Three weeks before their September 16 wedding, Jennifer Powers and Brian Brekke of Eagan, Minnesota, began to worry: New Orleans had been devastated by the storm of the century, and the couple hadn’t heard a word from their good friends Sedrick and Delinda Hawkins, who lived in the Southern city with their three children. Days later, Brian learned from a mutual pal that although the Hawkinses’ home was destroyed, the family was safe and had relocated to Minnesota, where Delinda grew up. Assessing the situation, Jennifer and Brian decided to auction Jennifer’s lace garter at the reception and give the proceeds to the Hawkinses. Though most of the 150 guests didn’t know the displaced family, they opened their hearts—and wallets. "We saw a chance to help out and took it," says the bride.

Nature’s softer side was in full force the day the couple exchanged vows by a gentle stream in Whitewater State Park. "We kept things simple," says the bride. "My aunt rang a bell tied to a rope to signal the start of the ceremony, and our altar was decorated with a cross made from tree branches." To give the rustic ceremony some Renaissance flair, they hired an Irish band that played acoustic guitar and the tin whistle. The reception, held inside a white tent and decorated with wildflowers, was equally low-key. Everyone ate grilled shrimp and beef kebabs, danced to a rock band and rejoiced at night’s end when the bride and groom handed the Hawkinses, who attended the festivities, $2,000 wrapped in the garter—seed money to start a new life.

Jennifer and Brian in Whitewater State Park, MN

A clever idea helps raise funds for a family affected by Katrina

Three weeks before their September 16 wedding, Jennifer Powers and Brian Brekke of Eagan, Minnesota, began to worry: New Orleans had been devastated by the storm of the century, and the couple hadn’t heard a word from their good friends Sedrick and Delinda Hawkins, who lived in the Southern city with their three children. Days later, Brian learned from a mutual pal that although the Hawkinses’ home was destroyed, the family was safe and had relocated to Minnesota, where Delinda grew up. Assessing the situation, Jennifer and Brian decided to auction Jennifer’s lace garter at the reception and give the proceeds to the Hawkinses. Though most of the 150 guests didn’t know the displaced family, they opened their hearts—and wallets. "We saw a chance to help out and took it," says the bride.

Nature’s softer side was in full force the day the couple exchanged vows by a gentle stream in Whitewater State Park. "We kept things simple," says the bride. "My aunt rang a bell tied to a rope to signal the start of the ceremony, and our altar was decorated with a cross made from tree branches." To give the rustic ceremony some Renaissance flair, they hired an Irish band that played acoustic guitar and the tin whistle. The reception, held inside a white tent and decorated with wildflowers, was equally low-key. Everyone ate grilled shrimp and beef kebabs, danced to a rock band and rejoiced at night’s end when the bride and groom handed the Hawkinses, who attended the festivities, $2,000 wrapped in the garter—seed money to start a new life.

Wildflowers and daisies topped the buttercream wedding cake, in sweet tribute to the outdoor theme.