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Tropical Storm Debby wreaks havoc on beach weddings, but vows prevail

As waves, wind and water swallowed Sand Key beach Saturday, Alan Scott and Kim Keene watched their dream wedding wash away at the hands of Tropical Storm Debby.

They needed another plan — and fast. The couple from Peoria, Ill., didn't want their Monday wedding delayed too long. They teamed up with their wedding coordinator to find a drier option.

Their new wedding site: Room 872 at the Sandpearl Resort on Clearwater Beach.

On one of the busiest wedding weekends of the year, Tropical Storm Debby objected in a big way. Beach weddings all over Tampa Bay were threatened by monsoonlike rains and vicious winds.

Time for Plan B.

• • •

Newlyweds Lauren Simpson, 25, and Jim Van Pelt, 29, took the weather in stride.

They and some 200 guests navigated through Debby to the Sandpearl Resort for their Saturday wedding.

The night before, their rehearsal dinner, a beach barbecue, had to be moved inside to a banquet room. (They were still able to have s'mores!)

"Through all of it the bride kept smiling and laughing," said Patti Simpson, Lauren's mother. "She was just happy to be getting married."

Simpson, 25, was disappointed that she wouldn't get to take photos with the fiery Florida sunset in the background.

But the staff ushered them to the lobby for shots that also turned out stunning.

"What a life lesson for a newlywed couple — you have to handle whatever life sends your way," Patti Simpson said.

A bride getting married at the TradeWinds Resort in St. Pete Beach was determined to have her beach wedding despite Debby's ferocity. The resort arranged to have a tent set up Saturday.

"(There was) a little bit of rain, a lot of wind and she just said she's not going to let it affect her wedding," said Keith Overton, the resort's president. "It was her dream to have an outdoor ceremony."

At Postcard Inn, also in St. Pete Beach, a cocktail hour was moved inside. The storm soaked the garden at the inn, where it was supposed to be held.

Amy Haley, 29, and Thomas Sartin, 40, were supposed to be married on Sand Key Beach Tuesday afternoon, but were also stopped due to flooding.

Sartin knew how important a beach wedding was to Haley. So Sartin and Haley's father drove around, trying to find a patch of the beach that wasn't covered in water.

They finally found a spot in Indian Rocks Beach, but it was private access.

The groom knocked on the door of the house that claimed the beach. The owner graciously agreed.

"My wife really wanted to have her feet in the sand as she said her vows," Sartin said, "and I just wanted to be on the beach."

• • •

They positioned the flower-decorated arch in front of a wide-open window.

They sprinkled chairs around the suite for the seven guests: five daughters, two boyfriends.

They made a makeshift aisle out of the walkway between the two rooms.

Parents watched via Skype. One daughter played the ukulele.

In the intimacy of a hotel room, Kim Keene finally became Mrs. Alan Scott.

"We're going to have this wedding no matter what Debby says," the groom said.

Sabrina Rocco can be reached at or (727) 893-8862.

Tropical Storm Debby wreaks havoc on beach weddings, but vows prevail 06/27/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 11:07pm]
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