PAWLEYS ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — Saturday turned out to be a sparklingly beautiful fall day in Pawleys Island, an idyllic spot for an early fall wedding in South Carolina, sandwiched between the Atlantic oceanfront and expansive marshland that typify the state's coastal beauty.
But the perfect wedding day almost didn't come together for two families who traveled to the island for nuptial festivities that almost got derailed by Hurricane Ian's landfall and aftermath.
Mary Lord and her family traveled to Pawleys Island from Fort Worth, Texas, for the Saturday wedding of her son, Eric.
AJ McCullough's family came from Sunset Beach, North Carolina, to see her daughter, Monroe, walk down the aisle as the bride.
The families had been staying in rental houses across the street from one another on Pawleys Island, about 72 miles (116 kilometers) up South Carolina's coast from Charleston.
And then the storm hit.
Ian was a Category 1 storm when it came ashore near Georgetown, about 13 miles from Pawleys. Hours of wind and rain battered the beach town, whipping surf reportedly as high as 25 feet (7.6 meters) that washed over the town's iconic pier, strewing its pylons along the shoreline and pushing them up to beachfront properties. Feet of soggy sand piled up under the elevated homes, stranding and waterlogging some vehicles.
In the mad rush to get to the Friday night rehearsal dinner — which went off without a hitch, relatively speaking, the nearby country club venue not even losing power during the storm — the participants left behind the gear they'd need for Saturday's wedding, like attire and decor. Feeling more secure hunkering down further inland, Lord said the families settled into other rental properties, figuring they would deal with Saturday's details after the storm passed.
"We got off, when the storm was coming, but some of the bridesmaids dresses, tuxedos, decorations, we left there, thinking we could get back on this morning," Lord told The Associated Press on Friday morning, standing on the northern causeway that connects Pawleys to the mainland. "But they said no, we cannot, not yet."
As crews assessed safety on the island, Lord and McCullough were told to wait, with barricades shutting down access to the strip of homes.
"If anyone is on the island who wants to bring us our things, we'd sure appreciate it," McCullough said, with a smile.
For the next hour, Lord and McCullough methodically asked everyone they came across, on the inland side of one of the two causeway bridges, asking each person if he or she had a contact who could retrieve their wedding gear.
One man, Eddie Wilder, said he'd be happy to help out the women. As a property owner, he would be allowed access across the causeway, so Lord and McCullough gave him the rental property access code and, via FaceTime, walked him through the property and encouraged him to "grab you a bottle or two" of celebratory beverages including champagne they had stockpiled for the weekend.
Lord and McCullough were ecstatic with the news that the necessities were on their way.
"We just had a wedding, so I understand," said Renee Wilder, Eddie's wife, hugging McCullough as she handed over bags of gowns and tuxes.
"Everybody has been very optimistic, and look at this beautiful day," McCullough said, with a smile.
Meg Kinnard an be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP