Frontline Workers Get Free Dream Weddings After Pandemic & Winter Storm Delays
Loot Rentals hosts “Free Love” event for deserving couples at the Hotel Magdalena
By Aaron Parsley
Photographs by Feather & Twine Photography
Love prevails. This sentiment captures an enduring truth that has proved itself once again for two Austin couples who tied the knot after tragedy and obstacles brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic and the historic winter storms that hit Texas in February.
The best part: These beautiful wedding ceremonies didn’t cost the deserving couples a dime, thanks to Loot Rentals’ “Free Love” celebration, which enlisted local businesses to provide all the trappings — venue, flowers, music, cocktails and catering, photography and even a cake — for the brides’ and grooms’ dream nuptials. Congratulations to the newlyweds! (Read about their stories below.)
And to Loot Rentals, too! The company, founded by sisters-in-law Rhoda Brimberry and Anna Crelia, creates beautiful spaces for events in Austin and Dallas.
“We couldn’t think of a more appropriate way to begin our 10th year than by offering free weddings to those that have devoted their lives to helping their community during the pandemic,” Brimberry says. “We’ve endured the hardship of the pandemic along with so many others across the world. But overall, celebrating love is what started Loot. It is important for us to continue to honor the power of love even during tough times.”
The weddings took place on the grounds of Hotel Magdalena with Loot Rentals finishing out the spaces with furniture design. Summer House on Music Lane, the hotel’s restaurant, served drinks and food for the wedding party and their guests. Flowers were provided by Margot Blair Floral Studio. DJ Cassandra played music to celebrate the couples’ first moments of marriage. Word of Mouth Bakery baked cakes. And Feather & Twine Photography captured every element of the very special day.
Chris Brooks & Aliza Brooks
These newlyweds met while working at a rehabilitation hospital as occupational therapists. “It’s great getting to work with your best friend,” Chris says. “She has always made me want to be a better therapist and now … she makes me want to be a better partner.”
The pandemic has been a tough time for the pair – and not only because they postponed their wedding a few times. After part of their hospital was converted into a Covid-19 unit, Aliza became infected with the virus. Her grandfather, who was supposed to walk her down the aisle, was also infected and passed away from the disease. Chris also lost a brother during the course of the year.
“It’s been an emotional roller coaster,” Chris says. “It’s an unprecedented time to be a healthcare provider, but we feel so fortunate to be going through the journey literally side by side.”
Initially, their “Free Love” wedding was planned for Valentine’s Day but due to the winter storms that crippled Texas, their dreams of tying the knot were put on hold – again.
“We worked through unspeakable conditions without water for days,” Chris said of the weeks following the storms. “It was one of the longest weeks we have worked through.”
When things settled down, the wedding was back on. “When we got word of the rescheduled wedding, we were wary to get too excited,” Chris says. “Even the night before the wedding we kept refreshing our emails to make sure there were no other changes we had missed.”
When the time finally came, Chris says it was worth the wait. “Walking down to the ceremony space was like a dream. The colors scheme, florals, cake, lounge area, table settings—it’s like Loot Rentals had access to Aliza’s Pinterest and made all of her wedding dreams come true without even knowing it,” he says.
“The wedding was so special as we were surrounded by a handful of our family members at the beautiful Hotel Magdalena,” he adds. “I remember when Aliza walked down the courtyard to me, even onlookers dining at Summer House were silent. When we sealed the marriage with a kiss, the guests gave us a roaring applause. We felt so special.”
Sig Rydquist and Erin Cargile
As broadcast journalists covering the news during a tumultuous year, these newlyweds (who also met on the job) have been on the frontlines of the pandemic and other big stories like the protests and political unrest that occurred during the summer and leading up to the presidential election.
“We’re doing stories about the pandemic and its impact while living through it and keeping ourselves safe,” Cargile says of their spot on the frontlines of breaking news.
After getting engaged at Mount Bonnell in the presence of their son, who was six at the time, Rydquist and Cargile were busy with their family and working on renovations to their home where they hoped to get married in front of lots of friends and family. “We had the idea that we would get married in our front yard,” Rydquist says. “We talked about doing it at our housewarming party once we finished remodeling. The pandemic put that party on hold, but we didn’t want to delay getting married any longer.”
With stressful careers, home projects and a family to raise, getting a free wedding was extra special. “Erin hates making decisions and Rhoda and her team have amazing taste,” Rydquist says.
Even though the bulk of the wedding planning was off their plate, the winter storms caused another two-week delay in what would have been a Valentine’s Day ceremony.
“Given how many people’s lives were disrupted by the winter storm – and were still dealing with problems – we’re doubly grateful for Loot Rentals and all the vendors who were still committed to making our wedding happen.”
Plus, getting married after the year’s most romantic holiday has its benefits. “’2.14.21’ is engraved on my ring,” Rydquist says, “so I have a two-week warning that our anniversary is coming up. Also, the silver lining is that a dinner reservation on our anniversary will be much easier now that it’s not on Valentine’s Day.”