A group of volunteers in Savannah, Ga., is helping military couples say, ‘I do.’
Almost a dozen couples recently walked down the aisle thanks to Weddings for Warriors. The group plans, hosts and pays for ceremonies and vow renewals, all thanks to the work of more than 100 businesses, local and across the nation.
“We had no idea at the depth of need and I think we had no idea the depth of the community at large wanting to embrace the military and thank them in a meaningful way,” said Becky Byous, the executive director of W4W. “The stories are so similar – he or she was being deployed, they had very little time, they ran to the courthouse in T-shirt and jeans with no family, friends -- no pictures.”
The free weddings and vow renewal ceremonies included every detail, from donated hair and makeup, as well as dresses, photography, venue and food.
Byous came up with the idea for the program, launched in 2009, after she learned how many service members couldn’t afford or simply never got around to a “real wedding.” Many told her after multiple deployments and a tough economy, couples just simply didn’t have the resources to host a wedding.
U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Jason Smith and his bride, Amanda, say they would have gone to the courthouse if it wasn't for the program.
“Because deployments, you never know – something could go wrong and he has to be called out and be gone for a few days or a few weeks,” Amanda said.
Each couple has their own private ceremony at one of six sites. Then, a bagpiper leads the procession of newlyweds into a joint reception at the Charles Morris Center.
Byous says despite the tough economy, more people want to give. And there is certainly a need. She says the applications are already coming in for next year. Byous says she is also getting calls from folks as far away as Hawaii looking to start a similar program.