Kerriann Otaño and her fiancé, Dane Suarez, spent two years planning every detail of their perfect wedding. Ms. Otaño would walk down a long walkway from the house they rented for their bridal party onto North Topsail Beach on the North Carolina coast.
The opera-singing couple would exchange vows in a small, personalized ceremony this weekend.
By Monday, it became apparent those plans would be washed away. Hurricane Florence had taken dead aim at the North Carolina coast. Mandatory evacuations for Topsail residents were ordered earlier this week and the storm made landfall early Friday morning, dumping devastating rain.
“When I think back to it, I was just numb for hours,” said Mr. Suarez, 31. “You spend two years picturing what the day is going to be, and we designed a super personal ceremony and I couldn’t even picture it being anywhere else.”
On Tuesday, the bride and groom drove back to New York and floated an idea on Facebook to reschedule the wedding this weekend on Long Island. They were worried no one would be able to rearrange their plans. Ms. Otaño, 31, a Wading River native, was soon inundated with hundreds of comments and messages, with offers of extra bedrooms for their guests to sleep in, backyards to have the ceremony in and tents to borrow.
“We thought we had lost it completely and that we were going to have to get married in my parents’ living room on Long Island,” she said.
Instead, thanks to the generosity of a high school friend, many different collaborators and several North Fork businesses, the couple will be wed Sunday afternoon at a waterfront restaurant in Southold.
The forecast: Mostly sunny and a high of 77 degrees.
“I think it’s even better than the wedding we would’ve had in North Carolina because I feel like it’s not just the 100 people that were coming to our wedding,” she said. “It feels like the hundreds and hundreds of people who helped make this happen.”
The wedding reception and ceremony will be held at A Lure Chowder House and Oysteria. Ms. Otaño and Lauren Lovett, whose husband Adam is an owner of the restaurant, have been friends since their days at Riverhead High School. Ms. Lovett reached out to Ms. Otaño and offered the restaurant as a wedding space.
During Ms. Otaño’s 12-hour drive Tuesday, she mapped out the menu with Liz Werkmeister, a manager at A Lure. By the next day, the couple had a head count confirmed.
The guest list originally featured 100 people; about 50 managed to alter their plans to travel to the North Fork. Adding in extra guests from Long Island, the list rounded out at about 75.
“The owner is very community minded,” Ms. Werkmeister said. “He’d be happy to help anyone if he can make it work.”
One hiccup still remained for the couple. To acquire a marriage license in New York, they needed their birth certificates. Mr. Suarez is from Illinois. So his parents and siblings left at 4 p.m. Thursday and drove straight to the restaurant Friday where the couple was preparing for their big day. They arrived at noon, just in time for the couple to beat the 4 p.m. deadline for their New York marriage license.
More surprises awaited the couple Friday.
“One of the things we were going to have at our wedding was this donut wall,” Ms. Otaño said. “We were so excited about it.”
Her mother, Karen, surprised her on Friday with news that there would still be a donut wall thank to a donation by North Fork Doughnut Co. in Mattituck.
“It’s a beautiful story and it’s so beautiful how the entire community came together and pieced this wedding together in two days, when it took them two years to plan the destination wedding,” North Fork Doughnut Co. owner Kelly Briguccia said. “It’s really great to see a community do that, and we want to be a part of that, without a doubt.”
Zilnicki Farms in Riverhead will be donating the flowers for Sunday’s festivities.
The pair met during their senior years of college when Mr. Suarez’s a cappella group had a mixer with Ms. Otaño’s group, while they were both studying at different colleges in Indiana. They didn’t start dating until they met again at a three-month opera program in Sarasota, Fla. in 2013.
The couple, who currently live in California, is planning to spend all of next week on the North Fork, enjoying the area during their rare vacation time; their careers keep them traveling often.
“Through it all, nothing can stop us. We’re doing it,” Mr. Suarez said. “We’re so lucky.”
“I’m more grateful and more blown away than I think I’ve ever been in my entire life,” Ms. Otaño said. “To go from what was the saddest news, to thinking that we wouldn’t have any wedding at all, to getting all of this support and finding out that it was going to be better and bigger than we ever hoped.”
Top photo caption: Kerriann Otaño and her fiancé, Dane Suarez, at A Lure in Southold Friday morning. (Credit: Rachel Siford)