Jenelle Davis, 30, and Deatric Smith, 41, watched the news in shock: Screaming rioters, in a cloud of tear gas, broke windows at the Hyatt House Charlotte—just days before the couple’s wedding was scheduled to be there.
The protests started mid-September last year, beginning hours after a Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department officer fatally shot Keith Lamont Scott, an African-American male. The first night of protests, in residential University City, were just minutes from Jenelle’s home.
But the next night, hundreds of protesters moved to uptown Charlotte, where groups caused extensive property damage to center-city establishments, including breaking windows and looting the Charlotte Hornets team store.
“This sick feeling came over me,” Jenelle says. “I literally watched a protestor bust out the sliding front doors of the hotel.”
The couple’s wedding planner, Crystal McCorkle of Fabulously Created Events, saw the footage, too. So did the couple’s guests.
“Their guests kept texting and sending emails and calling, saying ‘We’re fearing for our safety. Are you still going to have the wedding there?’” McCorkle recalls.
So McCorkle and the couple went to lunch.
They could move the wedding, McCorkle said. But they’d have to pay for a new venue. The Hyatt House offered to have extra security and to lock down the elevators to the rooftop, where the ceremony would be, so that only their 50 wedding guests could access it. Jenelle and Deatric decided to stick with their original plan.
But when the couple arrived at the venue for the rehearsal, Jenelle broke down.
“It looked like an abandoned hotel,” McCorkle says—not the sparkling Uptown venue the couple had booked.
On the wedding day McCorkle went into overdrive. She was in constant contact with the vendors, providing them updates and information. She moved the reception’s end time from 11 p.m. to 10 p.m., in light of the city’s emergency curfew. Then she bought the biggest piece of cheesecake she could find, and she and Jenelle sat on the sofa in the hotel room that morning of the wedding, and ate every last bite.
Cheesecake always calms my nerves,” Jenelle says, laughing. “I knew the exterior of our venue was horrific. But I also knew that upstairs, on the rooftop of the hotel, would be the man I was about to marry and spend the rest of my life with. That in itself made everything materialistic seem trivial.”
The rooftop ceremony went smoothly. Only a handful of guests didn’t show, and the only complication was the sound system for the ceremony—the signals from the circling helicopters were interfering. But the minister spoke loudly to compensate. The couple even walked outside to get a picture with the U.S. National Guard.
“At that moment, it was only about Jenelle and me being in love,” Deatric says.
Rather than have a grand exit, Jenelle and Deatric let the night slip away slowly, tenderly.
Even as most of the guests left, the DJ kept playing. And at the end of the night, the married couple stood in the middle of the dance floor—with only Jenelle’s sister and her husband there as company.
Afterward, Jenelle and Deatric exited the hotel elevators and were met with cheers from the National Guard, the Billy Graham Evangelistic team, even protestors.
“Random people in their cars were blowing their horns, screaming congratulations,” Jenelle says. “And I knew that the city I was born and raised in still had so much love in its heart.”
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OTHER VENDORS: Ceremony, reception venue: The Hyatt House Center City Charlotte | Wedding planner: Crystal McCorkle of Fabulously Created Events | Caterers: Hyatt House | Flowers: April Floral Expressions | Hairstylist: Carla Melker of Phenomenal You Hair Salon | Makeup artist: Yanneek Brinson of Canvas Beauty | Gown: Bride Beautiful in Atlanta, Ga. | Dress designer: Allure | Tuxedos: Men’s Wearhouse | Invitations, stationery: Davis Designs | Entertainment: The Mighty DR | Rental providers: Carolinas Luxury Event Rentals, Chelish Moore Flowers | Engagement ring, wedding rings: Reid Jewelers | Clergy: Minister Colin Pinkney of The Harvest Center | Wedding night hotel: Hyatt House Center City Charlotte | Bridal registry: Crate & Barrel, Target, and Bed Bath & Beyond | Travel agent: VIP Travel