I only had 3 days to plan our emergency Charlotte wedding, but it turned out all right

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“Little darling, the smiles returning to their faces. Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here. Here comes the sun, and I say, it’s all right.”

Chrissie and AJ

JJ Horton Photography

As George Harrison started crooning through the speakers, my best friend and younger sister started their trek down the aisle and my dad and I huddled together near the entrance to the men’s restroom at The Foundry.

The rain came pouring down outside, but inside, it was bright and warm; the space illuminated by dozens of borrowed candles and the smiles of 90 people who had completely dropped everything to help us put together a wedding in three days.

dad-rain

JJ Horton Photography

On October 8, AJ and I were going to exchange vows on the Kitty Hawk Pier overlooking the expansive Atlantic.

Our family and friends were traveling from all over the country to celebrate with us at one of our favorite places in the world, the Outer Banks.

There were beach house rentals, fishing boat charters, a rehearsal dinner at our favorite raw bar and nods in our ceremony and reception to the sand and surf.

We planned our seaside celebration over a year and a half to give our guests plenty of time to make travel arrangements, nail down every detail, and so the weather wouldn’t be too hot (the Outer Banks in the fall is gorgeous, but for that one little detail called hurricane season).

beach-wedding-pic

Matt Lusk Photography

About a week and a half before our wedding, I noticed a blip on the radar. Matthew.

When I first noticed it, I had hopes of it puttering out; staying to the South. Basically anything except taking a direct route up the East Coast.

Little does he know it, but Brad Panovich became my best friend during the first week of October. Like a total psycho, I constantly checked his pages for updates and tuned into every Facebook live forecast (except for one because AJ told me I needed to stop checking the weather and hid my phone.)

I now have an unreasonable amount of knowledge about hurricane forecasts, tracking, and the cone of uncertainty.

wedding pictures dunes

Matt Lusk Photography

The week of our wedding was a total blur.

My incessant weather checking was intermixed with frequent, frantic calls to my mom and sister and some sobbing.

A drive to the Outer Banks, a quickly crafted backup plan of a backyard fete and barbecue, and a phone call from our venue with the option to cancel our reception later, we made the (difficult) decision to move the celebration to Charlotte.

I saw the disappointment in AJ’s face (as he probably saw in mine) as we saw the 18 months of planning go out the window and talked about the safety of our guests and the option we were given to go home.

bodie-island-lighthouse

Matt Lusk Photography

Our families and friends jumped into action; the buzz and excitement of people and phone calls in the living room of our beach house reminded both of my newspaper reporter parents of a newsroom on deadline.

By Thursday, I was signing contracts for a new venue, event rentals, a photographer, and a caterer.

We dressed up in our wedding garb and met our wedding photographer at the Bodie Island Lighthouse to get in a golden hour portrait session before we headed back to Charlotte.

Our florist graciously helped us load the flowers we had ordered into my sister’s SUV, and Katie stopped to pick up the cake on her way out of town. After a quick lunch at one of our favorite oyster bars and a pit stop in Norfolk, Virginia, to pick up AJ’s best man, we were on the road home to get married.

hurricane drinks

JJ Horton Photography

We ended up making it official at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse on Friday afternoon.

Our first kiss as husband and wife was met by applause and cheers from our friends and my colleagues in the Public Defender’s office and a smattering of friends who had been able to change their travel plans at the last minute.

Our families watched the action live on Facebook in a gas station parking lot somewhere between Raleigh and Charlotte.

After the ceremony, we parted ways as my newly minted husband went to Frugal McDoogal to pick up beer for our wedding, and I headed to South End to load the car with flowers beautifully arranged by my friend’s mom who had graciously donated her talent and time.

courthouse marriage

Katie Nelson

On October 8, instead of overlooking the ocean, we stood hand in hand at The Foundry in Third Ward as our sisters asked us if we would love, honor, comfort, keep, and cherish each other as long as we both shall live.

chrissie and AJ's sisters

JJ Horton Photography

Afterwards, we indulged in barbecue from one of our favorite Charlotte restaurants, a slightly melted key lime cake, Duck Donuts, a signature cocktail and pumpkin homebrew (OK, and a lot of champagne), surrounded by a group of incredible, supportive people we love.

dad-dancing-wedding

Susannah Brinkley

It’s not what we planned, it’s not what we initially wanted, but it was definitely a celebration that reflected us: adventurous, spontaneous (totally AJ and not at all me), full of joy and fun.

It was special to get to celebrate in Charlotte, our city: where we met, where we live, and where we call home. In an industry that’s curated on every little detail and planning perfection down to the second, it’s a little embarrassing to say that it took a hurricane to shift my focus away from seating arrangements and song choices and to focus on the reasons we were having a wedding in the first place: our love and commitment for each other.

chrissie and aj

JJ Horton Photography

When we picked The Beatles “Here Comes the Sun” eight or nine months ago for our wedding ceremony, we did it because The Beatles are near and dear to my heart (my mom is a huge fan) and we thought the song fit into the sentimental, celebratory scheme of our wedding ceremony.

I didn’t consider George Harrison’s lyrics as we carefully placed it among the line up of the Goo Goo Dolls (AJ’s favorite), Elton John (timeless love song), and Hootie and the Blowfish (fun 90s throwback).

rainbow over QC

JJ Horton Photography

On October 9 around two in the morning, I scarfed down reheated mac ‘n cheese in my wedding dress, while my husband snored on the couch next to me and my best friend giggled in our living room.

I felt loved.

I felt happy.

I felt content.

Turns out, George Harrison knew what he was talking about. It is all right.


We will be thanking people for eternity, but thank you again to our family and friends for everything; for your donating your time, money, décor, crafting skills and can do spirit to pull this off.Thank you to our vendors in both Charlotte and the Outer Banks: The Foundry, JJ Horton Photography, J Majors BridalPaper Scissors Beauty, Midwood Smokehouse, Hilton Garden Inn Kitty Hawk/Outer Banks, Sugar Snap Events, Great Cakes! of the Outer Banks, Matt Lusk Photography, Glimmer Hair and Makeup, Outer Banks Wedding Entertainment, Andrea Brinkley Jenkins and Susannah Brinkley. Cover image courtesy of JJ Horton Photography

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Chrissie Nelson Rotko
| @@chrissie_beth
Public defender, food blogger (offtheeatenpathblog.com), football fanatic, lover of craft beer, red wine, cheese, and other delicious things.