April 12, 2003 was the day Mark and I were married. It was also the day Laci Peterson’s body washed up to shore. No joke… The storm that ripped through our wedding was quite famous… I’d wanted to get married at The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco since I was a little girl, and I was determined to make that happen. So even though there was a storm, a dead grandmother, a burned bridesmaid dress, a hole in my train, dead roses, a car accident, and another $4,000 spent, we got married under the rotunda.
We had the Penthouse at Hotel Union Square for our wedding, and it was abuzz with a makeup artist, hair stylist, manicurist, and bridesmaids trying to save our wedding. It was, in short, a madhouse. That morning it had been POURING rain sideways, much like Forest Gump in the jungle, and we were praying it would stop, but knew it wouldn’t. I talked on the phone to my coordinator constantly, worried about the guests waiting in the cold, worried about if my dad was there yet, worried about how we were already an hour late and still had no plan B. “It’s beautiful out here,” She said. “It’s cold, but we’re under the rotunda and it’s dry. You should still have the ceremony here.” So that was the plan. But with a wind chill of 50 degrees, we had to move the reception inside.
What else could go wrong?
While I was getting my nails done, one of my bridesmaids was ironing her dress and burned a hole in the shoulder strap, RIGHT in front. She froze in terror. I told her to go across the street to Clair’s and buy a pin to cover it. Problem solved. What else could go wrong?
While getting my hair done, my BFF Sarah came up to me holding my train and looking terrified. “Um… Don’t freak out ok?” she said.
“Um… I closed the closet and your train got caught in the tracks and…” she showed me the hole. Poor Sarah was convinced I was going to think she did it on purpose and kill her. She was having a hard time with my wedding, but of course I knew it was an accident.
“OK, no one will notice,” I said. No big deal. What ELSE could go wrong?!
Mark came to the hotel and our entire bridal party went downstairs to talk to the concierge AGAIN, me in full hair and makeup and pajamas. The amazing concierge had been on the phone for HOURS looking for a space for us. (What kind of hotel doesn’t have a restaurant we can party in?!?!) Our bridesmaids were doing everything they could to help him, and when Sarah started to cry, Meredith sternly said, “DON’T YOU DARE CRY!!!” And through the whole thing, Mark and I were chilling in big chairs in the lobby, cool as cucumbers. “How can you be so calm?!” someone asked us. I shrugged and answered, “There’s nothing we can do about it.” We knew we’d just have to throw money at it and hope for the best.
Meanwhile, back at the Palace, the mushroom heaters had been pulled out of the rental truck and people were huddled around them as the DJ played tunes. Thank GOD for our groomsmen and my coordinator! They were able to keep the guests from turning into popsicles while they waited. Our poor caterer (from Turlock) was parked on a side street in the city for three hours, waiting to hear where they were to go. (After our wedding she got out of the catering business. Shocking, I know.)
The concierge found us a downtown restaurant to move the reception to, and although it was going to cost us an extra $2,000, we were fine with it. My bridesmaids threw money at the kind concierge, everyone highlighted maps, and Mark headed to the Palace. Us girls thew on our dresses and piled into cars. When we drove up to the palace it looked like something out of a fairytale. The wispy trees were blowing in the soft rain and it was silent. It was magical… I was getting married and nothing else could go wrong…
Then Mark got a phone call from the owner of the restaurant where our reception was being held, informing him that it would cost $3,000 because we’d be using their plates. The men loaded our rented plates on the coordinator’s hubby’s truck and he took off to deliver them to the restaurant.
Nothing else could go wrong.
Sarah, Rachel, and I waited in the car at the Palace and Rachel’s hubby handed us our flowers. Sarah and I both had dead, nasty roses in our bouquets (turns out calla lilies kill roses if left in the fridge), so we just yanked those out and threw them out the window. We were ready to go!!!
Fifteen minutes later we were ready to go!!!
