LEBANON, Tenn. (WKRN) — About a month and a half before Mary Cate and Eli Holbrook, of Lebanon, got married, Alan Pruitt received a phone call.

It was Mary Cate’s mother, Leah Lilly, with an unusual request: she wanted to know if Pruitt could close his South Cumberland Street Waffle House and let her daughter have her wedding reception inside.

“At first, I was like, ‘I don’t know. I’ve not done this before. I’ll have to talk to my bosses to see what I can do,'” he told News 2.

Waffle House couple
Newlyweds Mary Cate and Eli Holbrook held their wedding reception at a Waffle House in Lebanon, Tennessee. (Courtesy: Jessica Hamblen with Life Through a Lens)

Even more unusual was the fact that Mary Cate and her family were trying to surprise her groom with the reception location.

Eli’s favorite restaurant is Waffle House, Lilly told Pruitt.

“They wanted to see what I could do as far as helping make that happen,” he said. “I’m willing to give it a try.”

After conferring with those higher up the food chain, Pruitt said they figured out about how much the store might make on a Sunday evening when the reception would be taking place, and weighed whether or not the reception could yield that much money.

“We agreed that we would give it a shot,” he said.

Waffle House couple
Newlyweds Mary Cate and Eli Holbrook held their wedding reception at a Waffle House in Lebanon, Tennessee. (Courtesy: Jessica Hamblen with Life Through a Lens)

That day was staffed like normal, Pruitt said, with two salespeople and one full cook. Pruitt was also on hand to help with anything that may arise or assist as needed. But the store was cleaned from top to bottom in order to give the best presentation possible.

“We wanted to make sure that the restaurant looked very presentable and set up enough chairs and place settings for them,” he said.

The team also set up a place for the happy couple to have their first dance and to set up their own refreshments.

“We were trying to be very accommodating to whatever their needs may or may not have been,” he said.

Other than that, all the guests ordered off the regular menu, which is filled with classic staples such as the All-Star Special, breakfast melts, hamburgers and the iconic Bert’s chili. The only special request was for one heart-shaped hashbrown, which Pruitt himself put together on the griddle.

“It wasn’t the best-looking one, however, I think it turned out pretty good. It was pretty impressive,” he said, noting it took about the same amount of hashbrowns as a standard double order.

Overall, Pruitt said he was thrilled to be able to help the families pull off that kind of surprise for the groom, particularly since Waffle House is his favorite restaurant.

Waffle House couple
Newlyweds Mary Cate and Eli Holbrook held their wedding reception at a Waffle House in Lebanon, Tennessee. (Courtesy: Jessica Hamblen with Life Through a Lens)

“In that moment, I was just so excited and so happy for them to know that they pulled off a perfect surprise for the groom,” he said. “To know we’re his favorite restaurant, it makes you feel good to know that and that it’s something that they wanted and were happy with in the long run. I was just overjoyed of how it turned out, from the reactions of the guests, and my staff was so willing and eager to help.”

The whole night was a first for Pruitt, who said he’d never been asked to completely close down his store for an entire night before.

“This was my first time actually closing down the restaurant,” he said. “Whenever I used to work down in Auburn, Alabama, we’d get requests to cater sororities and fraternities, but to actually close down a restaurant for a time period for a private event like that, I’ve never gotten a request for that.”

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Waffle Houses are famous for never closing for anything, operating 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. There’s even an unofficial “index” to judge the severity of storms like hurricanes or tornadoes based on if the local Waffle Houses remain open. So to be asked to close the store for a wedding reception is largely unheard of.

The most Pruitt could think of any Waffle Houses doing something like his store did was a store in North Carolina that had an actual wedding take place inside, but his best recollection is that the store was never fully closed.

“The customers were actually part of the crowd,” he said.

Ultimately, Pruitt said closing down for a day was a show of good community and goodwill for the brand, a moment of lightness in an otherwise dark association with the Waffle House name.

“I appreciate them giving us the opportunity to make this happen,” he told News 2. “It has just really blown my mind at how statewide and nationwide this has become a thing. You see so much negative come from the Waffle House brand itself. To know you can see something positive come from a Waffle House, it makes me excited and happy to know that it came from my restaurant.”

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He added it was overwhelming to see Waffle House take care of another family like it has his for a significant portion of his life. Pruitt has worked off and on with Waffle House in different capacities for 18 years, he said, and the company has helped take care of his family throughout the years.

“They have helped me when I was in high school in Alabama all the way up to different aspects of my life, and I can’t say enough how great of a company Waffle House is to work with,” he said.