Chicago couple turns catering deposit into donated meals after canceling wedding

A Chicago couple who canceled their wedding reception due to the coronavirus pandemic instead used their nonrefundable catering deposit to buy 200 Thanksgiving dinners for people struggling with mental illness, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

a group of people sitting at a table with plates of food: holiday dinner, talking about politics at a family gathering, talking about politics with family

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holiday dinner, talking about politics at a family gathering, talking about politics with family

Clients of Thresholds, the nonprofit where Emily Bugg works as an outreach worker, received boxed dinners from caterer Big Delicious Planet after Bugg and her husband Billy Lewis opted for a City Hall wedding.

“This just seemed like a good way to make the best of a bad situation,” Bugg told the Post.

The couple, who were engaged in July 2019, pared back their wedding plans several times before finally canceling it altogether and opting for a civil ceremony on Oct. 1.

“We had come to a place where we had some big decisions to make,” Lewis told the newspaper. “We decided to just go ahead and get on with our lives.”

Jane Himmel, owner of Chicago’s Jane Himmel Weddings and Special Events, told the Post she anticipates similar attempts to give back as the pandemic disrupts more nuptial plans.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, it was just total chaos. But as it stretched on, people started adjusting to reality,” she said. “There’s been a mind shift. Couples want to turn lemons into lemonade.”

Thresholds CEO Mark Ishaug said the donation came at a time when the pandemic has severely cut into the nonprofit’s services, harming fundraising and forcing it to cancel the group’s communal dinners. Ishaug said he’s hopeful a high-profile act of charity like this one could spur “copycat activities,” particularly around the Thanksgiving season.

“We hope they can still feel the warmth of knowing that we care about them,” he told the Post. “These small moments of connection are what’s keeping us going during these difficult months.”

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