“This just seemed like a good way to make the best of a bad situation,” said Emily Bugg

By Morgan Smith
December 04, 2020 11:06 AM
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Emily Bugg and Billy Lewis
Credit: Sophie Cazottes Photography

Couples have found endlessly creative ways to get married amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic: drive-by weddings, Zoom nuptials, even intimate, pajama-clad ceremonies in their living rooms.

This trend, however, begs the question: What do people do with all the money they’ve saved toward their big day?

Emily Bugg and Billy Lewis had been planning a lavish, 150-person fall wedding in Chicago since they got engaged last July, according to the Washington Post. As coronavirus cases spiked in Illinois, however, they settled on a surprising way to get married — and help those in need, too.

“We had come to a place where we had some big decisions to make,” Lewis, 34, told the Post. “We decided to just go ahead and get on with our lives.”

Emily Bugg and Billy Lewis
Billy Lewis and Emily Bugg
| Credit: Sophie Cazottes Photography

The pair eloped at Chicago City Hall in October and asked their caterer, Big Delicious Planet, if they could use their nonrefundable $5,000 catering deposit to feed hundreds of people struggling with mental illness, the newspaper reported.

“This just seemed like a good way to make the best of a bad situation,” said Bugg, 33.

Bugg is an outreach worker at Thresholds, a nonprofit dedicated to helping people with mental illness and substance abuse disorders.

couple donates wedding catering
Emily Bugg
| Credit: Elizabeth Boschma/Thresholds

Other aspects of the wedding — like Bugg’s bridal gown (a slip crepe dress, still hanging in the closet) and the payment to their DJ — couldn't be repurposed. Their venue, a lavish, 60,000-square-foot warehouse called Salvage One, however, agreed to hold the couple’s deposit toward a future charity event, according to the Post. The photographer Buggs and Lewis hired, Sophie Cazottes, took some socially distanced shots of the couple as they wed at city hall.

Working with Big Delicious Planet, the couple packed and delivered 200 Thanksgiving dinners to Threshold clients. The boxed dinner included turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, green beans and other delicious sides.

couple donates wedding catering
Credit: Elizabeth Boschma/Thresholds

Mark Ishaug, CEO of Thresholds, told NBC Chicago the company was able to feed more people in need this year because of the couple’s kind gesture.

"I was so moved because it was so beautiful," he said.

couple donates wedding catering
Credit: Elizabeth Boschma/Thresholds

Ishaug added that Bugg and Lewis’ generous donation was especially needed as the organization had to cancel their usual communal dinners due to the pandemic.

“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.”

The newlyweds have said they’re considering hosting a small reception once the pandemic is over.

As Bugg told NBC Chicago: "We are just looking forward to seeing everyone when it is safe again.”