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A night to celebrate our veterans

When a Bensalem wedding got postponed and the couple couldn’t get a refund, they invited veterans to enjoy the venue

An unforgettable evening: When Joe Pastor and Arianna Crossland’s wedding at Celebrations in Bensalem got postponed and they couldn’t get a refund, Pastor invited military veterans to enjoy the space so it didn’t go to waste. TOM WARING / TIMES PHOTO

Joe Pastor and Arianna Crossland were supposed to get married last June, but coronavirus restrictions prevented that from happening.

The new date was Sunday, June 6.

However, in the meantime, Crossland developed serious health issues that forced postponement of the ceremony and reception, which were set for Celebrations, in Bensalem.

The couple, who paid in full well in advance, unsuccessfully negotiated with Celebrations for a refund. They were willing to give up their security deposit, figuring the wedding venue would have no problem booking another event for that day. They also offered to sell the date to someone for half-price, but were told the contract was non-transferable. A legal remedy did not work.

Pastor didn’t want the Phoenix Room to be empty.

“I’m not letting this go to waste for $14,000,” he said.

Pastor, 33, of Northeast Philadelphia, decided to invite military veterans, their spouses and others to the cocktail hour and dinner the 135 wedding guests were intended to enjoy. It just so happened June 6 marked the 77th anniversary of D-Day, the successful Allied invasion of Normandy that ultimately led to victory in World War II.

“It was a no-brainer. I have all the respect in the world for them. It takes a lot to leave your house and leave America and fight for us,” Pastor said.

Not going to waste: Joe Pastor invited military veterans, their spouses and others to the cocktail hour and dinner his 135 wedding guests were intended to enjoy. TOM WARING / TIMES PHOTO

Philadelphia Municipal Court President Judge Pat Dugan, a retired U.S. Army captain who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, helped line up the guests. Among others, there were folks from Veterans Court, veterans of the 82nd Airborne Division and members of the Philadelphia Flyers Warriors hockey team and the Warriors’ Watch Riders.

“I’m extremely grateful,” Pastor said of Dugan’s efforts.

Tom Bucci spoke of his nonprofit, Soldier Sanctuary. Warriors’ Watch gave all veterans a star from an American flag as a reminder that they are not forgotten.

Quite the coincidence: Sunday, June 6, happened to be the 77th anniversary of D-Day, the successful Allied invasion of Normandy that ultimately led to victory in World War II. TOM WARING / TIMES PHOTO

Entertainment was provided by Avalon String Band and a DJ. The 15-man string band played “God Bless America” and an armed forces medley, along with Mummers favorites such as “When You’re Smiling” and “I’m Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover.”

Pastor loved seeing the smiles on the faces of his guests.

“I wanted to give them a night out for everything they’ve done,” he said.

Classic tunes: Entertainment was provided by Avalon String Band and a DJ. TOM WARING / TIMES PHOTO

Pastor was accompanied by his dad, Al. Crossland was unable to attend due to her medical issues.

Pastor and Crossland still plan to get married, followed by a backyard bash for a reception. Dugan has offered to perform the ceremony.

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