After Hurricane Maria Destroyed Her Hometown, This Bride Got a Wedding

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For one bride, the biggest day of her life didn't exactly go according to plan, thanks to a natural disaster. After Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico last September, San Juan–based bride-to-be Cristina Sumaza had almost given up hope for her November 2017 wedding.

Before the year's biggest tropical storm touched down on September 20, 30-year-old Sumaza evacuated her apartment and headed west to be with her mother, who was undergoing cancer treatment. After returning to the post-hurricane wreckage, being able to walk down the aisle in Rincón, Puerto Rico, seemed like even less of a possibility.

"When I came back home, all the windows in my apartment were broken and people had no information," Sumaza told People. "I was like, ‘Obviously the wedding is over. We’re not going to do this. Let’s just cancel it.' "

Sumaza, who is the co-founder of an outdoor food market called Lote 23, put wedding planning on hold to prioritize getting her life and business back on track following the natural disaster. But it was her mother who initially prompted her to follow through with her I do's to her fiancé, Juan Carlos Suarez, and scope out her venue.

"She felt guilty," Sumaza said of her mom, who had since moved to Miami to further her cancer treatment. "She said, 'Are you not doing the wedding because of me?' She really insisted we do it. It was a good push to make it happen."

And a push in the right direction seemed to be all Sumaza needed. Miraculously, after the betrothed couple paid a visit to their chosen wedding venue, they discovered the hurricane damage wasn't as bad as they had thought. "I was super surprised that things were in good shape," she said. "It’s kind of corny but it gave us hope."

The pair ultimately decided to go through with the original wedding of their dreams, but set their nuptials for January to provide plenty of prep time. "We realized this could be a nice distraction, something to get excited about, and we could all come together," Sumaza added. Thankfully, everyone was more than happy to hop back on board after Hurricane Maria.

"This gave people work during this crisis. It gave people a reason to have their employees stay there and keep working and recover quickly," she said. "The wedding coordinator, the decorator, and the [caterer]—everyone was eager to work." Looks like nothing could rain on these lovebirds' parade.

Finally, exactly four months after Hurricane Maria struck, Suarez and Sumaza tied the knot on January 20. After finding a silver lining in what seemed like a truly hopeless place, Sumaza said the ceremony "was such an escape."

The bride wore a stunning embroidered trumpet wedding dress with illusion short sleeves, and her equally beautiful (and now cancer-free!) mother stood by her side. Cheers to the happy couple who, rain or shine, clearly won't let anything get in their way.

Bride's and Mother of the Bride's Dresses: Harry Robles x Ghabriello Fernando | Wedding Coordinator: Milly Centeno | Decoration: Akua Events & Design | Photographer: Michael Maurer | Makeup: Ingrid M. Rivera

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