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A wedding to remember

You've planned a beautiful outdoor wedding on the last weekend of August, everything is organized and ready – then a record breaking wind and rain storm comes into town, quite uninvited, and changes everything.

While newlyweds Dave and Beth Holbrook can have a laugh now, an unexpected, unstoppable storm quickly had them changing their wedding from 'Plan A' to a brand new 'Plan F', after 94 km/h winds, torrential downpours and a power outage nearly ruined their very special day.

“That was the biggest frustration for me, because we had several straight months of pure sunshine and hot weather and we thought it was great,” says Dave Holbrook, who adds the couple's biggest concern had been guests being too hot – not wet and windswept.

“Never in a million years did we imagine that it would rain, let alone be stormy on our wedding day,” adds Beth Holbrook.

The wedding was nine months in the making, a beautiful outdoor ceremony under a gazebo in Abbotsford, followed by dinner and dancing under white tents with sparkling white lights.

“We were going to get married in the field, in front of the gazebo and overlooking the winery and Mt. Baker,” explains Beth.

While one might think a late August weekend wedding should be safe for weather – mother nature disagreed.

“Saturday we went out in the rain to set up, we cleaned the driveway off and the rental company showed up to set up the tents,” says Beth.

“As soon as the siding went down on the tents, the wind picked up and proceeded to lift the tents right off the ground,” says Dave Holbrook.

“At that point we basically used our own body weight. We hung on to the poles of then tent and they still lifted off the ground with us on them.”

Rental company staff jumped into their truck and rushed back to their office to grab more cement weight to hold down the tents – leaving the couple, their friends and family to handle it alone.

“We literally had one to two people on every post trying to keep the tent down because there was nothing else we could do,” says Beth.

They made a quick decision to fasten one side of the tent to a huge lamppost to stop it from taking off.

As they hung on and waited for the rental company to return, power went out to their venue and large swaths of the Lower Mainland, trees crashed on roads and houses and they hung on for dear life.

Not to mention, the venue is at an active horse stable with some very precious horses that were getting quite spooked by the flailing tent.

The rental company returned, but despite their best efforts, wind levels were maxing out at 94 km/h in Abbotsford and the blocks were not heavy enough.

“It was still moving,” says Beth

At one point, three men were standing on the cement blocks holding down the point where the three tents met. Despite their combined weight being well over 500 pounds, the entire tent, cement blocks and men themselves levitated into the air. Other friends scrambled to pull them down.

It was in that moment they knew they had to change plans – it was not safe for them, the horses, the stable or the rental equipment.

“It was mostly because of the liability factor, we didn't want the tent to rip through the fence, possibly hurt some horses, damage the property and then have the rentals get damaged,” says Beth. “It was a losing battle at that point.”

On the same day, across the street, another wedding was taking place.

“We watched the tent that had already been set up literally get blown down. It was mangled metal,” says Beth. “We looked at that and realized it wasn't going to get any better.”

The rental company had only sent one employee back with the extra cement blocks so a group of friends and family helped the man take down the tents and get them back in his truck.

With the original plan gone in the wind, friends and family who were already there for the rehearsal and setup gathered together in the stable to come up with a new plan.

Immediately they knew the ceremony would take place in the stable, which would hypothetically be lit the next day when power came back on with the existing chandeliers in the stable roof – but, where could the reception go?

At first they planned to squeeze the reception in the room above the stable, but after a good workout carrying all the tables upstairs they realized not everyone would fit.

After much brainstorming, it was decided the ceremony and the reception would take place in the stable – horses and all. The plan was that friends would flip the ceremony room while photos were being taken and replace the aisle runner with one very long dinner table.

They left the venue Saturday having worked for hours and feeling like they had accomplished nothing – but they did have a plan.

Their dedicated set-up crew, friends and family, returned the next morning to find power had been restored, weather had calmed and things were looking up.

“Everything went smoother the second day,” says Beth. “We still had no power at home so we were very relieved to find there was power on at the venue.”

Power meant the musicians could plug in, the audio equipment could be used and people could see in the washrooms.

The ceremony went perfectly, with horses even popping their heads out to watch. All was going well.

As guests and the bride and groom went outside for photos and appetizers, a group of their friends flipped the ceremony space into an elegant long dinner table.

The tables were set up, guests were sat for dinner and all the terribleness from the weekend was behind them. They could really enjoy their wedding now, until the the floor started bubbling.

“The aisle of the barn began to flood,” says Beth, still in disbelief.

The intense rain had caused an issue with the drainage and ground water was now flowing into the stable from the drainage points in the floor. Guests feet under the dining table began to get wet.

The water continue to slowly fill the floor and eventually the guests had to leave the dining area for dryer ground.

“The ceremony and the beginning of the dinner were better than we could have planned considering everything we had been through.” says Beth. “And it was so beautiful, the feeling was so romantic – and then the flooding happened and it was a reminder of everything that had happened that weekend.”

Despite it all, the wedding went well and guests enjoyed the special venue and their horsey dinner mates.

“We had nine months of planning this and it was very thought out, and then to have it all unravel on Saturday was really stressful and very deflating,” says Beth. “But, in the end, what we had was even better than what it would have been in the first place. We made the best of the situation.”

The Holbrooks' say they are beyond grateful for their friends and family who managed to make the wedding possible, despite the elements.

“Nobody complained, everybody tucked right in and did whatever they could to help us. It is really nice to come away from the weekend and have some really key people that, without them, it would not have turned out the way it did,” says Beth.

They say that despite it all, they had a very special wedding with very special memories and they cannot wait to share the story for years to come.

“We can look back now and sort of laugh about what we went through. We are so incredibly grateful that we have such amazing friends and family that were there with us for the set-up, take down and the transition from ceremony to reception. We had a beautiful service and we got married. It is all good, we can laugh now.”

“You can plan for a beautiful wedding, but really it is the people behind it that make it really special,” adds Beth.



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