If rain is lucky on a wedding day, what does fire mean?

It was an outstandingly beautiful day for a wedding in DC in August. Amazingly, it wasn’t too hot outside. The couple, Bridget and Rick, were looking stunning. Daniel McGarrity was nice enough to let me 2nd shoot again. We ended up having a blast getting the shot in front of the Capitol building. It once again proved that if you are in a wedding dress you can get away with just about anything, including stopping traffic on a major thoroughfare without having anyone honk at you. After that stop the party went on to have a lovely ceremony.

Bridget Rick Ceremony Catholic Church

As we started to take the formal photos, some whisperings began… “There is no power downtown” “No one is answering at the reception site” “People aren’t being allowed back into the hotel” “All the streets are closed!” “There is a fire downtown!” We didn’t think any of these things were possible, but all were actually true. There had been an underground transformer explosion that resulted in a fire behind the Willard hotel, right across the street from the Marriott where the guests were staying and less than a block from the National Press Club where Bridget and Rick were having their reception.

Fire Trucks from Transformer Explosion
Image by Robert Miller/Washington Post

Bridget and Rick held it together amazingly! Bridget didn’t even shed a tear. She just said, ok everyone, lets get on the shuttle and we’ll figure it out as we drive back. Her mother got on the shuttle’s PA system and said, “Is everyone having a good time?!” Everyone on the bus cheered. No matter what happened, this group was going to make it a fun night. Eventually the bus made its way to about a block from the hotel, which was now allowing guests in from an alternate entrance. At the same time the fire happened in the Willard hotel, another wedding was going on, and they all had to be evacuated. So the Marriott’s lobby was now filled with about 400 wedding guests for weddings that weren’t going on in their hotel and hundreds of confused tourists. It was a sight to be seen.

Two evacuated brides

Eventually the Marriott gave us a small conference room. The groomsmen got industrious and walked several blocks to the closest McDonald’s and got cheese burgers for everyone and also went to a liquor store and got wine and champagne.

cheeseburger and wine

Not knowing whether or not the Press Club would eventually open up that night, Bridget and Rick decided that the show must go on. Her sister made a wonderful matron of honor toast, and one of Rick’s groomsmen, Tap, had everyone in stitches during his. The most touching moment of the night was definitely when Bridget’s brother, who was the Cantor at the wedding, sang (totally unplanned and unrehearsed) “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” acapella, so that they could still have a first dance. It brought tears to many an eye.

Eventually the power came back on at the Press Club, so the official reception started at 10:30pm. Because of the evacuation, the caterers had been told to go home, so Bridget and Rick ordered 50 pizzas. It wasn’t the maryland crab cakes they had hoped to serve, but it was still delish!

eating pizza

It took a while for the band to make its way back into the city so we jury-rigged a guest’s iPhone into the system, and voila, music. Eventually the band got there and everyone said it was one of the most fun, and definitely the most memorable wedding they ever went to.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Janet Hawkins


    I LOVE this story! What a memorable wedding, and the bride and groom seemed to be such good sports about it.

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