It was supposed to be the best day of Sarah Cummins’s life: zipping up a white bridal gown, walking down the aisle towards the man she would promise her life to, and giving her vows in front of everybody she loved. Cummins, 25, and Logan Araujo, her fiancé, had planned this wedding for two years, pinching pennies and working weekends along the way in order to realize a $30,000 dream.
It was going to be perfect.
But as life would have it, a week before the wedding, for reasons kept private, the wedding was called off. Beyond the heartache, the bride-to-be was also left with an empty, nonrefundable reservation and plated dinner for 170 guests at the Ritz Charles in Carmel, Indiana.
“It was really devastating,” Cummins told the Indianapolis Star. “I called everyone, canceled, apologized, cried, called vendors, cried some more, and then I started feeling really sick about just throwing away all the food I ordered for the reception.”
She wouldn’t allow the wedding to go to waste.
The Ritz Charles is a lavish, upscale venue, home of countless receptions and spellbound first dances. Cummins, however, decided that if that couldn’t be her reality, the night would simply have to be repurposed.
After discussing it with Araujo, she came up with a new plan. Picking up the phone again, this time her calls were to different numbers: the numerous homeless shelters in Indianapolis and Noblesville.
Working with the directors of the shelters and Maddie LaDow, her event planner, Cummins decided to take her supposed “night to remember” and bequeath it to the memories of the homeless. She invited them and their families to her reception at the Ritz Charles, where the four-star menu was loaded with delicacies including bourbon-glazed meatballs, goat cheese and roasted garlic bruschetta, chicken breast with artichokes and Chardonnay cream sauce, and of course —the wedding cake.
Cheryl Herzog, the development director of Dayspring Center, a shelter that Cummins contacted, was moved by Cummins’s goodwill and generosity.
“I was so touched that Sarah had taken a painful experience and turned it into a joyful one for families in need,” Herzog told the Indianapolis Star.
And for the families, whose days are marked with struggles and hardships, the night would provide an escape from the stress of being homeless. “I suspect having the chance to experience a delicious meal with your family in a beautiful space like the Ritz Charles will be very special for them,” Herzog added.
The dinner left the community full and grateful.
On Saturday, July 15, the reception was to continue as planned. The centerpieces that Cummins and her mother designed themselves (gold Eiffel Tower vases filled with roses) were set up around the venue’s enclosed garden pavilion. The only change in design would be the seating arrangements so that there would be no head table for the bridal party, gift table, or cake table.
When Saturday rolled around, the shelter residents dressed in their new dresses and pressed button-downs donated by local shops and climbed aboard the buses that Cummins arranged to pick them up.
Arriving at the venue, they walked in and were greeted by Cummins and others at the entrance. One girl in light green and pink gown blushed and giggled when she heard them exclaim, “Oh, you look beautiful!” and “The queen is here, thank you so much for coming!”
After the guests filtered in, they all sat down for dinner, each table adorned with plates of food and satisfied smiles as families laughed and chatted away with each other.
“This is like Thanksgiving dinner 2.0 for these guys […] Many of them have not had a meal like this in years, or maybe not even in their lifetime,” Bryan Schrank, a case manager at the Wheeler Mission Ministries, told the Indianapolis Star.
While the shelter residents feasted, for Cummins, giving back has given her a respite from the emotional turmoil of dashed wedding hopes.
“I will at least have some kind of happy memory to pull from,” she said about the event. “I wanted to make sure it would be the perfect wedding.”