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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Storm-Destroyed Wedding Reception Gets 2nd Chance Thanks to Ford-Ellington and Others

Kevin Ford, principal designer and owner of Ford-Ellington. Photo by Tine Hofmann, tm photography

No one predicted the heavy rains and strong winds that hit our area September 4, including Kevin Ford. The principal designer and owner of Fort Thomas-based Ford-Ellington Floral and Wedding Design, Ford and his crew had just spent eight hours turning the pavilion area of Ault Park into a stunning setting for Cindy Maag Bowen and Paul Bowen's wedding reception.

Before the storm. Photo by Kortnee Kate Photography.

An unexpected rainstorm ruined much of the Bowen's reception. Photo by Kortnee Kate Photography.

The storm hit just as the wedding party arrived. All Cindy and Paul could do was watch from their limo as the quick-moving storm destroyed the reception they had spent more than a year planning. Many jumped in to help, including the caterer, Ludlow, Ky.-based Jeff Thomas Catering and his crew, Ford and his crew, and groomsmen and guests. Everyone tried to salvage what they could, among the wind-blown tables and broken glass.

It was heartbreaking, yes, but also a tale of love that surpasses table décor, a timeless tale of family and friends coming together. Tables were dried, the flowers that weren't ruined were brought back out and rearranged, makeshift music was played, dinner was saved and served. Drinks and dancing followed, despite everything.

Later, Thomas and Ford were speaking on the phone and Thomas suggested a redo. For free. Ford loved the idea, and plans are underway.

Kevin Ford majored in psychology but spent his summers during high school and college working with his mother, also a florist. It was during those summers that Ford found his true calling. Ford-Ellington opened in Fort Thomas December 1985 as a florist shop.

"I love Fort Thomas," Ford says. "I live here, too now, and it's a very safe community. People love coming here to see the shop and it's convenient for my business as most of my weddings are in downtown Cincinnati."

Ten years after he opened Ford transitioned from florist to wedding design only and today he's considered one of Cincinnati's top and most-sought-after designers. He averages 25 to 30 weddings a year. "I just think it's the best job anyone could have," Ford says. "I'm glad I'm doing it. It's just such a privilege." 

While the Bowens wanted the wedding ceremony to look and feel traditional, Ford says Cindy and her mother wanted a reception that would dazzle the guests. Cindy chose a neutral, shimmery tablecloth and expressed her love of gold and deep magenta. The flowers were a mix of oranges, deep magentas, roses, lilies, other pinks and greenery. As the arrangements descended in size, the tallest reaching eight feet, orange flowers were replaced with more and more magenta. "It was visually stunning," Ford says. His goal? Turn the tented area at Ault Park into a visual surprise for the guests.

The flowers Kevin Ford and his team designed for the Bowen's reception. Photo by Kortnee Kate Photography.

Flowers by Ford-Ellington. Photo by Kortnee Kate Photography.

Although Cindy didn't see the tented reception in person before the storm hit, she has seen professional pictures—and she saw the remnants. "They were absolutely beautiful," Cindy says. "We had gold flatware and Kevin went out and got gold vases knowing that I really wanted gold. And everyone that came immediately from the ceremony and did get to see it said his work was breathtaking." 

Flowers by Ford-Ellington. Photo by Kortnee Kate Photography.

Cindy says that in addition to being a great artist, Ford brings a client's vision to life. "He came with me to pick out the linens and with his creative eye he can make the most amazing floral arrangements in addition to being the absolute best and nicest person you could ever meet," Cindy says. "Beyond anything he just wants to make people happy." 

After a year of planning, a solid week of physically making the arrangements and a day of setting up, Ford, along with his mother, sister, Event Design Assistant Roger Swonger, the caterers and guests did what they could to salvage the reception. "I was there until 10pm trying to help in any way I could," Ford says. Ford watched as Thomas and his team pulled together an amazing meal out of a completely wrecked tent. Somehow music started playing. "Cindy and her husband were amazing. Their friends were ready to do anything for them, moving tables and centerpieces, trying to give them a gorgeous wedding. It was life affirming for me to see how much fun their friends were having."

The Bowen's wedding party.

Still, Ford said he was heartbroken that Cindy, especially, was unable to see the tented reception before the storm. So when Thomas suggested a redo, Ford was very much on board.

Planned for Halloween weekend, Thomas and Ford have jokingly called the redo the Wedding from Hell. But instead of a kitschy Halloween theme, the couple opted for a masquerade ball, "which I think will be amazing," Ford says. "I would love to give her a little feel for what she had before. It will be a different look, a different event, but it will still be gorgeous and fun and everything she wanted it to be."

While Ford is donating the flowers, linens and décor, and Thomas is donating the catering, other local vendors have offered to donate time and services, too. Ford says The BonBonerie plans to provide cupcakes, a local tuxedo rental company is providing free tuxes and aerial bartenders—who were also supposed to perform at the reception—are donating their time for the redo, too.

Paul and Cindy Bowen. Photo by Kortnee Kate Photography.

Cindy's family called Thomas the Monday after the wedding to personally thank him and his staff for going above and beyond to salvage their wedding. That is when Thomas informed them that he and Ford would like to do a redo for free. "We're really excited and just couldn't believe it," Cindy says. "It's just a great display of generosity. It's beyond generous." 

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