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Dr. Ashworth Woody and Russell Skibicki were expecting 140 guests at their nuptials in Longboat Key, FL scheduled for March 21, 2020. Skibicki said they started hearing more murmurings about the corona-virus at the beginning of March, but at that point, the developments hadn’t given them reason to cancel. The couple proceeded with final deposits to their wedding vendors.
Guest cancellations started coming in quickly after that. “Slowly, but surely individuals were backing out of the wedding. People were scared to travel,” said Skibicki. By Sunday, March 15, the RSVPs had dropped to 88. Because the bride-to-be is a doctor, 26 of those 88 guests were medical professionals. “As much as [the medical professionals] were happy to come celebrate, it wouldn’t have been prudent if something happened by coincidence,” said Skibicki. The couple decided canceling the celebration was best for the well-being of their guests. They would have a small ceremony with 10 family members in attendance.
Dr. Woody called Oneco Florist the Wednesday before the wedding and told owner Kathy Gorris they were canceling the celebration. Since the flowers had already been ordered, Gorris suggested donating them to Woodlands Village, a local senior living community she had worked with in the past. “They had such a good attitude about the whole thing,” Gorris said. “They kept a small amount of flowers -- enough for the wedding bouquets, boutonniere, and some vases. They donated the rest to the residents.”
Woodlands Village retirement community staff distributed the flowers one day later. The act of kindness was especially appreciated because the residents are practicing social distancing as a preventative measure during the corona-virus pandemic. “They were surprised. They were delighted. It gave them so much joy,” said Betsy Verrips, resident enrichment coordinator for Woodlands Village. The residents were talking about the flowers for days to come. “It definitely created a bit of a buzz because it was so different,” said Verrips. “We are so grateful for Kathy suggesting our community and for the couple that donated them. It made our Holiday Retirement residents so happy.”
When one resident found out where the flowers originated, she asked if the groom had just gotten cold feet. Word got back to Skibicki who got such a kick out of it, he emailed Gorris wedding photos to pass along to Woodlands Village residents as proof they tied the knot, noting, “No cold feet here, ladies.” Any doubts were eased, and residents loved seeing the bride's bouquet, showcasing the flowers that were brightening their days during a challenging time.
Skibicki and Dr. Woody exchanged vows in front of family at a local church, spent the day on the beach at Longboat Key, and returned to work on Monday. “It definitely wasn't what we were expecting, but we were happy we could still do the church ceremony with close family.” The newlyweds plan on inviting all of their wedding guests to a one-year anniversary celebration. “It’s unfortunate circumstances, but we’re very happy that the flowers could bring some joy to others,” said Skibicki.