Sarah Cummins and Logan Araujo were supposed to get married this weekend. The two young people had been planning a dream wedding for two years — a $30,000 extravaganza.
A week ago, she called it off (she prefers not to say why), and both were left with broken hearts and a nonrefundable contract for a venue and a plated dinner for 170 guests Saturday night at the Ritz Charles in Carmel.
"It was really devastating," said Cummins, a 25-year-old pharmacy student at Purdue University. "I called everyone, canceled, apologized, cried, called vendors, cried some more, and then I started feeling really sick about just throwing away all the food I ordered for the reception," she said.
She decided to bring some purpose to the couple's pain. After discussing it with Araujo, she worked with event planner Maddie LaDow at the Ritz Charles to rearrange the reception area, then started contacting homeless shelters in Indianapolis and Noblesville and inviting residents to her party.
“We’re doing all the same stuff, just arranging the tables differently, so there's no head table for the bridal party, no cake table or gift table," she said.
She and her mother will arrive early on Saturday to set up the centerpieces they designed themselves — gold Eiffel Tower vases with roses.
The dinner will take place in the hotel's garden pavilion because Cummins said she always wanted an outdoor wedding but didn't want to risk the weather.
On the menu are bourbon-glazed meatballs, goat cheese and roasted garlic bruschetta, chicken breast with artichokes and Chardonnay cream sauce and, yes, wedding cake.
Dayspring Center is among the shelters Cummins contacted, and she gave center development director Cheryl Herzog permission to reach out to IndyStar.
"I was so touched that Sarah had taken a painful experience and turned it into a joyful one for families in need," Herzog said. "It is truly a very kind gesture on her part."
Being homeless is stressful for an entire family, Herzog said. "I suspect having the chance to experience a delicious meal with your family in a beautiful space like the Ritz Charles will be very special for them."
With help from friends, Cummins has arranged for two buses to pick up shelter residents and families late Saturday afternoon to take them to the Ritz Charles. She's hoping for about 150 people, but there's no firm count yet.
Obviously, this isn't the first time weddings have been canceled on short notice, LaDow said. "Some people throw parties, some completely walk away, but none have ever done anything this charitable," she said of Cummins.
The onetime bride-to-be said she doesn't feel particularly generous.
"I will at least have some kind of happy memory to pull from," she said. "I wanted to make sure it would be the perfect wedding."
Her ex-fiance is devastated himself, reeling from his mother's recent death and the cancellation of the wedding. But he agrees that it's "a beautiful thing" for the homeless to enjoy the dinner and music they had planned together.
"I'm happy through my grief and also Sarah's that she was able to make a selfless and very thoughtful decision in such a hard time," said Araujo, who would like for his late mom, Kimberly Araujo, to be remembered at the dinner.
If she can keep her emotions in check, Cummins plans to stay for the dinner with her mom and at least two of her bridesmaids.
When it's over, she said she will be leaving on her honeymoon Sunday to the Dominican Republic — with her mom — before returning for classes at Purdue.
"My ex-fiancé was kind enough to transfer his tickets to my mom."