Lilia Bonner and Wilbur Warren were wed at 2 p.m. yesterday in a double-ring ceremony, each for the second time. The bride wore a midcalf-length ivory chiffon dress with lace trim and a matching hat and the groom a traditional black tuxedo with bow tie.
Elaborate preparation and a good deal of expense went into the ceremony, though both bride and groom are enjoying the autumn of their lives; she is 73, he, 69. They live at a city-owned nursing home for indigents, where they get around by wheelchair.
The couple was wed at the Washington Center for Aging Services, 2601 18th St. NE, where they met. About 150 guests filled the home's small chapel, and about 200 attended the reception in the center's main dining hall, including numerous staff members, some residents of the nursing home and several D.C. officials.
Their 14-karat gold rings, wedding flowers, a three-tiered cake, a long table piled high with hors d'oeuvres and a fountain flowing with champagne were among the traditional trappings. A wedding night suite had been reserved at a local hotel and a white limousine waited to deliver the newlyweds there. All were donated by Washington area businesses and individuals.
For all its romance, the occasion had its practical reasons, too.
"We needed each other. I found out that I loved him and that he loved me," said Bonner, who has been a widow for about 18 years, in an interview prior to the wedding. "I decided I needed a companion."
"I guess she saw what she liked, and she got me," said Warren, widowed about two years ago.
Staff members at the center, where both Bonner and Warren have lived for about a year, organized a drive to solicit donations for the ceremony and reception. An employe of the center designed and made Bonner's wedding dress, and another lent Warren his tuxedo.
"Toward the first of the year they came to us and said they wanted to be married," said Paulette Scott, social worker for Bonner and Warren at the facility, which is managed by a private company. "They have been very consistent in their desire to get married."
"I don't care what age you are, there is still room for improvement and growth," said Scott.
"I couldn't feel no better," said Warren.
"Sometimes I get a little excited or nervous -- I get to grinning and laughing about it," said Bonner.
Bonner walked up the chapel aisle on the arm of a staff member who "gave her away," and Warren waited for her at the altar in his wheelchair. Four bridesmaids, four ushers, two TV camera crews and several photographers crowded the altar area during the ceremony.
Bonner wore a broad smile as she pushed Warren's wheelchair down the aisle at the close of the ceremony.
The newlyweds will move into a double room at the home, according to Janet Colwell, a center staff member.
Said the bride of her change in accommodations, "I'll have him right there by my side.