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Saving the date

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Area couples make a commitment to each other and to the city they love
Four flights of stairs, 1,100 dresses and 15 minutes to go. Fred Schulman of Pearl’s Place lugs bridal gowns from an adjacent storage facility and into his store in record time. Upon arrival, he is met at the back door by dozens of determined brides searching for dresses in an evacuated city. “No one can deter a bride,” says Schulman of the experience.

Saving_The_Date.jpgIn the aftermath of Katrina, it takes bold determination to start over and survive, but that’s exactly what local brides and people in the wedding business have done.

“There are so many people working hard to bring the city back, opening their businesses, cleaning up their homes and struggling to get restarted, just to let people know that New Orleans is open for business,” says Tammy Dupre, catering manager at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in New Orleans. “It’s so amazing to come back here and do weddings. The energy of the people is remarkable.” Chesley Adler of Adler’s Jewelry agrees. “It’s sad for the loss of people who were rooted here, but there is an excitement for the energetic people that are coming in.”

In the true spirit of New Orleans, the collaborative efforts of both local couples and businesses to “save the date” show imaginative feats and an unparalleled determination to go on, with just enough heartfelt courage and drive to fuel their entire city. On the path to recovery, weddings have provided a unique starting point for the hopeful citizens of New Orleans.

Amy and Tom, November 12, 2005
When Amy Ramone, 37, a flight attendant for Delta, and local TV station photographer Tom Moore, 44, got engaged in July 2005, the groom’s parents, Dr. Thomas and Lynn Moore, promptly booked a wedding at the Windsor Court Hotel as the ultimate gift to the couple. A second marriage for them both, the couple wanted an intimate gathering to celebrate their union.

On August 19, Tom and Amy met with the Windsor Court Hotel’s catering manager, Kelli Moore, and decided to go forward with the arrangements. “Well, we all know what happened 10 days later,” Kelli says.

Unable to evacuate as a family, Tom stayed in New Orleans with local CBS affiliate WWL, while Amy and her two children, Katherine, 8, and Andrew, 7, left for River Ridge with her parents, Bill and Sue Schremp. The couple, fully exhausted, had other challenges to face shortly thereafter. “Marriage was the last thing on my mind,” says Amy. Between evacuating and working, a car accident her parents had gotten into and the prospect of moving into a new house, the couple contemplated just going to city hall for the nuptials. “What really started us planning instead of running to the justice of the peace was that we thought we needed to do something for Katherine and Andrew,” says Tom.

When Kelli Moore returned to the Windsor Court Hotel in mid-October, she was delighted to learn that the couple hadn’t canceled. “Of all the weddings I had on the books, I was happy for them, because they were a second-wedding couple, local and had strong family ties in New Orleans,” Kelli says.

Kelli immediately began re-planning the event and making some creative adjustments to the reception area. In the days that followed the hurricane, a massive fire across the street from the hotel shattered the windows in the boardroom, library and Palm Court—all the original locations for the wedding.

The Windsor Court Hotel quickly came up with an ingenious plan to convert the elegant New Orleans Grill Restaurant into a reception area. “With a great deal of cooperation between the restaurant managers and the banquet staff, the wedding went off beautifully,” says Kelli.

With 53 adults and nine children attending, the event was a phenomenal success. “What a wonderful wedding. They portioned it off, and it was just perfect. You wouldn’t have had any evidence of the outside. It was simply a great party, a great time,” Tom remarks of the unexpected arrangement.

As Amy’s children walked their mother down the aisle, the marriage became a celebration for their families and, most importantly, their children. “Now we can go back to our new house as a family and start our new lives over, together.”