized the truck to be that of one of our local lumberjacks, Tommy Davis, Jr. or as we have affectionally called him all my life as Buckwheat. And for a split second I thought hmmmm there goes Buckwheat wonder what’s wrong.
Jimmy and I turned left onto Hwy 52 and didn’t travel more than 100 yards till traffic was backed up on both sides of the roadway filled with a small sea of volunteers trying to pull limbs off the roadway to free up traffic. I looked at Jimmy and jumped out of the car and ran to the fallen trees. I immediately started grabbing limbs and logs and joining the small army of volunteers to clear the roadway. I noticed the sole power saw operator was Buckwheat. He looked at me and we just started cutting up trees and throwing logs as fast as we could. I looked thru all the debris and noticed one man in a dress shirt and tie and one guy that looked familiar. I yelled thru the sound of the chainsaw and asked if they were my family members I was trying to find. It was them. I yelled to them as soon as we got the trees cleared for them to follow us to Waters Mill. It was a little chaotic with untrained Good Samaritans, children in the roadway trying to get branches entwined with Muscadine vines cleared out of the roadway so that our busy lives could continue. The unsung hero in this story is Buckwheat. At one time, he had to jump off the side of the road down a small enbankment with chain saw still running never stopping to keep from getting hit in the head with a fairly large branch. Did I mention that Buckwheat was born with a disability that would have kept most from ever overcoming their disabilities and not work. Buckwheat was born with not one but 2 club hands. He has never allowed that birth defect to beat him at anything. Buckwheat help saved our wedding yesterday and i will forever be indebted to his selfless act of service. As I threw the last log and cleared the road, Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Department was arriving on the scene to manage traffic. I jumped back in the car and Jim drove me to Waters Mill. I am now soaking wet with chards of sawdust all over my black pants and my hands were filthy dirty. I didn’t even notice until later.
I ran inside the reception hall and told the good news to the Bride’s Mom and Groom’s Mom that we found the family members and they were on their way to the wedding. I noticed the Bride’s Moms eyes were drawn to my hands when i noticed how dirty I was. I quickly excused myself and cleaned up. As soon as the trapped guests arrived, I told my assistant and staff we would start in 5 minutes. And we did!
The bride and her entourage was ready to make their grand entrance and we were only 30 minutes behind schedule following Tropical Storm Winds. But the story is not complete.
The Waters Mill staff was about to perform their magic. Following the ceremony, the Waters Mill staff will “flip” the room. Flipping the room is not an easy task but because my staff is so awesome and professional it is a challenge they excel. I have decided the staff at Waters Mill along with myself are adrenaline junkies for us to continue to perform at this level of expertise. As soon as the minister released the guests to the front porch, it was on. Our staff at Waters Mill went from service mode to execution. It was time for the team to be the Waters Mill team and beat this challenge. Everyone took their posts and execution was in progress. Within 11 minutes and 32 seconds, the Waters Mill staff had the room completely set up for a reception while guests enjoyed GA grilled quail served on top of creamy grits with shittake mushroom sauce. Everyone was happy. And I a proud Momma!
The night still rocked on with challenges from the storm. Thousands of Amicalola Electric Membership customers were without power and since the lineman were busy trying to get customers back on line, our electricity would continue to go on and off. As a facility owner, losing electricity is not a fun challenge however, we have prepared for the worse at Waters Mill. We are equipped to go on generators so that we can provide running water and DJ for our guests. Fortunately, we did not have to start the generators. Once again, we did have damage. One of our old oak trees just couldn’t handle the stress of 60 mph wind and it snapped in the top. At first, it was just dangling in the treetops but later in the evening while I was walking the property, the tree top fell on top of my floral shop. Fortunately, it fell on my floral shop and not on any vehicles. Needless to say Monday will be another day of storm clean up.
It was a night of challenges….many many challenges. When I finally got home late last night, I was physically and most importantly emotionally exhausted. But here’s the lesson…when you have the professional team like we have at Waters Mill executing your weddings, we can take on challenges head on not sacrificing the quality of Waters Mill weddings. I am very proud of my entire team from Back of the House, Front of the house, DJ, Bartenders, to all that continued to pull it out. With the support and team work of each other (and of course that prayer time we had in the kitchen), we were able to rise above a very difficult situation and knock it out of the park. Way to Go Waters Mill team. In a couple of weeks, we can reflect about this at the beach where we will rest and re-charge. Why did I say I am not a fan of DIY (do it yourself) weddings. If a bride (which i suspect their were thousands of weddings happening all over our state during this storm) had DIY her own wedding and no professional help, I can say without doubt she had an incredibly stressful day and probably did not get to enjoy her wedding very much. Oh the decision about not having a tent……a great decision in deed….it would have proven to be a dangerous situation not only for my staff but the guests. Did i mention our small tent was seen flying over the top of Waters Mill from our DJ? It just goes on and on with the stories. But the good news, it was a great event and all proved well because of the Plan , The Team and the Execution. Don’t do it alone. Let the Professionals take care of you. Way to go Waters Mill staff. Tiny umbrellas await!