STJ Creative Photography
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Love Amongst the Wreckage: A Generous Wedding Story

A note from Ben: Friend and Generous volunteer, Carly Long, recently participated in a crazy cool wedding. Dozens of complete strangers gathered to honor an engaged couple who survived extraordinary disaster, only to grow stronger together. I want to share their story with you as an example of living generously. Here’s Carly:

It all started with a proposal on a mountaintop, weathering two back-to-back Category 5 hurricanes (Irma and Maria) in the Virgin Islands, and an amazing story of love and community.

Marty and Lauren met over six years ago on the island of St. John. Marty worked as a boat captain, and his office was located next door to the restaurant where Lauren bartended.

“I’d heard he had a crush on me and eventually, he asked me to go boating one day. That was pretty much it. We’ve been together ever since,” explained Lauren.

Together, Marty and Lauren endured Hurricanes Irma and Maria, shooting their engagement photos among the debris of the decimated island they call home. Fellow hurricane survivor and island resident, Anne Bequette of STJ Creative Photography, shot their gorgeous photos.

Fast forward nearly a year: Marty and Lauren had lost their jobs and were focusing on rebuilding the island. Anne saw an opportunity to do something special for this couple whose love was a symbol of strength and resiliency. She reached out to New York-based event planning and design firm LLG Events with the idea of creating a pro-bono dream wedding for Marty and Lauren.

Their story touched LLG Events, and they immediately began planning. They enlisted David Kimmel Design to design the florals, but they still needed to find a venue to complement his work.

The team received an email from Marta Santamaria, owner of The Venue and The Ridge in Asheville, North Carolina, which happened to be where Marty’s family lives. Marta donated both of her venues and provided catering, linen, staff and more.

At this point, the Asheville community began to resemble St. John’s after the storms. One by one, kindness from strangers created a dream event.

The gifted items included a cake from Dogwood Designs Bakery, stationary from Joy Unscripted, favors from Poppy’s Handcrafted Popcorn, officiating from Michael DeSerio, DJ equipment and uplighting from The Guitar Center, floral assistance from Blossoms at Biltmore Park, drinks from Wicked Weed Brewing, transportation by Young Transportation, and a brunch venue by Highland Brewing Company. Martina Liana Bridal donated Lauren’s dream wedding dress (there was only one left in her size in their warehouse)!

Asheville Pro Bono Wedding

“What Marty, Lauren, and their island community experienced was unimaginable. To get to see firsthand a bit of redemption in their lives, after all they’ve lost, was just beautiful,” said Erica Berg of Collective Music Solutions, who donated a guitarist for the ceremony and DJ’ed the reception herself.

The beauty of the human spirit was on fully display. This message transcended the entire wedding weekend, with second photographer Joel Conner driving from Missouri, makeup artist La Belle Visage flying down from New Jersey, hair stylist Sugar and Spice Salon flying in from St. Thomas, and videographer Cassandra Isbell traveling from California.

It all came together on August 11, 2018 as Marty and Lauren consecrated their love beneath a floral archway of purple and blue hues mimicking the sky during the hurricane. The Blue Ridge mountains stood in the background as friends and family surrounded the couple.

Marty and Lauren got their dream wedding. Their love serves as proof that life may not always go according to plan, but if you have one another, you can survive anything.

By Carly Long

What skill or talent could you donate to a worthy cause?

Lauren+Marty Video by Cassandra Isbell. Photos by Anne Bequette of STJ Creative Photography. Check out more photos and a list of the generous vendors here.

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