PLACER COUNTY — An Olivehurst couple displaced by the Oroville Dam evacuations almost had their Valentine’s Day wedding plans canceled — were it not for a number of fellow evacuees and Placer County workers who all volunteered, donated items and time to put on an impromptu wedding together at the evacuation center.
The band playing, flowers all set, glasses ready to toast, and as the bride takes the walk down the aisle, her guests reach to get a look. You’d never know all of them were strangers to each other just a few hours ago.
“I told her what special day do you want to do it, she says ‘How about Valentine’s Day?” said Henry Rueda, next to his now-wife Leotta. “I was just going to have a small little wedding for me and her, a couple of our friends. The Oroville Dam, that destroyed our Valentine’s Day.”
The couple’s marriage had been 10 years in the making, but Sunday they were forced to evacuate their Olivehurst home for the Placer County Fairgrounds, with about 300 others displaced from their homes.
Their big day ruined — or so they thought.
“We reached out to the community. They’ve been fantastic in responding with any donations they could possibly ask for, we thought they’d be happy to help in this case and they sure did,” said Chris Gray-Garcia, Placer County’s public information officer.
A single Facebook post — and Henry and Leotta’s wedding was back on.
Evacuees themselves became makeshift wedding planners. One by one, donations poured in to the evacuation center. A tuxedo and dress, food and drink, flowers, even a hotel room and a limo all donated.
“I’ve never been in a limo,” Leotta said.
“A limousine waiting for me to take me to the hotel is like…wow,” said Henry.
Of course, despite all they’ve been through, one wedding staple this couple was never without was love.
“I know we had our ups and downs, but I will always love you,” Leotta said through teary eyes to her husband on the makeshift altar.