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TIMES SQUARE WEDDING!
This is the story about how 2 young girls from Ashdown, Arkansas grew up, reconnected through social media, then ended up pulling off a wedding in TIMES SQUARE WEDDING in under 5 DAYS....during COVID!
(Photos courtesy of People Magazine Online)
How it came to be...
Peri-Gay (Cauthron) Walker (me) and Amanda Stewart both grew up in Ashdown, Arkansas. While a few years apart, we knew each other, (as everyone does in Ashdown!)
Fast forward 30+/- years....
My oldest daughter, Paige became great friends with Alexandra (Ali) Render her freshman year at the University of Arkansas. The Walker family loved Ali as if she were their own daughter! Ali moved back to Kansas City to finish her college education, but she and Paige kept in touch, as did she and I through social media, over their post-grad years. When Covid 19 hit, Ali had just started working for a healthcare company, Krucial Staffing. Covid had been tearing through New York City, and all 5 boroughs. No one really knew what to do, so Governor Como basically sent out a nationwide SOS for proposals on how to staff all the hospitals in that area, Ali had not been working there very long, but came up with a plan, submitted it....and out of hundreds, hers was chosen! Two days later, she was flown up to NYC, where she basically coordinated ALL the area hospital staffing for months! Krucial put out staffing calls all over the United States, and had phenomenal success. She found herself working with the Governor, the mayor, chief of NPYD, the FDNY chief and numerous other "higher-up" trying to get a handle on all of this.
Amanda, like me, grew up in Ashdown, Arkansas. I actually lost track of her after I graduated and moved off. We reconnected on social media a few years back. She was now a nurse, living in Texas. During covid, I saw that she had been hired by Krucial Staffing on Facebook and was going to help out in the NYC area. She very selflessly put her wedding on hold in order to go help with the covid crisis, for an indefinite period of time. I messaged her to see if by ANY chance had she met Alexandra, figuring it was a long shot. Crazily enough, Ali actually HIRED Amanda to come to NYC! I kept up with her and all of her fellow nurses pretty much nightly for her first couple of weeks. As a former nurse, I was just so proud of her and all her coworkers. Over the weeks, I could tell in their group shots (taken on their shuttle buses), that these heroes were completely drained and exhausted, Amanda had a great idea to boost the morale of her and her coworkers. Knowing that I knew Alexandra, Amanda messaged me, asking what did I think about the possibility of her getting married in Times Square, and/or maybe on one of the major network's morning shows. Not only would it make her dream come true, but she thought it would give her nurse friends something POSITIVE to look forward to, since all they did was work, deal with death and sleep. I LOVED the idea and called Ali... she loved the idea as well, wanting her employees to get some semblance of joy and fun. So, the wheels began turning! Ali reached out for permission, first of all with Mayor de Blasio, then with the FDNY & NYPD. On my end, I started trying to figure out how to plan, design and execute a Times Square Wedding, DURING COVID, in under 5 days, from Little Rock!! I started with a friend, Lauren Hubbard, (whose parents are also from Ashdown) who lives in NYC and is a writer for several very well known, national publications. She didn't personally know any wedding coordinators, but through her social media posts, she was able to find Kerry Botensten. Kerry was already out and about, helping to deliver meals to healthcare workers to all area hospitals, and she jumped at the chance. Next, we got Ana Calderone, a writer for People Magazine, (and also a great cake maker! She has even been featured on The Food Network and has interviewed numerous famous chefs!)
Next up, I was hoping to get media coverage for their wedding, so called my dear friend, Alice Stewart, a political correspondent, previously on FOX, and currently CNN. She too was totally onboard! SO, we had permission to proceed thanks to Alexandra, and had Kerry to round us up flowers, a photographer and a dj....we had Ana on board to make the wedding cake, and a possible write up in People, and Alice to approach her media contacts! All we needed was a wedding dress. I reached out to my dear friend, Deanna Ferguson's daughter, Taylor, who works at Unveiled, a bridal shop in Little Rock, about possibly donating or loaning a wedding dress and shoes. (I shipped jewelry!)
So, basically in under 5 DAYS, and after HUNDREDS of texts and phone calls, we pulled all this together to give Amanda and her fiancé, Ronnie, an incredible, unique, once in a lifetime wedding in the middle of a vacant Times Square! (All guests in attendance worked together and were always on the same shuttle bus, so being around each other was a daily thing. They still were told to wear masks and socially distance.)
While I truly wanted to go, I was just not willing to take any chances, as this was fairly early on in the onset of Covid-19....however, I was able to watch everything on the Times Square live stream. Aside from some negative comments from people who didn't know all the safety hoops we jumped through to make it happen, and the fact that they all worked and shuttled together daily-- (I don't blame them for being angry, I probably would have been upset too, had I not known all the backstory!)--everything else went BEAUTIFULLY! One of the coolest things happened while I was watching the live stream, (it may not sound that great to others!).....At one point before the ceremony began, I was texting Kerry, (who I could see on my tv screen), to please have a few of the nurses who appeared to not be socially distancing to please spread apart, and to please move a certain table out of the way. Just to see her do that in real time, RIGHT after I texted her just really did something weird to me! The enormity and uncertainty of what covid was doing to our country; the rush and accomplishment of being able to pull off such a huge (and crazy) feat in 5 days; the fact that I had helped give these nurses a little joy and happiness, and to be able to help get this couple married in Times Square was just overwhelming! I literally started crying and cried during the entire ceremony!
I don't think I'll ever be able to top this, and I am so incredibly happy that Amanda asked me to help out! I had no idea when she first asked me for help that it would turn out this epic... but I always try to shoot for the moon, and in this situation, we GOT IT!! I got to meet and work with some real 'forces of nature' and I still keep up with them, Someday soon, we will all meet up in NYC and have a toast of champagne in Times Square!
THANK YOU EVERYONE, WHO MADE THIS AMAZING EVENT HAPPEN!
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