John Hagedorn and Diane Rehm married Saturday at the Washington National Cathedral. They first met 30 years ago and reconnected last year. (Tony Powell)

Most people think this is a love story, but it’s really a story about hope.

Diane Rehm and John Hagedorn were married Saturday at Washington National Cathedral in front of their families and 250 friends. The bride, 81, walked down the aisle with her son and daughter. The groom, 78, waited for her with his two sons.

They were, said the Rev. Canon Jerry Anderson, the oldest couple he had married in his 49 years in the clergy. “They say that marriage is actually the triumph of hope over experience,” he told the congregation. “It’s obvious God is not finished with the two of you.”

Marriage is not something to be entered lightly, especially when you’re mature enough to know exactly what that really means. So the ceremony was traditional, serious and formal: The bride and groom vowed to love, comfort and honor but not obey. They exchanged rings and a chaste kiss, and then everybody applauded after they were pronounced husband and wife. And yes, they were beaming.

“This is something I never thought would happen to me,” Rehm wrote on her blog a few days before the wedding. “I truly believed I would spend the rest of my life alone, and find a way to enjoy it.”

After 54 years of marriage to the late John Rehm, the beloved public radio host had planned a solo life around travel, writing and friends. Then fate intervened in the form of Hagedorn, a retired Lutheran minister and widower. The two met 30 years earlier at the wedding of a friend they had in common and reconnected at a book reading of Rehm’s “On My Own” last year. On their third date, he told her he loved her.

“That’s ridiculous,” she answered. “How can you possibly know that?”

‘That’s what I feel,” he said.

But Hagedorn’s honesty and optimism cracked open her heart to him. “Do I want to spend the rest of my life alone?” she thought. “When I met John, I thought, ‘Maybe not. Maybe not.’ ”

As a minister and a therapist, Hagedorn says he is “always working to get people in touch with their own hope.” Falling for Rehm knocked him for a loop, but he quickly recovered and just went for it: “Anything new always gives us some hope and some fright at the same time.”

And so they fell in love — that giddy, blushing, ageless kind of love. And then they got engaged.

“People kept saying to me, ‘Why are you getting married? Why don’t you just go on like this?’ ” says Rehm. “I just knew that wasn’t me.”


The bride and groom cut their wedding cake. (Tony Powell)

The bride wore a pale rose peplum mermaid gown by Italian designer Chiara Boni. “I would have never worn white,” she said. “My goodness. That would have been totally inappropriate for me.” She wasn’t nervous at all — until she slipped on the gown Saturday afternoon. “I know that putting this dress on meant it was real.”

The groom wore a tuxedo, but then, as it was black-tie wedding, so did all the other men.

After the service, guests — including Roger and Vicki Sant, Jim and Kate Lehrer, Buffy Cafritz, Lucky Roosevelt, Bob Barnett and Rita Braver, Mary and Robert Haft, and NPR’s Scott Simon, among others — made their way to the Sulgrave Club on Massachusetts Avenue NW for the wedding reception.

Guests were seated in five rooms of the club’s elegant second floor, awash in candlelight and roses, while a small band played love songs all evening. The toasts, issued from the upstairs foyer, were short and very sweet, with references to love, goodness, truth and Plato.

“Through love we get to all these great virtues,” said Rehm’s son, David. “We see beauty in the two of them, and we’re not talking just about the fact that they are a splendid-looking couple.” Or as George Vradenburg — quoting his late wife, Trish — affectionately put it: “Here’s to Ken and Barbie at 80.”

“My heart is filled with joy, with love and with life,” said the groom. “To life, to love, to the love of life and the lives that love.”


Guests at the reception dinner at the Sulgrave Club. (Tony Powell)

The four-course dinner included mushroom soup, poached lobster salad, rack of lamb, crab cakes and wedding cake for dessert, although the newlyweds spent the entire night walking from room to room, chatting with their guests.

There was a first dance, a private moment for the couple as their friends ate dinner, as the band began “When I Need You”: “When I need love/ I hold out my hand and I touch love/ I never knew there was so much love/ Keeping me warm night and day.”

The couple will have a short honeymoon in Florida, where John has a home, and a longer celebration cruise in the Baltics planned for next summer. The bride will keep her name and her apartment in Washington.

“I’m not moving to Florida, and he is not moving to Washington,” Rehm explained on the blog. “It will be a modern marriage in the most modern sense of the word.”

But the wedding was old-fashioned, in the best sense of the term. As the bride put it: “I love who he is, I love how he is, and I love what we have together.”