Talk about an epic wedding crasher. Hurricane Joaquin barged in on Kansas City couple Britney Mysinger and Jason Houdek’s wedding over the weekend.
The headline-making storm with its near-biblical flooding came close to spoiling the couple’s destination wedding in Charleston, S.C. But there was one thing Joaquin couldn’t stop: Southern hospitality.
Britney and Jason started planning their big day a year and three months ago. She is from east Tennessee, he hails from Michigan. Since their guests would have to travel anyway, they decided to marry in Charleston where her parents own a condo near the city’s historic Church Street.
When they picked their Oct. 3 date, they sort of knew they were flirting with hurricane season.
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“But the odds of that happening are slim to none,” says Britney, 24, a legal assistant for Jeppson Law Office in Kansas City.
They were supposed to get married at 6 p.m. Saturday in an outdoor courtyard at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Charleston’s historic district.
On Thursday, when the weather forecast called for 100 percent chance of rain on Saturday, they arranged to have the ceremony in an indoor ballroom at the hotel.
The couple and family and friends were staying in rented houses on nearby Isle of Palms. With Joaquin-generated rain bearing down on Charleston, officials began closing off streets around the city, “so we started moving into the downtown area,” says Britney.
Sure enough, it rained on Friday, the day of their rehearsal dinner. But it wasn’t until Britney’s cell phone rang at 7 a.m. Saturday that the magnitude of what was happening hit.
The call was from the makeup artist, and she was freaking out.
“Britney, I don’t know if you saw the news,” she told the bride. “You need to turn on the news!”
By then, officials had shut down most of Charleston, allowing only emergency personnel into the downtown area.
“There were several streets that had maybe 2 to 3 feet of water in them. All the streets were blocked off. It was literally a ghost town,” says Britney. “I have never seen Charleston so dead, to look out the windows and not see anything moving.”
After the makeup artist canceled, others followed. The officiant. The wedding planner. The photographer. The DJ.
“Everyone said, ‘I can’t get to you,’” says Britney. “Literally, everyone ended up having to cancel.”
The couple switched into emergency preparedness mode. They hadn’t planned to see each other before the ceremony, “but we broke protocol,” says Britney.
She and Jason, 28, a project manager for John Deere’s marketing division in Olathe, huddled with their families.
“All I wanted to do was marry my husband,” says Britney. “We were both on the same page that we would do whatever it took.”
Some of them began tweeting out calls for help.
Britney’s father saw a local ABC news team doing reports near the hotel and, on a whim, ran over to the crew and told them he knew a bride and groom that needed a wedding officiant.
Within minutes, the first good Samaritan contacted the TV station. Charleston City Councilman Mike Seekings, who lives near the hotel, offered to marry the couple that afternoon.
Prayers were answered via Twitter, too.
College student Hannah Summer tweeted that she was a five-minute walk away from the hotel and was willing to risk the bad weather to help them.
Someone in a military Humvee volunteered to venture out to the Isle of Palms and ferry the remaining guests into the city.
The hotel chef couldn’t make it to work, but others volunteered to help in the kitchen. They couldn’t promise anything fancy, so the sit-down dinner became a buffet.
“They pulled a bellboy out to be a bartender. They had laundry people serving,” says Britney, who walked down the aisle with hair and makeup done by family and friends. “Everyone kind of pulled together. It was just amazing.”
Having grown up in the South, the hospitality that poured their way didn’t surprise Britney. But the magnitude?
“It just says something about the city of Charleston in general. All these people were more than willing to come out and help us. They didn’t even know us,” she says.
Mr. and Mrs. Houdek were on their way back to much-drier Kansas City on Monday.
They’re taking their honeymoon to a warmer climate in January when Kansas City sinks into winter.
“But not during hurricane season,” Britney says, laughing. “We’ll be going to the Caribbean.”