Fort Myers Couple's Wedding Crashers-Themed Reception a Sweet Success

Shelly Osterhout and Paul Johnson invited strangers to attend their nuptial soiree.

BY October 12, 2015


They came. They crashed. And they celebrated.

News of a Fort Myers couple’s Wedding Crashers-themed reception at the Bell Tower Shops spread swiftly throughout Southwest Florida (and was picked up around the world thanks to national networks and wire services disseminating local media reports) and attracted an estimated 200 strangers to Saturday’s open-air reception, right smack in the mall’s Center Court.

Melanie Thomas had come across a press release about Shelly Osterhout and Paul Johnson’s most unusual nuptial plans and alerted her friends.

“We are always up for spontaneous, random things, so here we are,” Thomas said. There were eight in her group, in their late 20s and early 30s, dressed as if they had been on the official guest list.

“I think it’s wonderful,” said her friend, Brittany Loring. “I think if a couple is willing to let random people into their lives, it shows what kind of people they are. They’re sharing their love with everyone.”

Osterhout, founder of a Fort Myers technology firm, and Johnson, a Lee County sheriff’s deputy, had decided to stage their own version of the 2005 comedy starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. They chose Bell Tower Shops because so many of their vendors were based there and it offered ample space for guests.

A private ceremony was officiated by state Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, and then friends and family merged with strangers for cake-cutting, the bouquet toss and dancing—lots of it.

Jeff Smith, a friend of the groom, leaned back into a chair and surveyed the enthusiastic dance floor.

“The crashers are keeping it going,” he said. “The outsiders, the insiders are blending together with no problems.”

The newlyweds even took time to meet and take pictures with strangers, Thomas said.

“It was an awesome event to be a part of,” she said.

At the reception’s end, lingering guests lined up along a corridor, glow sticks in hand, to send the couple off on their honeymoon.

As the bride and groom slipped into their white limousine, a couple of crashers raided the remaining cupcakes, smiling brightly as they carried off their edible souvenirs.


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