It was supposed to rain on my wedding day.
For the ten days prior to October 24, 2009, the ten-day forecast had been grim: it was either going to rain, or pour, or thunderstorm, or intermittently spit at us as we attempted to take wedding photos in the Bishop’s Garden. None of the climatic possibilities looked good.
When I woke up on October 24, it was still dark out. But I didn’t hear any rain.
In the dark I reached over to the nightstand, grabbed my ipod, and and queued up the same playlist that had sung me to sleep the night before. But that wasn’t right. There was something else I needed to hear. There was a particular blessing that this day needed above all others.
In my first concert with the Cathedral Choral Society, we had performed the Berlioz Te Deum. It was the third movement of this, the Dignare, that needed to touch my wedding day before anything else did. I sat there, in my dark bedroom on the morning of the day that had been the object of so many nerves and so much planning, and let Hector Berlioz bless it for me.
With the warmth of the music still in the air around me and the goosebumps still fresh on my skin, I ventured out into the living room to confront the weather.
And it was not raining yet.
To be sure, it was cloudy and leaden out. But the windows, and the street outside them, were dry. It was also perplexingly warm out; my car thermometer flirted with sixty degrees as Elianna and I drove up to Friendship Heights for our wedding-morning ministrations at Red Door. The light that pushed through the high cloud cover was oddly bright on the late-October foliage. At one point, a few blocks past the Cathedral, I saw light — an actual shaft of sunlight — puncture the clouds and land on Connecticut Avenue in front of us.
“Is that what I think it is?” I asked Elianna. “Do you see what I see?”
“I do see it!” she answered.
I thought: I would dearly, dearly love to have even a dappling of sun on my wedding day. If it must rain, I continued in my head, let it finish by sunset so we can have sunset photos and dancing outdoors on the portico.
The light persisted ahead of us, brilliant, obstinate. “I would be thrilled,” I spoke aloud, carefully, “if the rest of this day stayed just like this.”
We arrived at Red Door early enough to find parking right on Connecticut Avenue, met up with Bethany and Tricia, and settled in to our various primping routines. We’d all signed up for airbrush makeup and manicures at Red Door. My bridesmaids were getting updos there as well; but since Heather was already on deck to do my hair, I opted for an hourlong massage instead.
BRIDE TIP #1: If humanly possible, get an hourlong massage first thing in the morning on your wedding day.
Not just because it’s relaxing. Not just because it’s moisturizing. But because a good massage can rearrange, balance, and release energies beyond your conscious reach. There, face down on the Red Door massage table, in a dimly lit room with faint gonging music in the background, I felt a greater and more intense affection for the entire goddamned universe than I’d ever imagined I could feel.
At that moment I loved every molecule and atom and idea in existence. I loved my masseuse and the Red Door Spa. I loved Washington, DC, both major political parties, and all three branches of government. I loved traffic and holding patterns and missed deadlines and industrial music and burnt soup. I loved any rain that might fall on my wedding day. I even loved my ex-husband. I delightedly met, greeted, and thanked every last minuscule aspect of the cosmos that had led me precisely to this, this perfect place.
I drifted back into the spa waiting room in a blissful near-swoon, sipping a glass of water with cucumber slices floating in it. There was a bridal magazine on the coffee table. I leafed through it, loved everything I saw, and tasted the particularly peaceful confidence that my own wedding would far surpass the pictures.
And then I noticed that it was raining out.
This was not the threatened downpour. No thunderheads were in evidence. The gray sky was high and bright and devoid of threateningly dark rainclouds. By the time Elianna and I emerged from the spa two hours later, airbrushed and manicured and ready for a wedding, the rain had stopped altogether.
“Perfect,” I told Elianna as I started the car. “Perfect, perfect, perfect. Let the whole day go just like this.”
Back at my condo, things were continuing to go well. Heather had gotten there early and was chilling with Elianna’s husband James when we arrived home. We set up shop in my master bathroom while the rest of the bridesmaid corps assembled in the living room: first Bethany and Trish, carpooling back from Red Door, then my cousin Sara, who did her own hair, and finally the ladies about to become my sisters-in-law, Katherine and Aimee, who had gone to Andre Chreky for their updos.
It is good to be the bride. I’ll say that. People will run to Whole Foods and bring you sushi unbidden, while artists work their magic on your physical appearance. A delivery guy will show up at your door and ask where he can unload your surprise catered lunch. And, when you immediately overreact to the delivery guy’s halting English by demanding who he is and what in fact he is seeking to deliver, because you are a tightly wound bride, someone will hand you a Xanax.
Ahhh. Much better.
BRIDE TIP #2: Have a Xanax handy on your wedding day. Appoint a trusted friend to administer it unto you when it becomes apparent to third parties that you need it.
So yes! Surprise catered lunch! The caterer we hired for the reception did have something called “Bridal Bites” included in the package we’d purchased, but I imagined this would consist of a plate of canapes and maybe some petits fours. Not five giant trays of sandwiches, an enormous salad, a cheese plate, a fruit plate, and a tray of brownies. Had we known this much was coming, the sushi run to Whole Foods might not have transpired. But because this was my wedding day, my cup was preordained to run[neth] over.
“Look!” someone exclaimed from the living room. I thought, oh, is it raining again? Please let it not be raining again.
But it wasn’t. The sidewalks were damp from this morning’s brief shower, but the clouds were still high and bright and holding out on us.
What had materialized outside my building was not bad weather, but our chariot: the big white Rolls-Royce Phantom in which my uncle Paul would ferry us to the Cathedral.
“Wow,” several of us breathed in unison.
The bridesmaids slung their cranberry chiffon gowns over their shoulders and parceled out into various cars. (My gown was already hanging in the Bishop’s dressing room, having been courteously ferried there this morning by my husband-to-be.) Bethany and Elianna and I climbed into the back of the Rolls, the other ladies in their cars fell in behind us, and we were off.
It wasn’t raining. The foliage was gorgeous. I was being ferried to my National Cathedral wedding, with two of my best friends, in a Rolls-Royce. I loved everyone and everything I saw. My only hope was that the whole day would go just. like. this.