Wedding Party and Family Reunion Come Together to Give Couple 'Magical' First Dance in Basement During Tornado (Exclusive)

"Every moment after the power went out was magical," the groom tells PEOPLE

<p>Derrick Parsons</p> Sarah Hipke and Alex Schilke enjoy their first dance in the Grand Geneva hotel basement amid a tornado warning as Jack Jones plays Ed Sheeran

Derrick Parsons

Sarah Hipke and Alex Schilke enjoy their first dance in the Grand Geneva hotel basement amid a tornado warning as Jack Jones plays Ed Sheeran's "Perfect"
  • Alex Schilke and Sarah Hipke were in the middle of enjoying their wedding reception when the power went out and a tornado warning was issued for their area

  • The storm forced the couple and many of the 181 guests into the basement of the Grand Geneva Resort in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, where a family reunion was also taking place

  • A musically talented member of that family reunion helped give the couple an unforgettable flashlight-lit first dance on their special day

Many couples prepare for things that can go wrong on their wedding day. What you can't plan for is Mother Nature.

Alex Schilke and Sarah Hipke had been planning their Lake Geneva wedding for over a year. While their plans were all set, the weather had other plans in store that led to a beautiful, special moment the newlyweds will never forget.

"Most of the day was a lot of waiting to see if it was going to rain or not. We had plans to do an outdoor ceremony and we were waiting all day to see whether or not we were going to have to move it inside," Alex tells PEOPLE.

The couple was able to enjoy their outdoor ceremony during "an hour-long pocket without rain." When they moved inside for the reception, the couple's photographer came up to them to alert them of storms rolling in.

"We really wanted to do sunset photos, so our photographer came and grabbed us right when they passed out our dinner and was like, 'Hey, I know you guys are about to eat, but it looks like there's going to be some pretty severe storms coming in soon here. So we might want to go do them now.' "

The couple was able to get their pictures and made it back inside just as it started drizzling.

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"As soon as we got back inside, the first person to come up to us was our DJ . He tells us, 'The staff just gave me some news. They told me that we're now under a tornado watch. So, for safety and legal reasons, I have to make an announcement that if anybody would like to seek shelter, the basement's open to them.' "

The couple was interested to see how their guests would react. Alex found that, "In classic Midwest fashion, half of our wedding got up and immediately went outside to go see if they could see the storm."

A few minutes later, everyone was invited back inside the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa. As the crowd was "corralled" in, "everybody's phones started going off with that classic alert sound."

At the point the tornado watch turned into a tornado warning, seeking shelter became necessary.

"We all frantically started running downstairs. A lot of people came up to us and were like, 'Well, we'll do what you do.' So we're like, 'Well, we should probably make sure that everybody goes downstairs, just to look out for people's safety,' " Alex says.

<p>Derrick Parsons</p> Alex and Sarah's guests check out tornado warnings

Derrick Parsons

Alex and Sarah's guests check out tornado warnings

While the evening took a turn, Sarah says it was important to them to "mingle and make sure our guests were still having a good time."

"One guy in our wedding party was really sweet and braved the storm, went upstairs to grab a Bluetooth speaker, and brought down a bunch of drinks with him, to keep the vibe of the party going. Then all of a sudden, the lights go out," she shares.

At the realization the power was out throughout the whole building, "chaos ensued."

"A bunch of kids that I coach came up to me in tears. They were freaking out and I was like, 'Hey, there's a dog down here. Go hang out with the dog,' " Sarah says. "Then I had a bunch of strangers coming up to me saying, 'Hey, have you had your first dance yet?' "

<p>Derrick Parsons</p> Sarah awaits Alex to join them for the impromptu first dance

Derrick Parsons

Sarah awaits Alex to join them for the impromptu first dance

That bunch of strangers were there celebrating a family reunion. Among them was Jack Jones, an amateur musician who happened to know a number of songs that would be perfect for the occasion.

"We had just finished dinner. My dad was emceeing and he'd just gotten up to do family trivia," says Jack. "I was planning to sing two songs, and right when I was about to go up, the power went out. Once the power went out, they started letting people into our room from the basement hallway."

While everyone was handling the chaos within their own group, Sarah was looking for Alex for the first dance moment. Meanwhile, Jack was being clued in as well.

"A couple of different family members of mine mentioned that there was a wedding party outside and the couple hadn't had their first dance. They explained that they already told them I had a guitar and knew some songs. I said, 'Sure,' but didn't actually get to meet the bride and groom until after I sang."

<p>Derrick Parsons</p> Sarah and Alex enjoy their first dance

Derrick Parsons

Sarah and Alex enjoy their first dance

Jack chose to sing Ed Sheeran's "Perfect" as guests from both parties held up cell phones and flashlights to light the moment.

"We started dancing and it was surreal at first. It was surprising, like 'How did I get in this scenario?' And then the whole room joined in on singing it and I could just feel the love. My faith in humanity was restored," Sarah says.

