(WXYZ) — It was November 11, 2019, and Jake Landuyt was about to propose to his girlfriend, Elizabeth, at Sleeping Bear Dunes.
His initial vision involved beautiful fall colors, but this is Michigan after all.
“In reality we had eight inches of snow,” Jake said describing the day. “That was the engagement story, and we thought we had a doozy there with the snowstorm.”
But the journey to the actual wedding day proved to throw another curve ball. Soon after they started looking at wedding dates in 2020, the pandemic hit.
“There’s been a lot of challenges that everyone in our position has faced and eventually we got to the point where we had to plan for May 30, 2021,” said Jake.
The date was finally set for a wedding and reception on Mackinac Island, a dream Elizabeth Landuyt had since she was a little girl.
“I told Jake when we first started dating seven years ago, ‘I’m getting married on Mackinac Island at St. Anne Catholic Church, I'm not sure who the groom will be, but that's where I'll be on my wedding day,’” said Elizabeth.
And as the day was approaching, after navigating the COVID safety protocols, the couple said they had only one question mark, and that was the weather.
“It was just a gorgeous weekend, the entire weekend on Mackinac Island,” said Jake.
The wedding day, the couple said, started off beautifully. It was picture perfect. A ceremony at Ste. Anne Catholic Church and then a carriage ride to the reception at the Mackinac Island Yacht Club.
But shortly after the reception got underway, that’s when the festivities took a very unexpected turn.
“Elizabeth's father, Darby, had just begun the father of the bride toast when some of our guests … started to notice some of the smoke and said, ‘no, hold on, hold on, the fire next door.’ And at that point … we didn't know how to react in that moment. At first, we kind of just took a step back and, OK, how serious is it?,” said Jake.
Soon they realized the fire at the historic Brigadoon Cottage was serious.
The reception was evacuated, and Jake and Elizabeth said they walked back to the church to be together and reflect.
Photo courtesy Cody Langhorne
“We’d heard at that point that everyone had gotten out OK and people were all safe and the dogs were safe next door. So you're just thankful to have gotten that, and then trying to also be thankful for the day up until that point. That was an awesome, beautiful, beautiful day and the ceremony is better than we ever could have imagined,” said Jake.
But just when they thought their wedding celebration was coming to an abrupt close, a community rallied.
While they were at the church, people on Mackinac Island were coming together to help move their reception to Mission Point so the show could go on.
Liz Ware, VP of Sales and Marketing at Mission Point, said their general manager happened to be walking by the cottage and saw what happened with the reception. That’s when the phone calls begun.
“Everyone pitched in. Everybody was moving. People were talking on the phone … all of these businesses came together. We were all talking to each other to make sure that things could happen … Remember, Mackinac Island doesn't have cars, so everything has to be done on bicycles or, in this case, bell carts or walking. So it's true. There were people walking with pies. There were people on bikes carrying things,” said Liz. “There is a sense of community on Mackinac Island. We love guests … hospitality is what we do. At Mission Point, we believe our hospitality comes from the heart. And one of our core values is to always do the right thing.”
When Jake and Elizabeth heard the news, they said they were overwhelmed with gratitude.
“To see our entire reception recreated in 30 to 45 minutes was absolutely incredible. And it's going to be something that, just that part of it, we'll never forget. And then to be able to celebrate the reception with all the people … that were most important to us, we will never forget that,” said Jake.
Photo courtesy Jillian Bowes
And now Mackinac Island holds an extra special place in their hearts.
“I mean, as if this island wasn't special enough to us before, after what we experienced on Sunday, the magic of Mackinac and its people. It's so real. And we got to experience it firsthand on our wedding day. So beyond the beauty and the fun of the island, just the people are amazing and we are just forever grateful,” said Elizabeth.