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Wedding to remember as storm hits reception
04 Jan 2009
Matthew le Cordeur

SATURDAY night’s storm struck a wedding reception at the Hilton Hotel, bringing its marquee down and sending champagne glasses and cutlery flying across tables.

Gwain Lestrange said his marriage ceremony to Mary Smith had been perfect until about 7.30 pm, when the howling gale swept in uninvited and caused havoc.

“It was absolute chaos,” he said, after the guests were moved into the warmth of the hotel’s bar.

“The wind blew everything over and people were running like crazy for cover in the bathroom. We all huddled there throughout the storm.”

Soon after they fled, a section of the marquee collapsed, landing on top of one of the main tables where the bride and groom’s parents were sitting.

“They were lucky they were not hurt,” said Lestrange, who owns a two-way radio shop in Pietermaritzburg.

He said it was fortunate that all the official proceedings had taken place.

“It was a wonderful day and the wedding was great,” he said. “It’s quite a dramatic way to start our marriage, but you always have to be prepared for the storms that hit your life.”

While the storm brought down the marquee, tree branches were snapping off in the car park and falling on top of the guest’s cars. Interior decorator Sonia Hayes’s BMW had branches surrounding her car, but with little damage. Lestrange’s best man was not so lucky. A branch went straight through the windscreen of his car and pierced the dashboard.

“I fear this is vengeance after my best man’s speech,” a bemused Peter Botha said.

The wedding scene after the storm looked like something out of a disaster film. Wet cake lying uneaten, broken glasses and plates scattered on the floor, flowers strewn across the collapsed tables and chairs and a guest book that was soaking wet.

However, with no injuries reported and the bridal couple quite happy to begin their first night as a married couple, Lestrange was surprisingly upbeat. “At least this will be a wedding no one will forget.”

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