Shutdown averted, and the wedding goes on

April 9, 2011

The government shutdown brinksmanship offered lessons about the ways of Washington, about a president gearing up for reelection and a forceful opposition. It also offered a reminder about the power of poise and good karma, at least for people who believe in that type of thing.

“Keep a cool head and be nice to your venders and friends and family, and they’ll all rally with you and help you get through things,” said Kristin Mar, who rushed through arranging flowers and other wedding preparations Saturday, after her plans had been thrown off by the wrangling in Washington.

Mar, twice-laid-off architect who now works as human resources specialist in Leesburg, and Kam Hassan, a musician, loved the idea of getting married in an old Art Deco bumper car pavilion in Glen Echo Park and had reserved the funky wooden gathering space in September.

But Friday afternoon — with friends and relatives already in town from California, Texas and beyond — they were told the site, owned by the National Park Service, would be shuttered if the government ran out of money.

“She handled it better than I would have,” said Emily Rogers, who scrambled with other local park staff to find an emergency alternative at a community club house nearby.

“The great thing about Kristin is … she’s not going to be a Bridezilla. I’m the Groomzilla, actually,” Hassan said. But not really. He just took a little talking down. He wanted everyone to experience the beautiful neon lights of a historic former amusement park. “We didn’t want it to be cliché,” he said.

They spent Friday going through the motions of scouting the replacement site, planning catering contingencies and being better-natured than they had any right to be.

“If you freak out, or are mean to people, things aren’t going to work out. That’s my stance on life,” Mar said. “Our jobs are not at risk here. This is minor compared to other people.”

The two met six years ago in California. “The first feeling I got was, ‘Whoa. I don’t have a chance,’” Hassan said minutes before Saturday’s vows.

In their few private moments -- after their fathers met for the first time at Friday’s rehearsal dinner and before receiving the latest shutdown news — they talked through what was important.

“Our heads were all over the place,” he said. “We were like, ‘You know what? It doesn’t matter. These things always work themselves out.’”

Then a rush of text messages poured in from friends: There was a deal, and they were back on.

The “budget impending doom stories” were finally gone, Mar said. “When I opened up my MacBook, it refreshed on the Google News page and everything was okay. That was a nice change,” Mar said.

On Saturday she smiled for last-minute photos for friends in her strapless, knee-length dress, the chilly wind as irrelevant as the nation’s government. She walked in with her father, past toy bumper cars on the tables, and stood beside Hassan.

She promised to support him in whatever he wants, “even when you don’t know what you want.” Hassan, in bow tie and black leather Jack Purcell tennis shoes, picked up a guitar and sang his vows. “Kristin, it doesn’t end,” he said.

There was a Koran reading by his uncle, bubbles from the crowd, and a hand-holding exit to Huey Lewis and the News singing about the power of love. They walked to the 1920s-era carousel just outside, Hassan lifted her up onto a lion and they kissed.

“I’m really, really happy with the way things turned out. It’s who we are,” Mar said. “It’s like nothing ever happened.”

Mike Laris came to Post by way of Los Angeles and Beijing. He’s written about the world’s greatest holstein bull, earth’s biggest pork producer, home builders, the homeless, steel workers and Italian tumors.
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