"It was really sweet and it was cool dancing to all the flashlights. The pictures that we got from it were amazing. It looked like we were the only two people there."

The beautiful video that resulted has gone viral on TikTok, amassing over 1 million views in just a matter of days. For Jack, it was an "awesome" moment, though he was thankful the darkness kept him from focusing on around 300 people watching him perform.

"The photographer, Derrick Parsons, came up to me right after and said, 'Hey, I've done 200 weddings or so and this is the coolest moment I've ever been able to capture.' "

"Everyone could feel in the room just how special it was. It's one of those life moments that is unplanned. I couldn't allow myself to cry at all because I was singing, but I was looking around and my family was crying. The bride and groom were crying. The wedding party was crying. It was a very emotional moment for people," Jack says.

"I think it brought a lot of hope to people of what humans can do when you come together. The best part was that everyone there genuinely wanted to do it for Alex and Sarah and make the most of their wedding day despite the tornado."

<p>Derrick Parsons</p> Sarah dabs at tears amid her and Alex's first dance

Derrick Parsons

Sarah dabs at tears amid her and Alex's first dance

Alex says it spoke to "that classic Midwest trope of how everyone treats each other like family."

"Here we are with a solid amount of our wedding, plus all of these strangers who, in that moment, felt like family. We've never met these people before and they're crying and taking videos. It was truly just a moment of community. It was surreal."

<p>Derrick Parsons</p> Jack Jones and Sarah Hipke

Derrick Parsons

Jack Jones and Sarah Hipke

The group was downstairs for about two hours before the tornado warning was lifted and guests returned to their respective parties.

Skip Harless, Managing Director, Grand Geneva Resort & Spa, tells PEOPLE that the moment was very "heartwarming" for the different staffers helping out with both occasions that day.

“It’s heartwarming knowing that all different guests and our amazing staff came together to make the best out of a difficult situation for this bride and groom," Harless says. "Grand Geneva Resort & Spa’s goal is to create lasting memories and this will certainly be one for many.”

"We go back to the ballroom and it just so happened that our DJ had 40 uplights that were battery-powered, so the whole room was actually lit up in a shade of blue," Alex says.

<p>Derrick Parsons</p> Speeches during Alex and Sarah's wedding were read by flashlight

Derrick Parsons

Speeches during Alex and Sarah's wedding were read by flashlight

"Without a microphone or anything, we tried to yell to the whole group for the speeches. Then, we did the first dance that we had actually practiced — La Vie en Rose by Louis Armstrong. We took four weeks of dance lessons to learn how to ballroom dance so we could do our thing. And so everything continued with a Bluetooth speaker and some yelling across the room."

A guest even managed to get a grand piano wheeled in from a different part of the hotel and played for the second half of the reception.

"Every moment after the power went out was just magical," Alex says. "You spend all this time planning and everyone knows that your wedding day isn't going to go exactly as you planned it. It's up to you and the people around you to keep it running. If you make it about what doesn't go according to plan, you're really only going to look back and think of that instead of all the good things."

"We really felt that we only get one shot at this," Sarah adds. "We might as well have fun with it."

<p>Derrick Parsons</p> Alex Schilke and Sarah Hipke's second first dance

Derrick Parsons

Alex Schilke and Sarah Hipke's second first dance

Many of the people who watched the special moment unfold took video. Among them was Jack's brother, who sent him the video that has since gone viral.

"It was definitely a surprise that it blew up the way it did. I think it's been great. The comments have been very uplifting. A lot of times, I go on social media and I exit the apps feeling worse, but this feels like spreading joy," the singer shares.

"It's been really cool to see so many people connect with Alex and Sarah's love story. A lot of people are writing, 'If rain on your wedding day is good luck, a tornado must be unbelievable luck.'"

"It's a pretty memorable wedding day for sure," Alex notes. "Some people mentioned to us, 'You know people are going to talk about this forever.' We just wanted to continue to make it more memorable by just running with it."

<p>Derrick Parsons</p> Alex and Sarah hugging guests at the wedding

Derrick Parsons

Alex and Sarah hugging guests at the wedding

Jack says he's "super appreciative that Sarah and Alex allowed me to play and be a small part of their big day."

"My family kept talking about how we were bummed that our reunion was a bit messed up and we couldn't do everything we wanted, but then we gained perspective and said, 'Oh, this is someone's wedding, and they're still so upbeat.' They were so kind despite the unusual circumstances."

<p>Derrick Parsons</p> Group shot from Alex and Sarah's wedding

Derrick Parsons

Group shot from Alex and Sarah's wedding

The couple — who, ironically, got engaged amid a tornado watch in May 2022 — were grateful for everyone involved who kept spirits up throughout their special day.

"It was really impressive to watch them manage everything, especially our photographer who got some incredible, incredible photos. Also, all of our family and friends who taught us how to navigate moments like this."

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