Buddy Blogs: Memories from Houston
"I Went Through Five Boxes of Kleenex!"
I'm still excited from seeing so many happy couples tie the knot, and feel honored to have been a part of helping their wedding dreams come true after they lost so much when Hurricane Ike hit Texas. Hopefully you saw the show, but I also wanted to tell you more about my experience as part of the amazing team that pulled off a day I will never ever forget.
When we first we landed in Texas and toured the devastation, it really hit me that these brides had suffered a major disaster just a few months earlier. I started to stress and wonder, Can we really do this? Can we rebuild their dream day? The biggest challenge was realizing these people had already planned out their perfect wedding, and we had to try and recreate that while blending 33 weddings into one celebration at Minute Maid Park! My job was the fashion, of course, so I headed out with our brides in search of their dresses. David's Bridal really stepped up. Usually we're lucky if a company donates one dress, but David's Bridal rolled out the red carpet and told everyone to go on the shopping spree of their life! The service was amazing and there were endless styles to choose from. As the ladies tried on their dresses and veils, it was so emotional to see all of them turn into brides -- I went through five boxes of Kleenex! I would walk around the room and see them all choked up with tears of joy; tears that only weeks prior were about loss, devastation, and fear that they would never get the wedding day they so desperately wanted to have.
After all the fittings and decisions, Rachael, Colby and I sat at our table watching our beautiful band of brides and grooms walk the 100-foot aisle for the big ceremony. They had shared so much with us about their experiences, and it was truly inspiring to see them graciously lift themselves back up after all the devastation of the hurricane. They were beaming and totally looking forward to their new lives. I couldn't have been happier or more proud to watch them stand there and exchange their vows. Happiness filled the room -- literally one couple was happier than the next! To be a part of something like this is a blessing, and it makes us so grateful for the things we have and the experiences we have with our loved ones. I will never forget this day and hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did!
"I’ve Never Witnessed Such a Beautiful Group"
Hey Everyone -
I can still clearly picture the emotional reactions in the room when we broke the news to the Houston couples who would be getting married on our show. We went to Texas and held a town hall meeting with all of the brides and grooms, and Gretta, Kristan and I were the lucky ones to share the surprise!! These couples were so elated and grateful to know that not only would they now have the opportunity to have the weddings they had hoped for before Hurricane Ike destroyed their venues, but this special moment would also be shared with millions of people on the Rachael Ray show!
The next few days were spent getting prepared for the big day. KC definitely had her hands full at Minute Maid Park as she created the décor for the big event; the brides joined Gretta to pick out their perfect dresses; and I was in charge of getting the fellas fitted for their tuxes. And, as you might expect, the women had the final say in this too! Some brides came along with us and those who didn't escort their men to the fitting had sent detailed notes about style, color, fit, etc. Some even called their fiancés repeatedly during the fitting to make sure we weren't messing it up!
Before we knew it, Sunday was upon us ... game day! The couples showed up with excitement in their eyes and joy in their hearts. They couldn't believe that their wedding day would finally be happening. To get things started, we arranged to have the brides pampered at the stadium. As their hair was styled, lips were glossed and their makeup was perfected, the grooms hung around and nervously waited with the fathers of the brides. When the moment finally came and the brides partnered with their fathers for that walk down the aisle, it was quite a site. I must say, I have never witnessed such a beautiful group of 33 brides!! Well, then again, I don't think I've ever seen any group of brides. It was truly incredible. After the ceremony, the newlyweds and their friends and family attended a festive reception filled with dancing and laughter. I could tell the couples were relieved that the long day was coming to an end, and they were able to let their hair down and celebrate with their loved ones.
The big finish then exploded overhead in a beautiful display of fireworks. As the colorful lights flashed, I looked around at the glowing couples and saw such happiness, joy and love in their faces. It reminded me of the exciting, special day each of these couples had shared, of which I was fortunate enough to play a part. Any wedding is a blessed event to witness, but to actually be instrumental in making the day happen is indescribable. Then, multiply that feeling by 33??? Priceless ...
"The Kick in My Step Is Still There!"
Rach has challenged Colby, Gretta and myself a hundred ways from sideways over the years to come up with great solutions to share with you guys. Sometimes, though, she calls and just says "I need your help." That's when we know to prepare ourselves for something big. So was I nervous and entirely overwhelmed when she said "KC, your job is going to be the redecorating of a baseball stadium for a mass wedding"? You bet your rear end, I was! In addition to the sheer magnitude of the space, I also had to make this the most beautiful day of all of these brides and grooms lives. No pressure.
So, we held a town hall meeting the night we arrived in Houston and, after hearing from our couples, we were amazed by one thing. While there was a touch of inevitable anger, there was also a true united front. They had all shared a common tough and disappointing experience, and they all seemed to know each other because of a support group of sorts that one bride had formed online. And, spirits unbroken, they all seemed to share one feeling: Wedding or not, simply marrying the person standing next to them was the most important thing. So we played Rach's taped message for them, and it was as though a dark cloud literally floated away.
My personal dark cloud went bye bye when Daryl came into the picture. Until I get to a town and start pounding the pavement to find resources, I always have to wonder if we'll be able to pull these big things off. But I'm constantly amazed by the way a community will come together to help their own, and Daryl's company (Daryl & Co., of course!) put these couples in top priority position to help us get this wedding done. In addition to the generous donation of all things beautiful- from table cloths to flowers- Daryl was my right hand guy and brought the calm reassurance that we'd be able to do it- and do it in grand style!
So, when wedding night arrived, and the trees were all in place and the candles were all lit, Rach, Colby, Gretta and I sat at our table and looked on like proud parents while these amazing couples who we'd grown so close to finally shared in the moment they'd been waiting for. It's now been a couple of weeks since leaving Houston and the kick in my step is still there. Seeing 33 couples stand amidst a crowd of 500 and look into each other's eyes as though there wasn't another single soul in an enormous stadium was nothing short of breathtaking. Hope you all enjoyed watching the event as much as we enjoyed putting it together!
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