Ella Horch is getting married on Monday. Just not in the place she expected, nor with the flowers she’d chosen, or the food she’d planned.
The 27-year-old Melbourne woman and her fiance James Steer have been forced to start from scratch, cobbling together a back-up plan within a matter of five days, after their dream Bali wedding was dashed by Indonesia’s Mount Agung volcano. The peak in the island’s east begun to erupt on Saturday, spewing a thick cloud of ash into the air that grounded flights, forced the closure of Denpasar airport and the evacuation of thousands of locals.
“Wednesday morning we learned out flight was cancelled. So we had three days stressing about it, looking at every single update trying to work out if we could actually make it there or not,” Horch told Mamamia.
“All our guests were asking, ‘What’s the backup plan?’ But we didn’t have a backup plan. We had a wet-weather plan, but not a volcano plan.”
The couple’s wedding-planning process had already been a whirlwind. They’d cobbled plans for the Semenyak nuptials together within six months, in the hope that Steer’s ailing mother might be able to attend. Sadly, she passed away eight weeks ago of a chronic lung condition.
The haste meant their insurance wasn’t purchased until September – nine days after the Indonesian government issued a travel warning relating to volcano. Their policy is, therefore, mostly void, leaving them out of pocket $20,000.
“I think people can sympathise – especially those who’ve had a wedding – with what it might be like to lose all your plans. And especially given we were going to Bali to have a laid-back wedding – drama-free – and now it’s ended up being the complete opposite,” she said. “We weren’t going there to have a big lavish ceremony or anything like that.”
And so the pair turned to GoFundMe for help to stage a Melbourne-based backup.
Friends, family and even strangers have chipped in - some $500, some $10.
Yet scattered among the the donations, the well-wishes, the offers of venues and services, were several outraged comments from people they'd never met.
"Is there a need for such urgency? Ever heard of saving?" "You're not the only person who has had to put a wedding off because of hard times." "Idiots, trying to take money from people with diseases and real issues." "Selfish."
Horch was taken aback by the negative response. She said she in no way thinks the plight of the Balinese people is any less important than her scuppered ceremony; she just wanted an avenue to share her story and to create a hub for the numerous offers of help and advice she'd received.
"I can sort of understand where they're coming from; we have a home, we have each other - we're lucky," she said. "But I feel hurt hurt that people would say that we are just trying to get money. Because the people sending us advice through there was just as helpful [as the donations]. We're willing for anyone to help in any way."
Speaking of wedding dilemmas... (Post continues below.)
And help they did.
"So far we've been able to organise a venue, a photographer, a hairdresser and a lovely lady has offered to make us a wedding cake," Horch said. "Most have offered their services free of charge, and others a half-price deal, which is amazing. There are some very generous people out there."
With just days to put it all into place and backlash from strangers on top of it all, it's been a "pretty crazy" few days for the pair.
"We're trying to get everything together and get a wedding to happen on Monday. It's just crazy to think we planned a whole wedding and now we're trying to plan another one," she said.
To help Ella and Jimmy pull off their last-minute, backup wedding, you can donate via their GoFundMe page.
While you're at it,