As many of you know I am a wedding officiant in Central Florida.
Unfortunately on this past Saturday, my last wedding for June, also the busiest month for wedding of the year. I was robbed right before the wedding started. Because I would never take anything from anyone, stealing is a pretty sore subject with me, along with lying, but stealing much more so. I'd like to share my experience with you.
Waking up as I do most days of my life I started the day with a migraine. Luckily it was not totally incompacitating as they are more times than I care to admit. Reaching over I picked up my cell and see that I have an email from today's bride.
I texted my bride as I usually do on the morning of the wedding to wish them a happy wedding day and go over any last minute details, changes or concerns. Then I called her. She immediately was apologizing for Friday. I said it was ok and that she should really have a word with the facility staff and see if they can reimburse her for the inconvenience. She shared that her fiance's mother would not be able to make the wedding ceremony and that was weighing heavily on his mind. We talked a bit more and I assured her it would still be a beautiful ceremony and wedding day. I was actually really looking forward to this wedding. I had previously performed the ceremonies for her mother and her aunt. Weddings like this one are especially meaningful to me. I see generational love... I also see how old I am getting. Unfortunately the evening before, at the wedding venue, they had been double booked. The venue booked a wedding at the same time they were supposed to have the site for a wedding rehearsal. No one answered the many repeated calls to see what could be done. No forewarning, No apology.
Its well into the 90's in Florida. During summer usually hovering around 96-98 degrees late into the afternoon. Sweaty and stressed we proceeded to have the rehearsal in the street leading to the boat dock, having to dodge cars that used that entrance to gain access to the park. After driving nearly an hour and ridiculous amounts of tolls, I arrived to see the wedding party members, friends and family huddled at the edge of the parking lot under a smattering of trees that offered only a thin line of shade. We were assailed by hordes of gnats and the usual rowdiness of family and friends who had not seen each other in some time. Everyone was hot and miserable and after about an hour and 1/2 had only been able to do a complete run through twice. The groom wondered why this could not be done inside, but I had no control over the location that bride had chosen for the ceremony. The dj could not use his speaker in the middle of the street because he, like everyone else was expecting to be under the large shady gazebo with access to power. Luckily I had brought my mini speaker and he was able to have the music available for them to practice with. So I walked back through hordes of gnats and moved my truck over to the parking lot where we were and attempted to start the rehearsal. I like things orderly and familiar so that on the wedding day it's as easy as breathing. Everyone knows their place and duty and the processional is usually flawless. The bride decided to stay and wait out the other bride so they could use the space to practice once everyone went back inside. She would share with me the following day they wrere out there until well after 8pm. Luckily the ceremony only ran about 30 minutes late and the unknown bride was a beautiful vision. We all stopped to see her make her long decending entrance down to the gazebo.
The drive over to Wintergarden was thankfully uneventful. No near accidents, traffic was light, I always leave early enough to arrive at the location about an hour prior to the wedding that way if any snafoos arise, there is more than enough time to fix them. Little did I know that was going to really be put to the test. I remember as I got dressed I felt especially happy. This family was more like long time friends. I was excited to see them all dressed up and the beautiful transition my clients make from being ordinary people into the bride and groom. I was looking forward to gettting there early and getting some photos before anyone touched anything as she was going to be one of my real wedding brides. As I got to the venue I was a little disappointed that I could not park in front of the building so I picked a space strategically where I could see my car from the ceremony space and the main building. My biggest worry was hoping that no one dinged my car doors. There was a large church gathering directy in the line of sight of my vehicle. Still feeling happy and excited, I hopped out and immediately set up my camera to take a few test shots. Locking my doors I went to speak to the photographer who was already on site and take a few quick pictures and then inside to find someone to allow me to bring in my briefcase and purse which are heavy and securely lock them away for me. The backdoors to the venue were locked so I had to end up walking around the building to gain entrance. In the short time I was inside the building, Some person decided to violate my car by smashing in the window with a rock or brick of some sort...they left behind evidence and stole my briefcase and purse.
I was mortified upon arriving back at my vehicle just a few minutes later. My ceremony tablet and the couples marriage license was stolen along with the backup printed ceremony and my purse. I called 911 and a policeman got to the scene in about 7 minutes or so of the call. For that I was grateful. I was not so worried about the purse, it was nothing of name brand nor was the attache case style briefcase which had always been coveted by office staff at many wedding venues and I rarely have cash, You see, the officiantsn although the most important aspect of a wedding besides the couple, are the lowest paid vendors of the wedding. You cannot have a wedding without someone to perform it. Just like teachers are so necessary but for some reason not paid accordingly for the job they do. I had less than $3 in my wallet. Credit cards maxed out, it has been slow. My camera, lenses and cellphone I had on me so that was a blessing. But the marriage license of my couple and my wedding tablet. That hurt. It is what I use to perform the ceremony, I had searched for months to find just the right professional looking leather portfolio cover. It is what I use to read, review and proofread books. It was a necessary investment, but a replaceable component to my business.
