Wedding in a Wildfire: Newlyweds Rush Ceremony as Klamathon Fire Marches Toward Them

CHICO -- It was the day Ellie and Taylor Denney had been running toward their whole lives but by the end of it, they and their wedding guests were running away.

"We had mandatory evacuations in the middle of our vows," the bride told FOX40 over Skype.

The Chico couple were in Hornbrook to tie the knot Saturday. For the past few days, they’d seen the Klamathon Fire on the horizon burning away from their family property along the Klamath River.

"We had the Cal Fire chief come by and say, 'Hey we know you guys are here, glad you guys are here. Nothing to worry about at this point,'" Taylor Denney said.

But things changed just three hours later.

"Things went haywire and we saw flames on the other side of the river coming down the hill," Taylor Denney said.

It was now or never.

"We took a 30-minute ceremony and made it 5 minutes," Taylor Denney said.

"We literally said, 'I do. Kiss the bride,' and ran," Ellie Denney said.

Ellie, Taylor and their close friends and family who had come early to take some photos moved the wedding up by an hour. Photographer Kristina Robinson, of the Sacramento-based Dee & Kris Photography, described the situation to FOX40.

The Parson family built their cabins with the desire to have them built in time to host their daughter’s wedding. They worked tirelessly weeks leading up to the wedding day. They had evacuation plans in place as we arrived and they were in constant contact with the fire crews who gave them the go-ahead as winds were low. It wasn’t until the couple’s first look when we saw signs that the day may have to change. Dark smoke was forming on the ridge across the river. We wanted to get as many pictures as possible before orders came down to evacuate so we rushed their romance pictures and shot their wedding party portraits. The fathers both decided to hold the wedding right then and there with the family that was already in attendance. The original start time wasn’t to be for another hour and a half but the couple wanted to share their vows on the families land. As the Ellie’s father gave her to Taylor we officially got word to evacuate. The vendors rushed to load whatever they could as the couple said ‘I DO’, they kissed and everyone RAN. The flames were rushing for the river as the winds were picking up speed. Vendors and family left belongings as there wasn’t time to safely gather everything. Unbeknownst to the family or friends a strike team was placed at the home and saved everything. They went above and beyond and everyone was grateful. The couple re-said their vows at the local Yreka Holiday Inn so that they could not only revel in their promise to each other but so the rest of their guests could witness their nuptials. The night ended with dancing, great food and much love.

Meanwhile, their other 120 wedding guests who were arriving for the scheduled time were stopped at the evacuation line.

"They waited at the Walmart in Yreka and as soon as we got married they let everyone know, they all cheered," Taylor Denney told FOX40.

And then all of their wedding vendors and guests moved everything for the reception to a last-minute venue for a makeshift celebration. It was perfect, Ellie Denney said.

It's not exactly what you'd expect to hear from newlyweds whose plans were complicated by a devastating wildfire, but they're looking at the bright side.

"God doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle," the bride said. "And clearly we can handle a wedding in a wildfire."