21 Couples, 39 Vendors

By Stacey Gitten, Hitching Post Public Relations

“On May 22, I remarried my best friend and hero. I was greeted by 20 other eager brides. We all shared the same stories, so we weren’t strangers because we share a bond that cannot be broken. During the ceremony, as they read each couple’s ‘short story,’ I noticed some brides couldn’t help crying, because we all are faced with the reality that comes with being married to someone in the military. After the beautiful vows, we saluted our grooms with a kiss and [joined our guests] as husband and wife. Each person who had a hand in this event did an amazing job—the details, the organization, the personalization they gave to each of the 21 couples, all at the same time. No words will ever express the gratitude I have.” – Amy, Bride

On Sun., May 22, 39 wedding vendors, including seven Association of Bridal Consultants (ABC) members, generously donated their goods, services, and time for the first-ever Mass Military Wedding at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa in California.

As a way to celebrate Armed Forces Day, 21 military couples from all branches of the Armed Forces gathered oceanside to be joined in holy matrimony or renew their vows in a ceremony officiated by Gary Bryan, morning show host of K-EARTH 101, along with a military chaplain. After the couples were pronounced “husband and wife” and walked through the saber arch presentation, they celebrated with their seven invited guests at a cocktail reception hosted by the hotel.

Over 400 hours of planning as a give back to the troops
The event originated in November 2010, the brainchild of Toni Purry of Purry Communications Group and Stacey Gitten of Hitching Post Public Relations. Countless hours of communication were required to ensure this unconventional wedding had as many traditional and moving elements as possible. K-EARTH 101 and the USO helped find the interested couples, and More Than Just Weddings coordinated the details. In total, more than 400 hours of planning and coordination were involved. We tried “to ensure it was a personal experience and that they (the couples) were able to have their dream wedding,” says Wenda Evans, owner, More Than Just Weddings. Hyatt General Manager, Cheryl Phelps, “thought it was a creative way to give back to our military troops by doing what we do best—beautiful weddings!”

Unique features made event memorable for couples and vendors
Some of the most unique elements of the day were cake topper figurines of the couples, personalized with details such as military uniform; a live social media feed for those not in attendance; and a Commemory™ featuring the ceremony location, bride’s dress, and military branch in a custom, multi-layered textured painting for each couple. Bethany Thomas, with Commemory™, says she “jumped at the chance to help each couple remember their wedding day with a painting because of the sacrifices they make for us.” Thomas dedicated each painting in memory of her nephew, HN Daniel “Doc” Noble, who served in Iraq.

The event left a lasting impression on all. Joel Maus of Studio EMP, says, “The whole day, I felt like we were all connected and were all experiencing this thing together. All the vendors were gracious and all the couples were grateful—the sense of community was overwhelming.”

The Mass Military Wedding has been featured on the front page of the Orange County Register and on numerous wedding blogs, including Style Me Pretty—California, California Wedding Wave, and Style Unveiled. To watch highlights of this event, visit www.MassMilitaryWedding.com.

ABC Vendors Involved
Photography: Studio EMP
Boutonnières: Flower Fusion
Videographers: Godfather Films
Tuxedos: Friar Tux
Couple’s Gifts: Commemory Fine Art by Bethany
Promotions: Hitching Post Public Relations

Other Vendors:
Location, Caterer: Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach; Photography: Damien Smith Photography, Gavin Wade Photography, Happy Photos, and Luminaire Images; Coordinator: More Than Just Weddings; Ceremony Floral Design: Natural Charms Floral Design; Bouquets: Floral Occasions; Stationery: Copper Willow Paper Studio; Cake: Simply Sweet Cakery; Cake toppers: Ginger Babies; Cake serving sets: Wire a Cake; Dessert table design: Charm Event Design; Dessert table cakes, cupcakes: Fork in the Road Catering; Dessert table sweets: Gotta Have S’more; DJ and photobooth: J & M Entertainment; Linens: Fusion Linens; Videographers: Memento Video; Hair: Design Visage; Makeup: All Made Up Team; Gowns: Diva Bridal Legacy; Couple’s gifts:  Apple-Revolution, Caring Dental, Dough a Deer, El Torito, Simply Charming, and Wedding Chicks; and Promotions: The Bob Hope USO at LAX, Elite Social Managements, K-Earth 101, Manola Empire Photography, Planet Zaya, and Purry Communications.


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