It was a wedding-day nightmare. The sky was dark, thunder rumbled, lightning cracked across the sky and large raindrops soaked the flower-petal pathway and chairs waiting for wedding guests on a beach in Pascagoula, Mississippi.
The bride, Dulce Gonzalez, said she had spent more than a month planning the wedding and was relieved that morning when the forecast said the chance of rain was only 10%. Hours later, she was holding back tears as she saw her decorations fall apart in the downpour. She didn't know what she was going to do.
"We were just really praying for the rain to calm down," Gonzalez told CNN. "At that moment I felt like I was about to have a breakdown."
That's when a stranger jumped into action and saved the celebration.
Pulling it all together
As Gonzalez looked at her ruined wedding decorations, a woman appeared outside her car, soaking wet from the rain. Though a complete stranger, she offered to host the wedding in her beachfront home.
"She said, 'just give me 10 minutes and I'll have everything set up,'" Gonzalez recalled. "So we started telling all of our family and friends to go into this woman's driveway, even though we had no idea who she was."
Gonzalez said that as her guests arrived, the woman's husband and neighbors gathered umbrellas and walked wedding guests from their cars to the house so they wouldn't get wet. The woman even took pictures of Gonzalez before the ceremony.
"I don't even know her name at this point," Gonzalez said. "So we kind of have a brief conversation and I walked into the hallway."
That's when Gonzalez stopped in her tracks. The woman, Cynthia Littlepage Baber-Strunk, had set up dozens of chairs for Gonzalez's 50 guests in a large room complete with flowers and a golden mirror.
"As soon as I see how everything is set up, that's when it gets to me," said Gonzalez, 25. "Here I am blowing my face again trying to hold my tears back."
The best part? From inside Strunk's house, Gonzalez had a perfect view of the beach where her wedding was supposed to be.
The view was important to Gonzalez, who said the beach was a "sacred spot" for her and her husband, Ariel, because it's where they met up and got to know each other on some of their first dates. Gonzalez said she couldn't believe how beautiful the indoor wedding celebration was.
"Everything looked like we had planned to do our wedding there," she said. "That's how perfectly she set it up."
'They definitely saved the day'
In a Facebook post, Strunk said that hosting Gonzalez's celebration was a "wonderful experience."
"It was our pleasure to host an impromptu wedding at our home," Strunk wrote. "The wedding party was so gracious and appreciative, and we were thankful that we could offer our home."
Two days after the June 30 wedding, Gonzalez said she and her husband brought the Strunks cake and flowers to thank them for opening up their home and to formally introduce themselves.
"They definitely saved the day," she said. "I refer to them as our two little angels."