Highly anticipated, January 18, 2012, was billed as a marathon day of weddings in Savannah, GA. Twenty Weddings for Warriors — complimentary, individual dream weddings — were the gifts from hundreds of thankful people to active military men and women.
I knew when I volunteered it was going to be a busy morning of preparation, beginning at 11:00 a.m. Weddings would be happening 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. in beautiful historic churches, the Mickve Israel Synagogue, and Telfair Art Museum — the South’s oldest museum. True to the spirit of this romantic day of giving and saying ‘Thank you’s’ to America’s military families, the ministers served pro bono. The venue use also had been donated.
I had volunteered, first helping with bridal gown fittings several weeks before. On wedding day I walked into the brides’ hub of readiness at the American Legion Post 135, located just north of Forsyth Park. I looked around for something to do, eager to be helpful on this momentous day.
The entire room was already bustling with photographers, beautiful brides and their special party, each getting ready for this big day. Some brides were positioned near the entrance of the room, getting their hair coiffed. Finger and toe nails were already beautiful from pedicures and manicures for each bride and attendant. Another large group was patiently waiting, each her own turn, to have picture-perfect makeup softly applied.
The Legion hall had been donated, photographers were contributing time and photos, wedding event organizers were donating their time. Hair stylists, beauticians, and nail specialists were onsite, delivering their services pro bono also.
More volunteers like me just wanted to take part to say “Thank you!” in personal ways. We wanted to do more than fly our American flags on Veterans Day and Memorial Day. We arrived to do whatever needed doing. I had been anticipating this wonderful day, even heading to my own hairdresser for a full coif earlier that morning.
I spied a young bride, stooped over the hem and train of her gown, mumbling and shaking her head. Her time for beauty services was nearing and she was upset. When transporting her gown the groom, regretfully, had stepped on the bottom of the dress. Her maid of honor stated she was going to run for club soda and the problem would be solved. Grabbing a clean cloth on her way back to the dress, she quickly started dabbing at the soiled dress and told her best friend to head to the beauty salon area and not to worry.
I grabbed another cloth and started working on the opposite side of the beautiful new gown. We made short work of the stains so that not even the eye of her photographer’s lens would see any tell tale marks.
Next, we started to steam her gown. This was no short work! My friend Jackie Heinz from Zeigler House Inn arrived. Together we worked all the kinks out of this beautiful dress. When we were finished with this task, another bride came forward asking for help with her few wrinkles. Then a mom came by and complimented our fine work and asked if we could help her, too. Of course! What else could we have done in the final hours before our beautiful brides walked down the aisle?
It was not my goal to be photographed; but, I sure appreciate Roi Alan Crapse‘s thoughtfulness to snap photographs behind the scenes. Jackie Heinz and I are caught in action, a moment in our lives, too, for the memory books! We post this photo (above), with Mr. Crapse’s permission.
One hour turned in two, which turned into three hours, non-stop. Actually, I’ve never steamed so many dresses. Right now I can say, I do not want to see a steamer for a while!
Jackie and I left for a few minutes to get a sandwich and something to drink. When we got back to the Legion Post, most of the bridal parties had already boarded complimentary shuttles — off to their own special, personal ceremony.
Ah, it felt good to relax for a bit before the grand reception at 6:00 p.m. that evening. We left for home to finish our work at each of our breakfast inns, then readied ourselves for the big evening.
Dressed for a wedding reception at the Charles H. Morris Center, Jackie and I walked up to the welcoming point and volunteered to host the table at the entrance of the hall. Everyone needed to be checked in and seated to their assigned table. Remember, there were 20 wedding couples and families arriving.
Some of the day’s weddings was either a renewal of vows or a promised, dream first wedding. The courthouse wedding had its own significance, but the dream weddings often were the promises fulfilled for these great Americans who had delayed their photo-perfect day, devoted to serving in every corner of the Earth in America’s armed forces.
We met many families of the darling couples, joked with the servers and volunteers from The Pirates’ House. We were able to see the grand entrance of smiling couples lead by ceremonial bagpipers and saber bearers. We watched couples being announced as Mr. and Mrs., officer and Mrs. (even one Mr. and officer), cake cuttings, first dances, and children having a great time playing and dancing to the tunes of the night.
Yes the venue, the buffet services, cakes, flowers, ceremonial entrance volunteers, music, and lodging had all been donated. It was a memorable, wonderful day, the kind that leaves you happy (even though exhausted).
What a joy for me. I was honored to be a small part of this grand, happy day! I cannot wait to volunteer again next year. Thank you, America’s finest and your dear families!
Diane McCray, Innkeeper
Green Palm Inn
YouTube Travel Video: The Softer Side of Savannah
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