Our New York Times. SundayStyles. Page 14 (and 18).
Thank you, David Stubbs, for shooting us in the rain. And thank you everyone for celebrating in stormy style!
A Wedding Crasher Named Irene
By LAUREN M. WHALEY
THE lights flickered. The music stopped. The dancers stood still. We could hear the horizontal rain drumming the tent flaps.
For months before, from our Los Angeles apartment, Jake de Grazia and I had envisioned our three-day homegrown wedding on Jake’s family farm in Chadds Ford, Pa., about 25 miles west of Philadelphia.
In the end, nature disrupted our plans by sending the ultimate wedding crasher — Irene.
At 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 27, about 230 fearless guests watched the ceremony begin. (We had expected to hold our ceremony in the late afternoon sunlight on the edge of a field of sunflowers, but relocated to the old barn, in preparation for Irene’s arrival.)
But by 10:30 that stormy Saturday night, the band’s speakers had shorted out; the caterers, who had already served dinner and dessert in a tent on the property, were running for home (rumor has it that they were packing chainsaws to get through downed trees); and a handful of guests was following them out. But many other guests grabbed a second cup of gelato and gathered on the dance floor to sing a cappella.
My dad, a musician, left the tent and sprinted to the barn to check on his speakers there. After a few minutes, he was back. The speakers were on, and so was the party.
We all ran through the pouring rain, jumping puddles across the farm, and moved back into the barn. Our backup generator was in place; all we had to do was appoint a D.J.
Moments later, soaking-wet aunts, uncles, cousins and friends were dancing, singing and scavenging the heirloom tomatoes, homemade organic mozzarella and rum punch left over from the postceremony cocktail hour.
At 3:30 a.m., sipping fresh, unspiked watermelon juice from the carved melon itself, wearing my lacey mud-soaked wedding dress, I said good night to the remaining dancers. Our guests made it safely back to their homes or hotels or to neighbors’ places where they were staying. I could not have been happier and more relieved as we drove around downed trees and power lines to reach our honeymoon suite in Chadds Ford.
When we woke up four hours later, all roads were officially closed. The area, like so many others, was ravaged by the storm. But we wanted to rejoin our guests on the farm. We left the car at the hotel and waded back to the farmhouse, two miles down the road, the water rising as high as our chests as we walked. Jake carried our backpack on his head, I hiked my dress up to my armpits. We laughed most of the time in disbelief at our first adventure as husband and wife. We were the only ones on the road that day and we marveled at the quiet of our mini-honeymoon down the flooded road back to our friends and family.
Chadds Ford’s quiet little Brandywine River had reminded us just how much we humans cannot control.
By noon Sunday, our guests were stuck, either on the farm or in hotels. Our three-day wedding weekend turned into four for the 15 of us still on the farm. We spent the day playing cards by candlelight under the tent and hearing stories about how our stranded guests skinny-dipped in the pool in the storm and danced in the barn until 6:30 a.m.
As we ate leftover gelato, we thought about those suffering from the storm and its aftermath — far beyond being stuck, but safe, on a farm surrounded by loved ones.
Lauren M. Whaley is a multimedia reporter for the California HealthCare Foundation Center for Health Reporting in Alhambra, Calif.
A version of this article appeared in print on September 4, 2011, on page ST14 of the New York edition with the headline: A Wedding Crasher Named Irene.