I went inside to tell the mother of the bride what had happened. They were mortified and the person I had been looking for to secure my belongings finally made an appearance and shared with me that the same thing had happened at an event two days ago. She also indicated they had made a request for officer presence during events and was still waiting to hear back. She made sure she was available for me for the rest of the time I was on property even helping me into my robe, praying with me, and holding my hand as I shed a few tears prior to the ceremony so I would not become overly emotional during the ceremony. I am usually very careful with my few belongings but this was a one off situation. I have been building my wedding business for 9 years while working at times 2 jobs. My recent health issues have severely limited the amount of time I can work, so the wedding income, along with the success of this book blog is vital to me.
The officer arrived and did a quick sweep of the area. I turn and find myself staring into the eyes of the groom and his groomsmen who had just arrived. This sent everyone into to a flurry relocking and checking their vehicles and through all of the things that he was going through this just mounted on top of that heap. I assured him we would still be able to have the ceremony it would just be a few minutes as I had to get some paperwork filled out and get the ceremony. Thank God for arriving early.
As a courtesy, and quite unexpected, Officer Garcia stayed by my car until I was able to finish the ceremony since I could not secure it. I was able to call my son and have him email me the newest copy of the ceremony to my cellphone. First time doing a wedding by cellphone. I had made some changes to the ceremony earlier in the day so that it would be more meaningful to them especially since they had some unexpected issues arise. I am so glad I did. The ceremony, went on just fine, The bride was emotional and tearful. As I looked at my couple I was once again reminded of why I do this business. But admittedly my nerves were rattled. After I pronounced the couple married I was handing the mic back to the dj and turned to see the groom of the aunt I had married last year. Their wedding is still in my real wedding section. He came up and gave me the biggest hug and apologized like everyone else had been doing for something that was not their fault. It was good to see him and his wife again. I knew at that moment that I would not be able to stay for the reception and after ceremony pictures. I did not want to take the focus away from this young couple having a wonderful celebration. So I missed out on some great food and cake...and everyone knows I love cake...one small part of the reason I am in this business.
I made my way back to pick up my now secured belongings and excused myself to leave and get home to start making the myriad of calls to start deactivating and setting up trackers and dealing with warranty and insurance issues. FUN. Even less fun to get home with tiny glass slivers inbedded in my fingers that came from the steering wheel.
The following few days
I have had to make several calls to the WinterGarden police department and Orlando Police department, in addition to all of the normal calls one would make.
The glass has now been repared. The wonderful glass company SunState Autoglass did an amazing job coming right to my home to repair the damage and the technician they sent even vacuumed out not only the glass in the door but also the rest of the glass in the car around the driver seat. His generosity and professionalism was touching. He did not have to do that. This is the second time I used them. The first was to replace my windshield from a rock flying up from a passing truck on the way to a wedding causing it to crack. I highly recommend using them if you are in the state of Florida. My tint guy in Titusville will once again do a great job keeping me protected from the sun.
The physical things stolen will be replaced but what was truly stolen was a bit of happiness of a wonderful couple whose day would have been flawlessly executed, loss of potential new business for the venue and the city in which this happened due to safety concerns, time that it will take to make all of these calls and have to make a trip back to the courts to replace the couples marriage license. Part of your life and future jobs when you hopefully one day get yourself together, because when the prosecution happens, the value of what was stolen will equal to grand theft larceny. I will forgive you. Healing comes in forgiveness. Hell, I am already moving on. I will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.
What was meant for evil
Due to the things stolen, you opened up peoples hearts and now some really good things have also come out of this situation. Unfortunately I cannot share what they are, but believe me, what you meant for evil was ultimately used for good. You have not stolen my will. You have not crippled my business as possibly could have been your hope. I received a crash course in insurance and loopholes. Wow and Thank you. In this world of social media and technology you have stolen more from yourself than anyone else. I get to cross promote my business to a new audience. I was a little stuck on what to blog about today but was reminded by a very nice author that this experience sounded like good fodder for writing..so thank you for that @RyanJoSummers.
Happy Day anyway!
I spoke with the bride and she confirmed that they had a lovely wedding ceremony and reception. They are still getting to live their happily ever after, and I will get pictures from her to feature her wedding on my wedding blog. No mention will be made of the foolishness that transpired, so your 10 seconds of fame ends with this blog. My husband came home and took me out for delicious chocolate molten lava cake and ice cream so I did get my cake and got to eat it too.
I am going shopping now. The replacement items all have turned out to be cooler than what I had. I will definitely make a few more changes to ensure future security of my belongings. Thank you for teaching me that lesson. I have always been a fast learner. Fool me once..That's all you get!
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