Frank “Biff” Leingard and Sonya Tryon were in transition, staying in a motel and keeping most of their things in storage until they decided where to live after their July 2 wedding.
Then the floodwaters arrived in Bismarck, N.D., and destroyed the contents of their storage unit — including everything they had assembled for the wedding.
Uncertain where to turn, they packed what belongings they could salvage in their car a month ago and headed south to Clarinda, Iowa, to stay with friends.
They were determined to stick with their Saturday wedding date, but they made plans for a much more simple affair.
Bride and groom would wear denim, there would be no decorations and they would say their “I dos” in the backyard of their Clarinda friends, Diane and Larry Woods.
But Tryon did want some flowers, so Leingard called an Omaha event planning company to see if it could supply a bouquet.
Sandie Yeaman of Your Wedding Your Way said yes, the company could supply flowers. But as she heard the couple's story, she started forming another plan. She consulted her partner, Betty Bohn, about the possibility of doing an entire wedding — cake, flowers, decorations, a dress, everything — for no charge.
“The more I talked to them, I felt compelled,” Yeaman said. “God told me this was the right thing to do.”
Bohn agreed, and they contacted the couple.
Tryon and Leingard thought maybe it was a joke. Why, they asked, would people do something like this for someone they didn't know?
Yeaman and Bohn convinced them that the offer was real. The only thing they asked of the couple was that they “pay it forward” one day.
“We've been blessed as a company,” said Bohn of their 10-year business. “We wanted to make this couple's day happy.”
Once they got the go-ahead, the wedding planners got busy. They began by contacting suppliers and were overjoyed by generous responses.
Yeaman also put a request on momaha.com, asking if people could donate anything nice for the wedding.
“The moms really responded,” Bohn said. “We were overwhelmed at the enthusiasm.”
Some of the things those moms donated: a guest book, a unity candle, a garter and eco-friendly confetti that guests can throw instead of rice.
“They've just been dropping things off at my house,” Yeaman said.
Yeaman and Bohn have a lot of wedding decorations on hand because their business rents out things like fabric draperies and recycles other items that can be used more than once.
Other touches will be personal, Yeaman said. She and Bohn found out the couple are pro football fans — he follows the Green Bay Packers, she the Dallas Cowboys. So some of the wedding decorations will incorporate both teams' colors.
Local businesses also are making donations, include a wedding cake (from Baker's), a groom's cake and live flowers (from Danny's Bar and Grill in Omaha; with a football theme for the cake and carnations in team colors), food for the reception (Hy-Vee in Clarinda) and a wedding dress (from Project Style).
“Amber Peleska (of Project Style) has donated a beautiful dress and shoes,” said Yeaman, who met Tryon there recently to find a dress. The bride-to-be tried on several, then saw a dress she loved. It fit perfectly.
“She didn't say much while we were in the shop,” Yeaman said. “When we got out to the car, she cried.”
Yeaman didn't dream she would be able to find a place for a reception, with short notice and on a holiday weekend. The couple was content to have a small gathering in the backyard after the ceremony. But Wednesday, the Clarinda Lied Center, the town's community center, volunteered to stay open late for an evening reception for the newlyweds.
Leingard, 35, and Tryon, 34, have been married before. Each has a 6-year-old: Leingard's son, Nick, lives with his mom in Washburn, N.D., and Tyron's daughter, Bella, lives with the couple.
Their first weddings weren't fancy affairs, and they didn't think this one was going to be either.
Turns out this wedding will be a pretty big deal.
“I'm excited,” Leingard said with a laugh. “I'm really looking forward to this.”
He is a musician and has scheduled an audition with a band. He also loves his new job at H&H Trailers. Tryon is looking for work.
They have decided not to return to North Dakota after the floodwaters recede. The generosity of everyone they have met in Iowa and Nebraska has won them over.
“This is so great,” Leingard said. “It's like a new start for us.”
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