The fire that destroyed our home two weeks before our wedding was a blessing in disguise

Guest post by dragonlover
Our rings
By: jasonbrooksCC BY 2.0

Reading “What precious things would you grab in a house fire?” on Offbeat Home & Life last month made me realize that having my apartment destroyed by a fire two weeks before my wedding was a blessing in disguise.

Did I just leave you scratching your head? The blessing the fire gave us was the gift of freedom, and here’s why…

Exactly two weeks (to the hour) before my wedding day, my now-husband and I came home from work to what was supposed to be our first apartment together. We saw some white smoke rising along the side of the building. It was May and really nice out, like 60 degrees, so we figured maybe someone had lit up a barbecue. We laughed and thought burgers would be amazing for dinner.

Then, we turned the corner and saw the flames. Bright orange and red flames were shooting out of a bedroom window, the bedroom directly adjacent to our second-floor apartment. My now-husband raced up two flights of wooden stairs yelling “I’ve got to grab the cats” while I dialed 911.

I worked as a news reporter at the time. Somehow, I kept my cool long enough to tell the dispatcher my apartment was on fire, give the full address, confirm I was safe, and, as far as we knew, no one was in the building except for my two cats and the landlord’s cats/dogs/hamsters.

Smoke forced my husband, choking, out of our apartment before he could reach our cats. We stood outside, with nothing in our hands, watching as the apartment I had just decorated to be our first home together, burned for three hours.

My engagement ring, his promise ring, and his custom-made Renfaire tuxedo vest was up in the bedroom. Our marriage license, our birth certificates, our passports for the honeymoon to Costa Rica had all been left on the dining room table. We had no clue whether they would be destroyed by the fire.

…Could we get legally married without a marriage license?

It wasn’t until midnight that firefighters allowed us in the apartment. Our bedroom was reduced to a smoldering black hole that we weren’t allowed to enter. The rest of the apartment was heavily smoke-damaged and water-damaged.

I found our soaking wet marriage license, birth certificates, passports, and documentation for the honeymoon, and carried them out. I remember using a hairdryer to gently dry the soggy papers until I could gingerly peel them apart — while trying not to cry on them.

Twelve days before my wedding, I skipped my last dress fitting to spend the weekend pulling our belongings out of the apartment. We spent from sunrise to sundown sorting through what could be cleaned and saved, and what was destroyed. As we found silly memorials of our dating years, there were moments we had to stop and laugh to keep from crying.

“What did you need to get done for the wedding? Didn’t you have a list of errands?” my mother asked when she stopped to see the burned shell.

“Yes. I did…” I said, wracking my brain. Who doesn’t have a million things to do two weeks before their wedding?

“You know what — it’s not important now. I… It doesn’t really matter. I can’t do it now, whatever happens happens,” I remember being along the lines of my response.

In that moment, I found my freedom from wedding planning. The seemingly endless list of phone calls, chasing down RSVPs, double-checking meal preferences and allergies, coordinating other people’s transportation, double-checking all my arrangements for flowers, photographers, wedding parties, setting a timeline and making it clear to other people — suddenly it didn’t matter.

All that mattered was that my husband-to-be and I were both alive, we managed to find one of two cats alive, and we would be getting married to form our own family.

It’s like the fire burned away all the stress, all the tension and left us just joyous that we were alive. We survived, we were madly in love, and we wanted to share the joy of that with everyone on our wedding day. That’s really all that matters about a wedding.

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Comments on The fire that destroyed our home two weeks before our wedding was a blessing in disguise

  1. Really puts things into perspective. I spent the weekend before my husband and Is wedding in the hospital. A very extreme case of morning sickness caused me to get malnourished dehydrated and they needed to get it under control. Being so sick so close to our wedding had similar results. Stuff didn’t matter. Both being able to be there be healthy and have a healthy baby on the way was what mattered. Thankfully the weekend got things under control and I was even able to be up moving dancing and celebrate on our day. But we cut out lots to shorten it up just in case. The family drama from just before no longer mattered. Thankfully we didn’t have to lose much for the same lesson. I hope you guys a back on your feet and your we’d I get still went off with little to no hitch.

  2. Wow as I read your story I have tears streaming down my face. Because I too had a house fire this past July. I had been planning our wedding for December but like you all of it suddenly didn’t matter anymore. We escaped with our lives (barely) and all the money slated for the wedding suddenly went to other more important things. While we still have not been able to get married yet; knowing that on that night I literally almost lost him and his son brought everything into clear focus. Things have changed we are now planning for a much more simple ceremony and reception.

  3. Can you imagine what they would have been going through watching their house burn and knowing that their pets were still inside?
    I have huge admiration for people that can recognize the beauty in life in the midst of darkness, i don’t know if i would be able to do the same in that position.
    As far as i can see, their options were go ahead with the wedding, and celebrate love and joy whilst still grieving for what they had lost, or cancel the wedding and grieve for what they had lost.

  4. I cried at this post. Other than my fiance (hubby in 3 weeks), my (4) cats are my everything. We live in the middle of nowhere, on a farm. If it wasn’t for the company of my feline friends, I would be crazy. (Yes, yes I understand a woman with four cats can be considered crazy…you evil dog people!) It’d break my heart to lose a cat on top of everything else that happened!
    I admire this post because you’ve found a bright side in the midst of a really life-altering situation. I hope you’ve managed to salvage some special items and can eventually find a lovely new home. Also, a very cheeky way to get out of wedding prep! Probably wont try this 😛

  5. dragonlover, I am so sorry for all that you lost, but I am glad you & your fiancé were ok. I have lost pets, too, and can’t imagine how hard that would have been for you. I do not think you were glossing over that fact, and I just applaud your bravery in telling us your story. Much like any hard event in life, talking about it will often help you process the trauma. Hope we see a post on your wedding soon!

  6. Author comment: I purposefully did not mention or go into details about the cat (RIP <3) we lost in the fire. He could be an entire book on his own. He was very much loved and a part of our family, and his death caused a lot of pain and anguish. He's our furball up above and is missed to this day.

    It’s said sometimes angels come into our life to teach us a lesson. It’s fair to say, he taught us a very important one (not mentioned here).

    • This is your story, your trauma, and I respect your way of telling it, including or excluding any specific painful details about the loss of your beloved pet.

  7. What a terrible thing to go through. Thank you for sharing with us how it affected your lives.

  8. I’m sorry that you had to lose a kitty. I’m glad that you found the silver lining of freedom.

  9. I lost my granddad 6 weeks before our wedding and had a similar reaction. I basically did nothing else for the wedding after that, beyond the essentials. There were things I’d planned and wanted to do but they not longer mattered. I had such a sense of calm about it that, regardless, we would be married. I had bigger things to worry about. Plus, my husband’s support following the loss was amazing and further reminded me of why I was marrying him. Silver linings and all that.

  10. Now this is totally Zen Buddhist experience… letting go of everything and focusing on experience. Bravo, I wish more people would experience such purity of life, me included!

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