First the groom, out for some wedding-day relaxation, caught his hand in the door at Bowl America and had to be rushed to Commonwealth Hospital in Fairfax County for stitches.

Then the bride and her family, driving to the hospital to pick up the groom for the wedding, totaled the car. The mother of the bride had to be cut from the wreckage. She broke five ribs and landed in Commonwealth's intensive care unit. The bride hurt her back. One of her brothers was badly bruised.

Well, they didn't make it to the church Friday evening.

But six hours later, with music by boogie box, potted plants from patients, wedding cake left over from the evening meal, and the mother of the bride on a wheeled cot, the battered couple took their vows in a basement cafeteria turned cathedral at Commonwealth Hospital.

With 30 in attendance, guests in evening finery and hospital midnight-shifters in work clothes, Warren August, a martial arts devotee, welder, Merrifield car wash employe and professional model, was married to Teresa Flatt, a drugstore cashier.

"It was real nice," Teresa, 21, said the morning after her wedding. "I was more relaxed because of the accident. I just went ahead and got it over with."

It all began Friday afternoon when August, 22, decided to bowl a few games to calm his nerves. On the way in with best man David Watters, August smashed his hand in the door. Blood flowing, Watters suggested the emergency room at Commonwealth.

August called Teresa to advise. "I told him to do what he had to do but not to forget that we had to be at church by 6 so I could get dressed."

By 5:45, August was ready to leave the hospital. Teresa, along with her father, Wyverne Flatt, mother, MayGene, and brother Len left their home in Oakton in the family Cutlass to pick up the groom on the way to the church. With Wyverne driving, they stopped for friend David Philips, then headed for brother Ray's house.

Two doors from Ray's, at the corner of Braddock and Broadfield Roads in Fairfax, the Flatts were making a left turn when, Teresa said, there was suddenly a car "headed toward the passenger side. Mom was up front, she had my dress in her lap. I was behind her. I screamed and turned my head. I was hoping it was a dream. But that car really hit us hard."

The Flatts' car spun around and landed in a ditch. MayGene Flatt was thrown against her husband, cracking five ribs on her left side. Two ambulances transported the wedding party to the hospital.

In the emergency room, a hospital worker was taking Teresa's insurance information when Teresa mentioned that she was supposed to be getting married.

"That's funny," said the hospital worker. "We had this guy in here earlier who was getting married tonight, too."

"Yeah," Teresa said, "That was my boyfriend."

It was just about then that the idea came to Teresa. Couldn't they just have the wedding right there in the hospital? she asked. Reached by telephone at his home, assistant Commonwealth administrator Greg Taylor said yes, of course, and the hospital staff flew into action.

"Every nurse, housekeeper and engineer that could be spared got right on it," said Mary O'Connor of the hospital's community relations department.

"It seemed like a good idea," Teresa said. "Warren was determined to have the wedding go on, but I didn't want to get married without my mother." Teresa made a quick call to the First Christian Church in Falls Church, where the wedding had been scheduled. The wedding party, along with the Rev. Raymond Hill, arrived at the hospital shortly.

And so it was that Teresa Flatt walked down an aisle between folding chairs and potted plants, wearing a lacy, off-white, Spanish-style dress. Classical music played on a portable tape player. The mother of the bride attended on a wheeled cot, woozy from medication but no less proud.

Church soloist, Margie Pasley, 16, sang "You Light Up My Life," and then Hill read the marriage rites, his voice echoing off the cafeteria's stainless steel service island just to his left.

Afterward, the guests celebrated with chocolate cake left over from the hospital's dinner selections and strawberry ice cream punch. "What started off as a horrible, traumatic, scary experience turned into a tender, meaningful one," said Hill.

"I feel like it was a really neat wedding," Teresa August said yesterday. "It seemed like there was some kind of force trying to keep us from getting married. But now that we're married, I know we'll be together forever. Nothing worse could happen."