Love in a Storm


When people tell you what they hope for on their wedding days, beautiful weather always tops the list. This makes sense; most couples (by no means all, though) choose a date based on the season. They often choose a location that showcases natural beauty. And once you do that-pick a field or a beach or a reception hall that overlooks a mountain range-you want the best from that location, be it the foliage or the warm sandy feet or the vista. You want your day to be what life and marriage truly are not-perfect.

The thing I say to couples when we’re talking about their forthcoming weddings (I have a tiny side gig officiating weddings) is this: the weather really doesn’t matter in the end. You do. Whatever the weather, yours will be a memorable, special event. The truth is, bad weather can make for an event that feels more memorable and, oddly, more special.

A few years back, I officiated at one very tiny ceremony on a hillside on a flower farm. It was early June; we were barely warm in sweaters, under umbrellas-and mist rose while rain fell. We listened to the pitter-patter against our tiny, nylon-domed roofs. There was gentleness to the moment-the soft grey light, the dewiness, and the moist earth receiving the rain. The couple themselves mirrored all of this, two women who’d been together for a very long time. They’d held a commitment ceremony years earlier before same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts. They’d decided to come to a rustic spot with their best friends to marry legally. As the ground did with the rain, they knew how to drink each other in by now. There was a delicate melding of sounds-their voices rereading vows recited once already and added to against the rain on the umbrellas. The scene could not have felt as truthful under bright sun, I don’t think. The moment called for the weather it received.

I’ve heard-in old wives’ tales and other lore-that bad weather weddings presage good marriages. Whether that’s the case or not, the one wedding I attended during a hurricane was definitely among the most memorable. The guests wore their nice clothes over their clunky rain boots. There was no other footwear to choose, because the ceremony took place under a tent by a country house with a rocky, muddy driveway. Under the tent, you heard the rain pound-an orchestra comprising solely  drums. You did not hear the minister speak nor the bride and groom recite their vows. You saw the ceremony, as if it were pantomimed. You huddled beside your fellow guests, the ones who loved the couple, for warmth and in solidarity. You felt hardy. You felt devoted. You believed in the marriage that much more because you gathered closely, with determination, around their union.

The reception took place inside the house, where guests filled the space with soggy, elated, companionable company and the rain continued to pound and the wind continued to howl and the sense of beating out the storm became a brave narrative to carry forward. It was, I am certain, much more fun than anything planned under the tents in the pretty summer weather. That sense of inventiveness and coziness and beating the odds outweighed whatever had been organized beforehand.

Maybe what less-than-perfect weather does is invite the stuff that isn’t perfect into the day’s events, not in a doom-and-gloomy way, but in a warm one, an embrace of the truth-that marriage isn’t about perfection. 

When you’ve spent so much time and energy and often invested so much money in one day, you can easily lose sight of the bigger picture. I officiated a wedding this fall, just ahead of hurricane Sandy’s projected arrival. The air was moist and chilled and the sky was an unusual fawnlike hue that made the photographer happy (“So much better than harsh sun,” she assured the groom). The air whipped about.

Amazingly, although the bride had on a sleeveless gown, she didn’t get goosebumps. What glowed was the bride’s and groom’s intense, absolute, joyful love for each other. It outshone any sun that could have been in the sky; it radiated in relief against the impending storm, as if it were strong enough to hold the whipping winds and pounding rain at bay. Theirs was a hard-won love-and the weather seemed to bow to this truth in a gentle, unusual, forgiving way. I don’t think it could have been any more apt or one bit more perfect.


Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Author: Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser's work has appeared on the New York Times, Salon, and the Manifest Station amongst other places. Find her on Twitter @standshadows

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