Sarah Cummins, 25, was heartbroken when she had to make phone calls to her florist and other wedding vendors to cancel her July 15 wedding reception at the Ritz Charles in Carmel, Indiana.
“It was really devastating, I called everyone, cancelled, apologized, cried, called vendors, cried some more and then I started feeling really sick about just throwing away all the food I ordered for the reception," Cummins told the Indy Star.
But instead of letting the reception go to waste, Cummins decided to donate the $30,000, 170-person dinner and party to the homeless.
Cummins, who called off the wedding earlier this week and declined to comment on the reason, said that she called Logan Araujo, whom she was supposed to marry, when she had the idea to donate the reception. They discussed the plan to donate everything to people from several homeless shelters and he agreed.
"I'm happy through my grief and also Sarah's that she was able to make a selfless and very thoughtful decision in such a hard time,” Araujo said.
She then worked with her wedding planner and called homeless shelters in Indianapolis and Noblesville, a 30-minute drive from the Ritz Charles, she told the Indy Star.
“We’re doing all the same stuff, just arranging the tables differently, so there's no head table for the bridal party, no cake table or gift table," Cummins told the Indy Star.
But there were a few more additions.
Local businesses also donated suits, dresses, and spring clothing for homeless guests to wear to the reception and keep afterward. Cummins also arranged for shuttle buses to pick up guests for the new reception.
Cummins said that she didn’t want to the non-refundable event to go to waste and wanted it to have purpose.
“For me, it was an opportunity to let these people know they deserved to be at a place like this just as much as everyone else does,” Cummins said.
Cummins attended the reception along with her mother and seven bridesmaids. But the other 160 guests came from veteran housing and homeless shelters including Dayspring Center, a homeless shelter that also works with people in transit find affordable housing in central Indiana.
“For a lot of us, this is a good time to show us what we can have,” Allen, a veteran who attended the event, told the Guardian. “Or to remind us what we had.”
Each year in the US, 40% of food ends up in landfills while 795 million people around the world struggle with hunger and adequate nutrition. And in Indiana, one in seven people worry about not having enough food.
But donating even an event full of food or leftovers from a wedding reception can begin to make a dent in those staggering statistics.
"I was so touched that Sarah had taken a painful experience and turned it into a joyful one for families in need," Cheryl Herzog of the Daypsring Center said. "It is truly a very kind gesture on her part."