For months, Pittsburgh couple Lauren (Steele) Beckman and Andrew Beckman planned an elaborate destination wedding on Hilton Head Island, complete with a pierogi bar and a Duck Donut wall. Every beautiful detail was set to go for this weekend … until Hurricane Irma started churning.
They were already beachside when the forecasts began. With the potentially history-making storm looming, the couple decided to host a more casual version of wedding earlier in the week, so they and their guests could get back to Pittsburgh safely.
It was casual, after all, so their guests’ 100 black-and-gold T-shirts emblazoned with the phrase “Yinz Are Gettin’ Married N’at” fit in perfectly. Because what would a destination wedding be without a touch of home, right?
Believe it or not, this isn’t the first time a hurricane has tried to interfere with the South Side couple’s plans.
After they got engaged last summer at Schenley Park, they had planned to visit Hilton Head in the fall to check out wedding venues.
“The day before we we were supposed to leave, Hurricane Matthew hit,” Lauren Beckman said.
They cancelled their trip, but were determined to have their wedding on the South Carolina resort island anyway, a place they both love and had visited together. They booked the venue site unseen. A few months later, they met with the wedding planner and florist.
And then, they arrived in South Carolina on Sunday, Sept. 3, ready enjoy a few days at the beach and then get married.
On Thursday, Sept. 7, which was supposed to be the rehearsal dinner, Beckman was enjoying a morning with her bridesmaids, mom and soon-to-be mother-in-law at the nail salon when she got a call from the wedding planner asking them to meet at the venue, the renowned Sea Pines Resort.
“They basically said, ‘The hurricane looks like it’s coming straight toward us,’” Beckman said.
South Carolina had ordered evacuation of Hilton Head Island, per Weather.com.
The couple had a few options — continue with the Sept. 8 wedding, move it earlier in the day so the venue could start boarding up after the event, or cancel it altogether. The decision became easier throughout the day, as each vendor called expressing their panic about the incoming storm and saying they were preparing to evacuate early.
The couple jumped into action and planned a party for that night, turning their rehearsal dinner into a wedding. Dinner was already ordered and all the wedding guests had been invited to attend anyway, per Beckman.
“I can’t put these people in jeopardy, and I can’t put my guests at risk,” she said. “We decided to just go ahead and get married at our rehearsal dinner.”
All they needed was an officiant.
Bridesmaid Emily Wilson reminded the couple that her Aunt Loree Rowland had come along for the trip to help supervise Emily’s four-month-old during the wedding — and Aunt Loree miraculously was ordained to perform weddings, having married Emily and her husband last year.
By 4:30 p.m., the couple had texted and said “Get Aunt Loree ready,” and by 7:30 that evening, she was leading the ceremony on the patio of a beach house the groom’s family had rented in an intimate ceremony in front of about 65 guests, flanked by candles along the staircase.
“I had about three to four hours notice and then we just showed up and had the ceremony,” said Rowland, who grew up near Indiana, Pa. and now lives in Delaware, and is not a pastor by trade but has now performed two weddings.
“I think the most impressive thing for me with Lauren and Andy is it wasn’t about the wedding. It was about the two of them being married,” Rowland said. “I was really excited that I was there and that I could fulfill that with them.”
The couple didn’t feel like it was the right place to wear their formal dress and suit, so they opted for a white sundress and a button-down shirt and jeans.
After the ceremony, each guest grabbed a black-and-gold T-shirt for a group picture. The T-shirts were a surprise from the bride’s Mom, who had spotted them on Instagram and had the shirts made with the couple’s intended wedding date (Sept. 8, 2017, though their actual nuptials ended up being the day prior).
“We’re calling them collector’s items now,” Beckman said. “The collector’s edition.”
Guests stayed for the party, then scooted off the island.
“It was the craziest 48 hours of our lives. It was like a whirlwind,” Beckman said. “It was honestly as perfect as it could have been with the situation that was at hand.”
The hometown couple is planning a beach-themed reception in Pittsburgh sometime this winter (and they’re very grateful that a Duck Donuts location has opened up in Pittsburgh to make their donut wall dreams come true). The bride grew up in Mt. Lebanon, and the groom is from Upper St. Clair.
“We love Pittsburgh and we love the Steelers and the Penguins and the Pirates,” Beckman said. “We’re just yinzers through and through. We never want to leave.”