It took 15 months to plan the perfect wedding on Anna Maria Island, and in one day Hurricane Irma almost ruined it.
Cara Camm and her fiance Josh Lowery, of Indiana, planned their destination wedding on Anna Maria Island. Camm’s grandmother, who lives in Bradenton, suggested the island for the wedding.
Camm and Lowery were no exception to the usual stress that comes with wedding planning after their June 2016 engagement, but as Hurricane Irma approached the Florida coast, Camm became concerned for her wedding day.
“I had kept hearing about Hurricane Irma and thought, ‘Whatever,’ ” Camm said.
After some reassurance from her family, things went on as usual.
But as the storm started to track toward the center of the state, then to the west coast, worry started settling in.
“Josh and my dad started asking about backup plans. It was so overwhelming,” Camm said.
But the couple’s faith is strong and Camm said she knew God would come through and make it a beautiful day for their wedding. She admitted she had a breakdown from the stress last Saturday, but continued to pray.
“We’re going to have this wedding regardless. It’s just a matter of where and a matter of if we have power or we don’t, we’re getting married,” Camm said of her thoughts at the time.
“We understood that with a hurricane there was nothing we could do and our natural ability to change it,” Lowery said.
It was the uncertainty for a couple days over how badly the island could be affected by the storm that added stress.
“Two days doesn’t sound like much but after 15 months of planning a wedding, two days is a long time to not hear from anyone and know what’s going on,” Camm said.
Her mother, aunt and grandmother, who were all in Bradenton when Hurricane Irma arrived Sunday night into Monday morning, went to a local shelter until the storm passed. When they were able to leave, they learned the island was “still standing” and the show would go on.
The storm shifted east, and as Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells said, the area “dodged a bullet.”
On Monday morning, Anna Maria Island was mostly intact. Scattered tree limbs and leaves covered streets and parking lots saw some flooding. But some of the worst damage was to the Anna Maria City Pier, where the roof was ripped away.
The Sandbar Restaurant, where Camm is having her afternoon wedding ceremony this Monday, announced they did not suffer any major damage from the hurricane.
Sandbar Restaurant crews worked to clean up the debris and open the restaurant to customers again. Video and photos from the restaurant showed sand blown up to the patio doors, completely covering the floor of the outdoor dining area.
“We have always claimed toes in the sand dining but this is taking it to a whole new level,” Caryn Hodge, the Chiles Restaurant Group’s marketing director, said in an email.
Camm and Lowery landed in Tampa on Thursday. She said shortly after they got off the plane they heard their venues, including the Studio at Gulf and Pine where they will have their reception, had power restored.
“I kept getting cold chills because this is such a God thing. Literally a whole wedding is because Josh and I have a God that’s way bigger than any hurricane,” Camm said.
She also credited her family and friends – and the roughly 60 guests who will attend the wedding – who reassured her that things would work out just fine throughout the stressful weeks before the wedding.
“I always had an inner peace about it. Of course, going through it, there was kind of the fear of the unknown, but had inner peace that God was going to take care of it,” Lowery said.
“At that point you plan for 15 months, you don’t plan for a hurricane to come. But at that point there was nothing I could do, I just had to deal with what I got, but it turned out perfectly fine,” Camm said.
For Lowery, hearing everything would be up and running for their big day was a sense of relief.
“It’s her day. I wanted it to be perfect for her and exactly what she wanted because she put a lot of time effort and work into it,” Lowery said.