ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - A couple says a "wedding crasher" showed up and ruined their dream day, but the St. Augustine employee accused of doing the crashing says she was only doing her job.
The confrontation during the wedding Dec. 23 in Downtown St. Augustine all revolved around a horse, which was being ridden by the groom during a traditional Indian wedding, called a Baraat.
The bride, Dacia, a practicing Christian, and the groom, Erich, wanted a traditional Indian wedding. The pair planned for both two ceremonies on the same day to honor their different faiths.
"We really want to bring both of our cultures together, we are very family oriented, we wanted to respect both of our cultures, and background."
The ceremony quickly changed from a celebration to a verbal and physical conflict -- just before the groom arrived on his horse to meet his bride and exchange their vows.
Wanda Bray, who was the St. Augustine Event Administrator at the time of the wedding and was wearing a red shirt, is seen on video walking into the ceremony and trying to block the horse's path with her body. She is then seen grabbing the reins of the horse.
"At that point, it went from disrespectful to being dangerous. The horse was getting startled. I could have been bucked off. That could have been a dangerous situation," Erich said.
Witnesses told the I-TEAM Bray was yelling at the groom, telling him he didn't have a permit for the horse. But, Erich alleges Bray said much more than that.
"She mentioned things like, 'You can't have this Indian wedding here. I'm not going to let this Indian wedding happen," Enrich told us. "It definitely insinuated that there was some bias of ethnicity."
Erich and Dacia's wedding planner and the horse vendor both told News4Jax, they too heard Bray make insensitive comments about the traditional Indian ceremony.
The video goes on to show the music stopping and the crowd pausing in astonishment.
But, after a short time, the music can be heard again and the invited guest start dancing right in front of Bray.
Bray eventually walked away and contacted police. She gave this statement to the St. Augustine Police Department:
A permit was issued for use of the Gazebo in conjunction with a Hindu Wedding @ the Treasury. The permit and accompanying emails state that no horse or other animals are allowed."
A closer look at the permit shows horses are not permitted. And in an email obtained by the I-TEAM, the couple's wedding planner informed the city that there would not be a horse. Erich however, said they were told different.
"We spoke with the horse vendor, we spoke to the event manager at the venue. Everyone assured us the horse was not going to be an issue," said Erich.
The I-TEAM was able to reach Bray by phone, and in that conversation, she denied saying anything about the nationality of the groom or the guests at the wedding. Instead, she said the issue only revolved around the horse, and the fact that there was no permit.
City of St. Augustine spokesman Paul Williamson told the I-TEAM Bray retired in January after working for the city for 10 years. He then added, "This is a matter of potential litigation, and the city will not comment any further."
Bray filed a complaint with police against Erich and some guests for battery, alleging they grabbed her to get her away from the horse.
The horse vendor, Nicole Pinto, also filed a complaint with police, but against Bray, accusing her of grabbing the reins of the horse and putting people in danger.
The St. Augustine Police Department said its detectives reviewed both cases and closed them, saying they did not find enough evidence to prove any crimes were committed.
As for Erich, he said if police had asked him to get off of the horse, he would have obeyed their commands. It's the alleged comment Bray made about his Indian nationality that upsets him and his new bride Dacia to this day.
"I think she took some special parts of our day and ruined it," said Dacia. "To be blunt, I think she ruined some special moments we had."
The director of Public Affairs for St. Augustine told the I-TEAM that the wedding industry is exploding and they receive all kinds of special requests from people, which even include closing down city streets.
For those planning a wedding in St. Augustine, don't only rely on the wedding planner or any vendors involved. It's important to understand the city permitting process yourself to avoid an instance like this one.
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