Like so many couples, Joe and Marcy Poulin had their wedding plans disrupted multiple times by COVID-19. Although they ultimately settled on a small backyard ceremony in the middle of the pandemic, their plan was always to host a larger reception—the one they'd always dreamed of—once public health restrictions lifted.
Last Saturday, their big moment finally arrived. After snapping some wedding photos at Rockway Gardens on the afternoon of July 30, the couple headed toward to their scheduled venue: the historic Old Marina Restaurant.
"We were literally on our way to our wedding venue and it was burning to the ground,” Marcy says. “It was surreal."
From inside the limousine, Joe was the first to spot smoke in the sky. Then his cellphone rang. It was his sister, alerting him to the fact that there might be a fire at the Old Marina.
When the limo pulled up to the property around 2 p.m., the couple saw firetrucks blocking the entrance. As the rest of the community would soon learn, the landmark on the shores of Puslinch Lake was engulfed in flames.
“We got closer and my husband pulled my head away and he said: ‘Yeah, everything's fine,’ ” Marcy recalls, in a phone interview with CambridgeToday. “He kept talking to me trying to get me to not look over and he kissed me. He was trying to distract me from the billowing smoke, which I never did see.”
When Marcy checked her voicemail, she realized an employee at the restaurant had tried to reach her while they were taking photographs. “I called her back but all of a sudden she was there on the side of the road,” Marcy recalls.
It was a devastating moment, not just for the couple but for all the staff at the Old Marina.
What happened next was the stuff of Hollywood movies: determined not to have their wedding plans derailed yet again, the bride, groom and the entire wedding party scrambled to find a new, last-minute venue. It was 2:45 p.m.
“My bridesmaids were amazing,” Marcy says. “They just kicked into gear calling people, seeing what they could do.”
By 3:15, Joe was running around to different places people had suggested, desperate for someone to accommodate their rare request. Kristin Cormier, the maid of honour, reached out to the Cambridge Mill, where she and her husband were married five years ago. If nothing else, she figured the staff there could point them in the right direction.
“I called them and I said we have a situation,” Cormier says.
She explained to the man over the phone that she was part of a wedding that was supposed to get married the Old Marina—but that the restaurant had just burnt down, leaving them stuck by the side of the road.
By that point, staff at Cambridge Mill had already heard about the blaze, both on social media and through friends and relatives who work at Old Marina. They were sitting down to a strategy meeting when one of their sales coordinators from their office came down and said he had a bit of an unusual request.
Alex Kastner, the general manager at Cambridge Mill, said it was definitely a first for him: an emergency wedding with zero advance notice. Luckily, the venue happened to have an available space that Saturday night.
"It's a pretty rare occurrence to have a space and a room not booked on a Saturday in the summer," Kastner says. "Within seconds, the whole team was up from the table, our executive chefs were getting food delivered, and the management team began reaching out to staff members to see if anyone could assist."
Kastner phoned Cormier back about 10 minutes later and told her the good news: he could accommodate everything they had planned for their 70 guests, including cocktail hour, dinner and dancing.
At 3:45 p.m. the couple and their wedding party were greeted by the staff at the Cambridge Mill, and shown to their bridal suites to get ready for the ceremony. Everything was all set up and ready to go for cocktail hour when guests arrived.
The staff made sure the wedding went off without another hitch, even though it was a totally new location for everyone.
At 5:15 p.m., Joe and Marcy Poulin were officially wed, despite the chaos only hours earlier.
"It was like we had planned this wedding with them for a year,” Marcy says. “The whole night we didn't have to want for anything, it was all there. It was a flawless transition.”
Joe and Marcy are grateful for what the staff at Cambridge Mill did for them, including the many employees who agreed to come in and work on their days off.
"They didn't miss anything,” Cormier said. “It was the same as my wedding there five years ago.”
Although most of the wedding decorations lost in the fire belonged to the Old Marina, the newlyweds did lose a few sentimental items such as the guestbook from their original wedding. But overall, it was an amazing, unforgettable day.
"Even up until today we’re saying: ‘Did that just happen?’” Marcy says.
The couple is currently on their honeymoon, a summer camping trip. They hope all the bad events on their wedding day will create good luck for their marriage in the long term—“or however the saying goes," Marcy jokes.
"As much as we were saying: ‘Why are these bad things happening?’ we were also saying: ‘Look at these great things happening, these amazing things where a community came forward, a venue came forward.’ ”
"This was part of our story and no one will ever forget attending our wedding."