By Peter Vankevich
As storm clouds gathered, bride Courtney Colin rushed into the church clutching her wedding dress above colorful rain boots while her sister and bridesmaid, Jameson Colin, sheltered her under an umbrella.
Friends and family gathered to celebrate the union despite the evacuation taking place. In the days leading up to the ceremony, many reminded the couple that if rain on the wedding day means good luck, then a hurricane must be even better.
Island residents, Alfredo (Freddy) Contreras and Courtney Contreras, née Courtney Colin, had been dreaming of and planning their wedding for almost two years–right after Alfredo proposed to Courtney in Mexico City while they were on vacation visiting his family.
The ring had been baked into a cake, and as Courtney cut into her piece, the symbol of their love became visible. Alfedo removed it and presented it to her on one knee amidst much fanfare at the party.
The two met while working at one of the island’s popular restaurant, Dajio.
“I was immediately smitten with Freddy,” Courtney said,
Alfredo was a bit slower to the take, not realizing how much Courtney cared for him. He eventually caught on and the feelings became mutual.
Courtney was born and grew up in South Africa. Her family moved to Kansas where her father served as a pastoral minister. After beginning her studies at a university in Kansas, she decided that her calling was to return to South Africa.
In order to pay for her year working as a mission school teacher, Courtney was recruited to work on Ocracoke by long-time friend of Justin, son of Doug and Judy Eifert, the owners of Dajio. It was during her three months as a server that she fell in love with Alfredo. Soon after beginning their relationship, Courtney moved to South Africa and they embarked on a two year, long-distance relationship that finally ended when she moved back to Ocracoke to be with Alfredo once again.
Alfredo moved to Ocracoke as a teenager. Since many years had passed since graduating from high school in Mexico, he wanted to achieve his GED in the U.S. He was paired up with Gary Davis and the two of them worked diligently to prepare him for the difficult test.
Not only did he pass, but he obtained such high grades that he qualified for scholarships in order to pursue an International Business degree through College of the Albemarle. He also completed his Medical Interpreting/Translating certification while continuing to work at Dajio.
He has been hired as an interpreter/translator at the Ocracoke Health Center where he also works as an outreach worker with the migrant and seasonal farmworker on the mainland. He is now being trained by SHIIP (Senior Health Insurance Information Program) to become a Medicare counselor. He also is responsible for the translations for the Ocracoke Observer.
The wedding was originally planned to be outside on the grounds of Books to Be Red.
Several days before, Ocracoke started to get rain–lots of it. Leslie Lanier, owner of the book store, let them know that if the rain stopped by Monday before the Thursday wedding date, the location should be dry enough.
Additionally, a fast-forming storm system in the Caribbean became Hurricane Joaquin and began threatening to strike Ocracoke. Pastor Ivey Belch of the United Assembly of God Church on Lighthouse Road graciously offered them the use of the church.
Meanwhile, about 25 friends and family were headed to Ocracoke for the wedding and soon after their arrival, the Hyde County commissioners announced that there would be a mandatory evacuation just one hour before the ceremony.
“I’ve officiated for many weddings, but none have been under a hurricane threat,” said Courtney’s pastor, Dan Chaverin of the Westside Family Church in Lenexa, Kansas. “The good news is we got through.”
At the reception, several of the mid-western guests, accustomed to dealing with tornado threats, said they found the atmosphere of the day to be a combination of the excitement to be on the island, with a sprinkling of mild anxiety about an approaching storm.
“I think all of my Kansas and South African friends and family were all off island by 10 a.m. the next day,” said Courtney.
Fortunately, the hurricane veered east well into the Atlantic which spared Ocracoke a direct hit that many experts feared.
The wedding was bilingual, in English and Spanish. So there were some chuckles for Spanish speakers, followed by those who speak English, after hearing the English portion. Courtney’s mom, Becky Colin and her sister Jameson were readers at the ceremony.
The bridesmaids were Ariana Contreras and Jameson Colin and maid of honor, Alex Robinette. The groomsmen were Adrian Ibarra Espinoza and Saul Contreras Rubio. Best man was Jesus Chavez Lopez.
Coyote, Marcy Brenner and Lou Castro, performed at the reception and the food was prepared by Alfredo’s mother Cira Contreras and desserts by islander Carol Ritchie
Courtney summed up the change in plans:
“Married life and life in general requires one to deal with the unexpected,” Courtney said with Alfredo nodding in agreement.
The challenging circumstances bode well for a happy marriage. “Boda” is Spanish for wedding, but we’re not sure how to make a bilingual pun.
So let’s finish with this, upon hearing of a potential hurricane heading to Ocracoke, one could evoke, “I don’t think we are in Kansas anymore.”
Categories: Connecting People to Places