Another fifteen minutes later and we were still ready to go!!!
Where was the rest of the bridal party for God’s sake we’re already two hours late!!!
Matt, a groomsmen, ran up to our car to tell us that his wife Summer (another bridesmaid) had been rear-ended in the parking garage back at the hotel, and he freaked out because she was 3 months pregnant. Thankfully, she wasn’t hurt, and they were held up because of exchanging information with the other driver, AND they couldn’t find their parking ticket and had to go back inside to resolve it.
Who knows how long after, they showed up and we all were driven down into the rotunda. The wedding was starting and nothing ELSE could possibly go wrong!
Our ceremony was BEAUTIFUL. My Papa walked me down the aisle toward the love of my life, and even though it was FREEZING, I didn’t care, because my childhood dream had finally come true. A close friend of the family, Ed Stein, married us in eight minutes because of the cold, and he still managed to make the ceremony personal, spiritual, and lovely. There were laughs and tears. It was perfect.
As soon as we kissed and walked up the aisle, everyone converged on us and my mom was coming right at me, saying, “You look so pretty!!!” “My mom!” I said, hugging her. It was definitely the most special moment of our relationship. Then I looked at Mark and said, “Get me out of here,” as I shivered uncontrollably.
We had planned to do all the family photos before the ceremony, but because of the rain, we did NONE. I didn’t really care, because the candid photos that caught amazing moments were more special. Bridal party photos back at the hotel were a disaster. We were constantly missing at least one bridal party member because of the chaos, the reception needing to be set up, etc. But we still got some amazing photos. I was very bummed out we couldn’t do photos at the Palace, as it was my dream to be married there, but I could live with it. Not only was it pouring rain, but it was under construction. (Of course.)
Mark got another phone call from the owner of the restaurant where the reception would be held, informed him that it would be $3,000 because of using their linens. At that point, they had already set up and there was nothing we could do. We were at their mercy, so we said OK.
The restaurant was only a few blocks from the hotel, so we walked as the photographers took photos. We even stopped on the street to take more bridal party pics. It had even stopped raining.
When we entered the reception, people were talking and drinking and having a blast while the Beatles blasted on the sound system. The appetizers had been a hit! My mom ran up to me and said, excited, “It’s like a fairytale! You’re wedding is like a fairytale!” It was so sweet and to this day makes me smile. No one cared about the problems and lateness. They were warm, dry, and full of wine and Italian food. Nothing else could go wrong…
Until the restaurant’s owner approached Mark to tell him our bill had gone up to $4,000. It was EXTORTION at New Delhi Restaurant, and we couldn’t do a thing about it, so we paid. OUCH did that hurt or what!?
Regardless, we had an amazing, fun reception. The food was AMAZEBALLS. Seriously, people still talk about it eleven years later. Seafood-stuffed manicotti, roasted chicken, baby potatoes, long-stem strawberries, baby greens with rose petals, and all the wine and champagne we could drink. Dinner was PERFECT! Until I lit a napkin on fire. It was, however, the last thing to go wrong that day. We danced and partied and loved each other.
Our wedding, wow… What … a disaster. My grandmother even died two months before the wedding! That tore me up!!! But regardless, Mark and I were joined as man and wife, and THAT is what’s important. We have an amazing marriage and tons of great stories about our cursed wedding. It had made us very sympathetic wedding photographers. Our honeymoon was AMAZING! And in the airport on the way home we watched the news to learn that Laci Peterson’s body had been washed up by the same storm that ripped through our wedding. That was just the weird cherry on top of this messy sundae.
The problems on our wedding day didn’t derail me. I’ve always been amazing under pressure, something I got from my Papa. He taught me that crying about a situation does no good, so deal with it and make the best of it. That’s the best advice I can give to any bride and groom. Regardless of what happens, don’t let it ruin your day, because at the end of the day, you will be joined as one, and that’s all that matters.
*Photos by Phillip Johnson