By Michelle Boorstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 7, 2010; A15
For much of Washington, Saturday was about treacherous roads, grounded planes, the threat of losing heat or light. For Barb McCuen and Dave Jones, it was about love. It was their wedding day.
With vanishing guests and dry-cleaned dresses tucked into snowsuits, getting married during a blizzard can increase the stress of an intense day. But it also can showcase the best in people -- the hairdresser who walks two miles to put your veil on at the church, the stranger at Dupont Circle who shows your out-of-town brother and his young kids the way back to their hotel, and the photographer from Annapolis who sleeps on your couch so she won't miss the event.
But first, the inevitable stress, and how it nearly sent McCuen over the edge about noon.
The van that was supposed to ferry her and her wedding party from the hair salon to the hotel had been stuck in a snowdrift for a half-hour, and the hairdresser was going at the spinning wheel with a shovel. The driver was sweaty from pushing. Cancellation calls and texts poured in.
The 37-year-old Web manager put her head down as she sat in the van, a shower cap over her just-done do. Her maid of honor, Wendy Sussman, was reassuring.
"It'll be okay," said Sussman, set to give birth any day now, as McCuen made what sounded like a sob.
"I'm not crying, I'm laughing--or trying," McCuen said. "This was definitely a scenario I had in my head that could happen."
Her father had been hospitalized a few days earlier with a potential heart attack. And what appeared to be an epic storm was threatening their plans to get 150 guests from across the country to All Souls Unitarian Church in Northwest Washington.
In a sense, the day was perfect: a trial-by-fire lesson in marriage, which is all about rolling with things, teaming up when the unforeseen strikes.
The romance of McCuen and Jones, 40, had a nondescript start. In fact, Jones, a librarian from New Jersey, doesn't even remember the first time they met, at a dinner party in 2002. They met again, in 2006, and began dating. Broke up after four months. Got back together for a month in fall 2007. It wasn't until May 2008, when she moved to Barcelona, that it hit them: They wanted to be together.
"It sounds typical, but we had walls up," she said a day before the wedding.
"We did NOT break up because of that," Jones, a free spirit who has a "throatee" (picture a goatee, moved south). He said he was unsure whether the two were better suited to be friends instead of lovers.
No matter. From May 2008 they were likethis, until a drizzly dusk in June when Jones took McCuen to a favorite spot in Rock Creek Park and popped the question.
And a wedding seemed fun, until fall, when McCuen's father, Doug, a 68-year-old lawyer, had a heart attack. Suddenly, it seemed urgent.
"The thought of my dad not being there is unbearable," McCuen said.
Then there were a few weather-related signs from above. The December snowstorm made them think that they had dodged the region's annual major storm. When another storm hit Jan. 30, the wedding date they had picked when they got engaged, they thought the stars were aligned. But Tuesday, as reports of a major storm brewed and her father was hospitalized with chest pains, any thoughts of postponing the wedding seemed ridiculous to the couple.
On Saturday, outside the Urban Escape hair salon in Adams Morgan, McCuen, her mother and future mother-in-law maneuvered over a thigh-high snowbank to get to the door. "I told a friend months ago, my two big fears for my wedding were getting the swine flu and a blizzard," McCuen said. "I got vaccinated."
The couple had already made a flurry of changes to their wedding day.
Too busy with storm chaos to print programs on the fancy paper they had purchased, McCuen copied them on simple purple office paper, adding this quote: "Kindness is like snow; it beautifies everything it covers." The reception hall in Northeast agreed to allow wedding deliveries -- the ice sculpture, liquor and music system -- a day early. The church maintenance guy slept at the church to make sure it could open.
"They're strong people, and it hasn't always been easy for them. When they finally figured out they were meant to be together, nothing could stop them," Sussman said Saturday.
And nothing did.
By 4:10 p.m., just 10 minutes past the time on the invitation, about 90 people were seated in the simple pews at the church. McCuen's hair looked almost exactly as it had at the salon, the organist was at his spot and the Rev. Louise Green was facing the couple at the front.
"You found a person with whom you want to do this improvisational dance called marriage," she told the teary-eyed couple. "You have braved a lot to be here." The room was silent, and the only sight visible outside the soaring sanctuary windows was snow.