[June 12, 2021: Brandon Champion]
It was the perfect Mackinac Island wedding weekend. Until it nearly went up in flames.
When a fire started next door to their Memorial Day Weekend wedding reception - forcing an evacuation of the bride, groom and guests - what followed was a string of events that made Elizabeth and Jake Landuyt’s wedding day one that the University of Michigan graduates will never forget.
The nuptials began as planned. A sunset boat cruise the previous night under the Mackinac Bridge, a rehearsal dinner at the Pink Pony, then a wedding day carriage ride down Main Street and a ceremony at the bride’s dream destination, Ste. Anne’s Catholic Church.
After seven years of dating, an engagement at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and a year and half of navigating challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Elizabeth, from Mackinaw City, and Jake, from Rochester, finally tied the knot last Sunday, May 30.
The reception was underway at Mackinac Island Yacht Club under perfect Northern Michigan skies. A grand entrance had been made and guests were in their assigned seats as Elizabeth Landuyt’s father, Darby Darrow, began giving his father-of-the-bride speech.
About a minute into his speech, something unexpected occurred. Guests noticed smoke coming from Brigadoon Cottage, the 120-year-old private residence located next door.
The Brigadoon blaze caused more than $1 million in damage to the residence and dominated headlines throughout the state on Memorial Day Weekend. It was extinguished by island firefighters who teamed up with crews coming from the mainland.
The fire also stopped the Landuyts’ reception in its tracks.
“We didn’t know what to do exactly, but pretty quickly we realized it was a pretty serious situation,” Jake Landuyt told MLive today. “We were both in disbelief, kind of overwhelmed. We’re both fairly type A and like to try fixing things, but in that moment, we were just kind of spent. We weren’t working on a new plan at that point.”
As sirens and fire horns echoed up and down Main Street as firefighters rushed to fight the rising flames, the couple returned to Ste. Anne’s to reflect on what had just happened.
“I had a hard time understanding the severity of it and kind of accepting that our reception would not continue. That took some time,” Elizabeth Landuyt said.
“We did not want to watch a beautiful home burn on our wedding day, so we took some time by ourselves and prayed. We thanked God for keeping everyone safe and getting the family out of the home. Just took some time to say thanks for what we had that did go so well and that everything was so beautiful.”
Little did they know, a reception plot was afoot.
As the couple counted their blessings, the wedding party, wedding guests, staff from the Yacht Club and Mission Point Resort and even a smattering of complete strangers were frantically using bikes and carriages to move items from the reception to a new location at Mission Point Resort’s pavilion overlooking Lake Huron.
Within 30 minutes, a replacement reception was ready to go. All the flowers had been carried over. A local restaurant opened their kitchen so Yacht Club chefs could continue to prepare the dinner for the party. Even team members from Mission Point who were off duty came to the resort to help get the impromptu wedding reception together.
When the Landuyts were told of the new reception and to make their way over to Mission Point, they were overcome with gratitude and joy. Or as Elizabeth Landuyt put it, “very grateful and very blessed.”
“We were blown away,” Jake Landuyt said. “To see all our guests basically in the same spot as we had set up before. It was disbelief and overwhelming in the positive way. To go from that same state of disbelief to the exact opposite, we’re just so blessed to have friends and family there that were willing to do it.”
Thanks to the extraordinary group effort, the Landuyts’ “dream come true” reception was back on. With everyone back in their seats and everything in its place, the father of the bride once again stepped to the microphone to give his speech.
The music played. Father and daughter shared their dance. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Liz Ware, Mission Point’s vice president of sales and marketing, said her team was happy to go the extra mile - along with others - to remake the couple’s reception on the fly.
“We love being a part of the amazing Mackinac Island community, where people and fellow businesses can come together to make magic happen,” she said.
“Our entire team at Mission Point was proud to be a part and followed our brand pillars in delivering hospitality from the heart and to always do the right thing. Our core values include going the extra mile and working hard together with a great sense of Michigan pride, and we believe this is one of the reasons the Landuyts’ wedding reception was a truly celebratory occasion.”
The newlyweds, now on their honeymoon in Hilton Head and Charleston, South Carolina, said they won’t remember the chaos of the day when they look back on it.
Instead, they say they will remember the amazing effort of those who made their perfectly, imperfect day one to remember.
“As my dad said in his speech, this doesn’t happen anywhere other than in places like Mackinac Island,” Elizabeth Landuyt said. “We’ll always remember the amazing community, our wedding guests and the businesses on Mackinac Island. After the year and half that we’ve all had, it was so great to have people helping people. And to see it firsthand on our wedding day - what a great reminder that people are good.”
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