Photo: Belathee Photography
I spent nine months planning my wedding. That means that for each hour of the five-hour event, I put in around 1,200 hours looking for venues, tasting appetizers, and perusing stationery online. Okay, that's an exaggeration—I do have a job and a life, and I like to sleep. But the fact remains: We brides put a lot of effort into planning, and in spite of all that painstaking prep work, some things are out of our control. To soften the blow, people tell you these curveballs are good luck. They say that about rain on your wedding day. If that's true, I'm in for a very lucky marriage.
Jared and I were engaged in February 2012. He's from Oklahoma, and I'm from Westchester, New York, and we live in New York City, so we decided to have the wedding in Manhattan. A few weeks after he proposed, with my ring still a strange and delightful surprise every time I looked at my hand, I went to check out locations. After the requisite duds—too big, too small, too ornate, too stark, too funeral home-ish—twe found the perfect place, a brick performance space called Cedar Lake Theater. Not far from the Hudson River, it was chic but also warm and inviting. The ceilings were high, with stage lighting, and the wooden floors were worn from professional dance performances. It was really cool. We paid the deposit for November 10, opted for wedding insurance, and dove into the planning.
See more: 50 Romantic Wedding Venues in the U.S.
In the meantime I started a new job, and we got a second cat and moved into a new apartment. Through all that welcome upheaval, I managed to remain pretty calm about the wedding, thanks to my kick-ass wedding planner, Annie Lee, and my helpful-but-not-pushy mom. And I was shocked at how quickly the time passed: Just as I was getting used to calling Jared my fiancé, the wedding was two weeks away and I'd had my last dress fitting.
See more: How to Buy a Wedding Gown
Then, right as the "OMG! Your wedding is so soon!" emails started coming, the weather people freaked out. A massive hurricane named Sandy was moving up the East Coast. Like the rest of New York, Jared and I watched the storm's progress, hoping it would veer out to sea. It seemed like such a simple thing: Turn right! On the night of October 29, the wind and rain battered the trees on our street. We opened a bottle of wine and hoped for the best. Then the lights went out.
They stayed out for almost a week, and President Obama declared our city a disaster zone, with neighborhoods completely underwater and all of downtown without power. Low-lying areas like Far Rockaway and Staten Island took the worst of it—ocean swells swallowing entire houses. We were grateful that everyone we loved was safe, and that we'd found a hotel room in Midtown with toilets that actually flushed. We spent a few sleepless days trudging back and forth to our darkened apartment to feed our cats. With the wedding just days away and Jared's family still planning to fly in from Oklahoma, we had no idea if Cedar Lake had survived the storm. Turns out, it hadn't: The building was flooded with three feet of water, and there was no way we'd be able to have the wedding there.
Photo: Michael Bocchieri/Getty Images
Once it was clear that we had one week to find a new venue, I started to unravel. With three days to go, my mom, Annie, and I were in a cab, stuck in traffic, heading uptown to see a hotel ballroom, one of the few places that could fit 180 people for dinner and dancing that wasn't already booked. I was late for work, exhausted, and, of course, PMSing. (Is that also good luck on your wedding day?) My poor mom, who was as tired and stressed as I was, accidentally elbowed me in the side. "Do not touch me!!" I yelled at her. "I need to get out of this cab!" I screamed at no one. Annie looked scared. It was a low moment.
We booked the next place we saw, a loftlike space called Jack Studios. The vibe was different from Cedar Lake—the stark white walls worried me. Would it seem too industrial? Too unfriendly? But we didn't really have a choice. The next few days were a haze of replanning: figuring out the room configuration, making decisions about the new decor, and trying to find space for our caterers. (They ended up using one of the bathrooms to store ice.) We sent an email to our guests explaining the change and crossed our fingers that Jack Studios' generator would hold up till we cut the cake.
Thankfully, it did. And though the wedding wasn't what I'd envisioned, it was beautiful. Real tragedies emerged in the storm's aftermath, and my saga is trivial compared with what others went through. But for many of us, what Sandy brought—besides a seriously messed-up commute—was gratitude for what we had. As soon as I stepped out with my parents to walk down the aisle, I understood that our "lighting strategy" was trivial; what mattered was that I was about to marry Jared and everyone we cared about was sitting in that room. By then, having the wedding felt like the right thing to do, giving our guests a respite from all the anxiety of the previous week. As our officiant put it: We're warm, dry, and excited to be together. Now it's time to drink and dance."
Everyone tells you that your wedding will be a blur. They're right. No sooner were Jared and I sharing our first kiss as a married couple than the DJ was playing the final song. The first year has flown by too. As the anniversary of Sandy approaches, we'll toast the good luck all that rain brought us, having learned two crucial things: One, more than anything else, a wedding is about the people. And, two, always get the insurance.