Wedding Reception 101: Celebratory toasts are made. A meal is served. The cake is cut. The bride and groom share their first dance as a married couple, soon to be joined by anyone who feels like kicking up their heels. As the event draws to a close, the bride tosses her bouquet and the couple heads off for their honeymoon—all to the accompaniment of endless picture taking.
Then COVID-19 arrived and changed all the rules.
This past July, when Tyler and Melanie Tapajna of Parma, Ohio decided to opt out of their plans for traditional nuptials in light of coronavirus concerns, they came up with a creative alternative that was truly inspired.
The Tapajnas contacted their caterer, Betty’s Bomb Ass Burgers, but rather than looking for a refund, they asked owner Lena Brown if it would be possible to take the money from their reception and turn it into meals at a local homeless shelter instead.
Having already contacted Laura’s Home, a local shelter for homeless women and children, with an eye toward making a contribution, the couple left Brown to coordinate a kid-friendly, cafeteria-style menu with the Laura’s Home kitchen manager. Their only request? They wanted to help serve the food themselves—on their wedding day.
After exchanging vows in an intimate August 15 ceremony attended by family and close friends, the couple—still in their wedding gear—headed to Laura’s Home. The bride swapped her veil for a hairnet (the groom wore one as well). Both suited up in face masks and food-service gloves, then stepped behind the cafeteria counter to help dish up the kind of heartwarming meals that gave a whole new meaning to “service with a smile.”
“It’s not unusual for us to have meal donations at our facilities,” Rich Trickel, CEO of The City Mission which oversees operations at Laura’s Home, told TODAY.
“What made it completely special is that from their wedding ceremony, Melanie in her beautiful gown and Tyler in his tux, put on a hairnet and gloves and served the guests… I mean who does that? [It’s] an unbelievable act of generosity and compassion.”
Tapajn, who says she and her husband have been making charitable donations as a couple since first meeting at a friend’s wedding in 2016, was happy to report their catering budget turned out to be substantial enough to feed shelter residents for several days. But according to the bride, that wasn’t the best part.
“I asked Tyler what his favorite part of our wedding and he told me it was the amount of smiles that it brought,” Tapajna told TODAY. “Not only was it the women and children, but the volunteers and workers [who] were happy to see everyone enjoy themselves… Of course, getting to marry my best friend was one of my favorite parts.”
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