Two Weddings and a Hurricane Sandy

Kristin Doggett and Lauren O'Shaughnessy get paid to take the stress out of what many couples view to be the most important day of their lives. The 28-year-old wedding planners and owners of Bellafare say their industry is dramatic by nature, but when watching last week's weather forecasts for a Frankenstorm just days ahead of two major weddings in Hurricane Sandy's path, they had a feeling things were about to get complicated.

"This was the first time where we thought that these weddings might not happen," O'Shaughnessy said.

The things couples typically focus on during their planning are the venues, flowers, food, and of course, the dress. Electricity and gas, taken for granted by so many, are never even a blip on the radar.

The Bellafare team had been working with a New York City couple on their big day for more than a year when Sandy struck. The nuptials were set to take place at Capitale on the Bowery in downtown Manhattan, the part of the city that went dark for days after the storm.

The morning after the hurricane touched down, O'Shaughnessy, who was also without power, trekked to midtown to begin reaching out to all of the vendors and the bride. After several failed attempts to reach the owners of Capitale, she finally got in touch to find that they too were without power, and offering to move the wedding to Espace, its sister space.

Hotels were also an issue, with the W Downtown without power, as well as Andaz being destroyed, O'Shaughnessy said. With the New York City Marathon still slated to take place until late Friday night, and many who had lost power staying in hotels throughout the state, premiums were also jacked up sky-high.

"Any hotel that wasn't sold out had a premium of near $800 a night," she said. "The hotel where the bride and her whole family was about to get ready was shut down."

After coaxing the bride to move to Espace, an entirely different motif than the original location, and moving the block of 20 rooms between two different hotels, O'Shaughnessy thought they were in the clear. That was when the transportation company called, on Friday, the day before the wedding.

"They said they couldn't provide transportation for 300 people to the wedding because there was no gas," she said. "The limos that were supposed to bring the wedding party, the bride, and her beautiful Vera Wang dress, couldn't get here. So they had to go in an ugly van run by diesel."

One wedding, which Bellafare did month-of coordination for, was also being held the Saturday after Sandy in Warren, N.J. at the Stonehouse, which was also dark after the storm.  Like O'Shaughnessy, Doggett couldn't get in touch with the space post- storm, but once she got a hold of the general manager, he told her he had been able to find three generators to run the space for the event.

Just one problem-- the generators could go out at any time.

"The hardest part for me was telling the couple what they should do," she said. "I suggested they reschedule, but they were not willing to do so."

After making sure all the vendors were set and their equipment was not damaged, she hitched a ride with the bandleader to the celebration Saturday, fingers crossed that the power would stay on. And it did.

"The only issue was the heat," Doggett said. "We weren't informed beforehand, but there was no way the generators could support the kitchen as well as the heat. We kept telling the guests we were working on it, but once they had a few drinks in them and warmed up, they didn't think about it again."

O'Shaughnessy said that while the stress level of event planning in a natural disaster reached a fever pitch for the team, who has been in business for just over three years, holding two weddings the week of a major hurricane showed them how to put things in perspective.

"Couples will be upset if their photo booth isn't working [at a wedding] but we can always find you another photo booth. Wedding planning is so emotional already, so adding this in, people just go nuts," she said. "We can do anything now."