hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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December 12, 2013

From the battlefield to the altar

City company provides plush wedding for wounded warriors

For Mark Leonard and Rachel Blydenburgh, a storybook meeting is leading to a dream wedding.

As members of the U.S. military, they made it through tough times in Afghanistan and met as wounded warriors.

Now they are planning to hold their wedding, courtesy of Renaissance Golf Club’s offer to sponsor a Wounded Warrior Wedding celebration, at the posh 30,000-square-foot clubhouse on Kenoza Street. It will be as American as possible — falling on July 4.

Leonard and Blydenburgh met over morning coffee at a friend’s apartment while still in the Army. They quickly developed a close relationship.

Engaged in June, they decided they wanted a vintage wedding, something out of the novel, “The Great Gatsby.’’ They knew it would take time for that to happen because they would have to save plenty of money.

“We like the vintage and style from that era, the 1920s, not the money but the texture and fulfilling lifestyle from that period,” Blydenburgh said. “I’ve read Gatsby so many times.’’

Typically, a wedding like the one Renaissance plans to put together for Leonard and Blydenburgh will cost from $150 to $300 per person, said Cindy Lawrence, meeting and public relations director for Southworth, the company which owns Renaissance. The couple expects 120 people for the event.

The couple now lives in Canton. They met while recuperating from injuries sustained while in the military with U.S. Forces in Afghanistan. They were at Fort Drum in upstate New York, where Leonard was recovering in a Wounded Warrior program and Blydenburgh waited for retirement status because of injuries. She damaged her spine while on operations as an interpreter for an engineering group, and needed back surgery. He suffered a neck injury as the result of a vehicle rollover.

That is where Southworth Development from Newton, Mass., the owners of Renaissance in Haverhill, stepped in. Southworth offered to pay for the wedding the couple wanted. The wedding will help get them on their way to re-entering civilian life as a settled married couple with a family. They have an 18-month-old daughter, Scarlett.

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