How to Get Married in a
Federal Disaster Area

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William Fulks is a native of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, an Eagle scout, a Katrina survivor, a college grad, and a card-carrying member of the NRA. He is a Top Reviewer in both books and movies for Epinions.com, and a Senior Writer and Contributing Editor on Brighthub.com.


Christy and I had a plan.

I proposed on March 1st, 2005, the night before Christy’s birthday, and we set a wedding date for October 22nd that same year. We confirmed the date with our church, Mississippi City Methodist. We then booked the rehearsal dinner at the Ruby Tuesday on the beach in Gulfport. We booked a lovely reception at an upscale local tennis club called Bayou Bluff, and made plans for a Disney World honeymoon. I already had a single bedroom apartment and my lease expired at the end of October, then we planned to sign a new lease for a bigger apartment at the same complex.

Everything was lined up. The timing seemed perfect.

We had a plan that went to chaos overnight. That night was August 29th, 2005, and the cause was named Katrina.

Hurricane Katrina.

Thanks to high winds and a twenty-foot storm surge, my apartment, the church, and the Ruby Tuesday were all destroyed. The tennis club had so many large trees down around it that we couldn’t get in close enough to see if the building was still intact. Christy would lose her second job as a surveillance supervisor at a local casino because the water picked up that casino and placed it on top of a hotel a quarter mile away. Our honeymoon plans were not-so-literally up in the air because the local airport was closed and flights were being re-routed.

I was left homeless and she was partially jobless. I didn’t want to live with her parents and she didn’t want to live with mine. My job put me on a bus travelling a hundred miles away to Baton Rouge, Louisiana five days a week, resulting in very long days that kept us separated. Her Gulfport Police Department job was put on hiatus while relief crews used the office where Christy worked. While I was at work, Christy spent much of her free time helping the less fortunate members of her family clean up their destroyed homes.

In all of that mess, we never once considered cancelling the wedding, even though most of our wedding plans had already been involuntarily cancelled. Some people suggested we wait until a more convenient time to have the wedding, but we thought that setting the date back would be a mistake. With all of the work and clean-up going on, we knew that our friends and family would appreciate a happy wedding and big reception.

That and we already had our invitations printed. Those things are expensive!

We had only seven weeks to find a new place to live, locate another church, reserve space for another rehearsal dinner, set up a new reception, book new flights to Orlando, and make arrangements to keep our Disney honeymoon. For the first two of those seven weeks, we had no electricity, no clean running water, no phones, and no internet connection. Even if we had decided to cancel the wedding, we wouldn’t have any way of telling anyone.

This is a completely true story about two young people in love who struggled to put their lives back together and still get married despite tremendous odds. I didn’t have to exaggerate or take liberties with anything you’re about to read. By God, I wish I could say this was all just a story, but it really happened. I did my very best to remember every last detail about all the situations described here, and I hope anyone who shared these experiences with me will find my depiction accurate.

This is how to get married in a federal disaster area.

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