With Saturday wedding plans and tropical storm moving in, couple moves up ceremony

Published 6:50 am Saturday, July 13, 2019

As New Orleans hunkered down ahead of Tropical Storm Barry Friday, news photographers from across the city could be found together in a church, witnessing the wedding of one of their own.

Associated Press photographer Gerald Herbert and Lucy Sikes weren’t supposed to get married Friday night. Invitations sent out months ago were for a Saturday night wedding at the Mater Dolorosa Catholic Church, followed by a reception at the art-deco-style restaurant at the city’s Lakefront Airport.

The location was an homage to how Herbert had learned to fly so he could commute to Shreveport in northern Louisiana to visit his now-wife, an attorney. But the airport was also outside the city’s floodwalls .

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With Barry approaching the Louisiana coast , the restaurant called to say it would be closed Saturday. The storm also was making it difficult for other wedding vendors, Herbert said, and he and Sikes were worried about guests being able to travel Saturday.

After a little soul-searching, Herbert said, they decided to get married Friday night.

“We realized we had a marriage license, two rings … and we didn’t really want to wait any longer,” he said.

So that’s how Sikes, wearing an elegant white dress with silvery beading down the back, found herself walking down the aisle Friday evening toward Herbert, who wore a blue suit and a huge smile.

The Rev. Herbert Kiff Jr., who’s known the groom for years, officiated. Looking out over the crowd of family and friends who had quickly gathered to celebrate, he said: “It goes to show how much you all love Gerald and Lucy.”

New Orleans rhythm and blues musician Deacon John Moore had been scheduled to sing during the Saturday ceremony. He made it to Friday’s ceremony, but the regular church musicians couldn’t. He ended up bringing his brother to play guitar and another musician to play piano.

Sikes had worried her dress would get wet or her guests would be stuck in the rain. Neither happened, and she was happy everything came together.

“My friends rock!” she said. “They scrambled out at the last minute.”

The church’s wedding coordinator, Pam Eshleman, said that when the city flooded Wednesday she suspected that bad weather might end up affecting Saturday’s plans. Sikes texted her Friday morning asking if they could hold the wedding at the church that evening. In the end, she said, it was “meant to happen today.”

“I said, ‘For whatever reason, God didn’t want y’all to get married tomorrow,'” she said. “‘He wanted you to all be here today, and this just all worked out so well.'”