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  • Veronica Vaughan

Community rallies around couple after hurricane alters wedding plans

Katie Forlow’s property under 4 feet of water. (Photo courtesy: Katie Forlow)

The effects of Hurricane Ian left a young, soon-to-be married couple without a home and a wedding venue nearly a week before their wedding date.

Katie Forlow and Andrew Hagarty have been planning their wedding since March. On Sept. 28, the unexpected damage of Hurricane Ian hit their hometown of Arcadia, Florida, and completely submerged their self-built home, destroyed Forlow’s animal sheds, displaced their livestock and flooded their wedding venue.

Originally, the wedding invite extended to more than 200 people and was set to take place at a ranch right across Forlows’s family owned 25-acre farm. The venue featured various farm animals and green pastures.

The farm, as well as the ranch, is now lying beneath 15 feet of water. The impacts of the hurricane are still in effect over a week later. As the death toll continues to rise, helicopters monitor the sky and the couple is still unsure about the livelihood of their neighbors.

Hagarty spent many months leading up to their wedding building a tiny-house for the two to move into after the wedding. He nearly finished the project before Hurricane Ian did its worst.

However, regardless of the original plans being changed, the young couple was determined to pursue their long-awaited wedding. Both families and friends of Forlow and Hagarty have been working together over the past week to re-create their farm-style wedding.

“Everyone is making it into such a beautiful wedding,” Forlow expressed.

Mercy Chefs is a faith-based, non-profit organization that provides meals for those affected by Hurricane Ian, as well as other disasters. The bakery worked hard in helping the couple's dream wedding cake become a reality. The family spent time finding an alternative ranch-style wedding venue, which has all of the similar attributes the couple hoped for. Emily Mathewson is one of Forlow’s friends who specializes in wedding photography and is planning on photographing their wedding this coming weekend.

“We just wanted to get married and we're grateful,” Hagarty explained.

Friends and family members have been continuously reaching out to Forlow and Hagarty, offering their homes for shelter and recommending various locations for their honeymoon.

“We serve a God that provides for us,” Hagarty said.

The couple expressed how grateful they are for the little things such as the support of their family and friends.

“Material things are less important,” Forlow expressed.

Uncertain of the damage left from the hurricane when evacuating their homes in Arcadia, they packed very few belongings and lost most of their things. They organized a GoFundMe page to try and raise funds to find somewhere to live after their wedding.

By Veronica Vaughan

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