Katie and Colin McKinnon had a nice plan for their wedding celebration: ceremony on the beach in Seaside Park, followed by a reception at the Park Pavilion overlooking the boardwalk.
The weather cooperated.
The news did not.
Saturday morning’s bomb explosion shut down Seaside Park and left the couple scrambling for an alternative. Changing the date was not an option; guests had flown in from all over the country.
“I completely melted down,” Katie said. “We were like, ‘We have to do something. We can’t get everybody back together like this.’”
Turns out, they didn’t have to. As so often happens in times of duress, people rose to the occasion. Thanks to friends, family and a couple of restaurateurs who went above the call, the McKinnons had a reception no one will ever forget.
From just right to all wrong
Katie Sain, 33, and Colin McKinnon, 32, have known each since their days at Toms River High School North. They graduated in 2001, moved to Seattle together five years ago and actually got married there in 2015. But they wanted a celebration with the folks back home, and as every shore local knows, September is the best month at the beach because out-of-towners have cleared out.
The Park Pavilion, situated above the landmark Sawmill Café, seemed just right.
“They had a spot on the beach for us to exchange our rings and say a few words, and we could have the party on the deck with a view of the ocean,” Katie said. “It was everything we were looking for.”
No one could have anticipated the turn of events. Katie first heard about the bomb from her florist around 11 a.m. She drove over the bridge from Toms River but encountered blocked-off streets and police turning people around.
“It was just like, ‘Holy .... What are the odds of this happening?’” she said. “That’s when I started to freak out.”
At 1:30 p.m.— three-and-a-half hours before the ceremony — Park Pavilion general manager Ron Rinaldi informed her that the town would not be reopening in time. But Rinaldi had a Plan B.
“Let me make a few calls,” he told her.
‘It’s about people’
Within minutes, Rinaldi lined up a new site: Villa Amalfi, a popular Italian restaurant in Toms River, had a downstairs room available that could accommodate the McKinnons and their 90 guests.
“Like everything else, when you know the right people, it’s easier,” Rinaldi said. “Everyone wanted to help them out.”
A big hurdle was cleared, but lots of little ones remained. You don’t just snap your fingers and move a wedding. Rinaldi brought over his wait staff and bartenders. Valets were scrounged up to facilitate parking. Villa Amalfi owners Carlo and Lena Boemio adapted the buffet dinner as closely as possible to the original menu.
Close friend Beverly Lawrence stepped in as the hair and makeup artist. Best man Travis Grobe transported the flowers and dessert in his rental car. Friends brought a sound system so there would be music.
The photographers took the couple to the Island Heights dock for the wedding portrait.
“It was nice to see how everyone rallied around them and said, ‘We’re not going to let this ruin your day,’” said Taryn McKinnon, sister of the groom. “’We’re going to be there for you.’”
Everyone adjusted their speeches on the fly. The best man really hit the mark.
“It’s about people and purpose,” Grobe told the crowd, as recounted by Colin. “It doesn’t matter where you are. It’s about who you’re with and what you’re there for.”
A night to remember
When all was said and done, the wedding cost a bit less than originally planned. Rinaldi returned the security deposit and even called Katie on Sunday to see how she felt about everything.
“It was so sweet,” she said. “People came together and really stepped up for us.”
The Sain-McKinnon wedding strayed from the script, but not from the point.
“Given what happened, I think it turned out great,” said Edward Sain, father of the bride. “Everyone went home happy, and it’ll be a story that no one forgets.”