Elizabeth & Doug

*Elizabeth, Children’s Magazine Editor & Doug, Option Trader*

This is one of those weddings that hit me in the gut. I’m not really sure why. I certainly didn’t expect to be a teary mess by the end of the post, but there we have it. Somehow, by mixing the tangible and the intangible, Elizabeth has managed to sum up not just what a wedding is, but what a marriage is. As someone three years in, I can tell you for sure that Elizabeth has nailed it (no surprise there, as she’s the editor of an award winning children’s science magazine). This one is for all of you.

I tell people that I like inclement weather. I grew up in Syracuse, New York, the actual snowiest city in the United States, where people go days or weeks without seeing the sun. I feel most at home in a light drizzle.

So when Doug and I planned our wedding for Syracuse in the fall—we live in Chicago, but both our families are on the East Coast—I tried to prepare for the worst. We scheduled a church ceremony and indoor reception at a vineyard with the option of cocktails outdoors, if it was nice. I said that we’d plan on rain and be pleasantly surprised if there was none.

But secretly, I believed in wedding magic. At our friends’ weddings, the sun always seemed to come out. Photos looked like they belonged in travel brochures. I imagined our guests, having converged on central New York from all corners of the country, gathered outside on a cool October day. Looking out over the vineyard, they would drink in the fiery leaves, the hills, the lake. They’d see why I loved this cloudy, moody landscape.

Then suddenly the wedding was imminent. We’d booked flights for our honeymoon and made lists for our DJ. We were buried in half-assembled programs. And it was close enough for weather forecasts. Though I insisted it was useless to check long-term forecasts in Syracuse—or daily ones, for that matter—my future mother-in-law emailed me a week beforehand to report that the predicted high was 49 degrees, with rain. She followed that with a copied-and-pasted Irish blessing about the luck of the soggy bride.

A lot of people, it turned out, were familiar with this bit of wisdom. I didn’t want to be patted on the back about our wedding before the calamity had even happened, but friends and family members hurried to tell us that rain on a wedding is good luck. “So is getting pooped on by a bird,” several inexplicably added, even on our wedding day as the temperature plummeted and the rain did, after all, come down.

I thought getting crapped on sounded like a pretty clear case of bad luck, just like getting married on the one lousy day out of an otherwise clear and mild month. The sky turned an opaque, hopeless gray and the rain didn’t pause once. My bridesmaids and I had our hair done and went to lunch. Every time we ran between building and car it seemed to have gotten colder.

In a way, it was a fitting frame to the months of wedding preparation. When Doug proposed the prior November, it had been the first really wintry day in Chicago. We dug our big coats out of the back of the closest before heading to our anniversary dinner. I knew something was up when we left the restaurant and he suggested we take a walk around a nearby pond. I was using both hands to hold my skirt in place against the whipping wind when he got down on one knee.

When I reached the church, the rain clouds receded in my mind. Pushing them back were the white snapdragons waiting on the altar, my dad’s nervousness at seeing me, the beginning measures of organ music. Before I knew it we were walking back down the aisle on a wave of applause that seemed to carry us all the way into the reception.

The vineyard had a fire blazing in the fireplace and deep glasses of wine for everyone. I barely remembered my worries about the weather, except to notice that I couldn’t shake Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic” from my head. You know: “It’s like raiiiiiin on your wedding day . . .” It’s also, according to Alanis, “a black fly in your Chardonnay,” so when I pulled an actual fly from my Chardonnay-Riesling blend I had to laugh. Our guests packed the dance floor all night. Like most weddings, I’d guess, it was over too fast.

The next morning, as we stood in an airport security line, Doug got a phone call from our photographer, Chris. He and his fiancée were passing back through the Syracuse area, and the weather had turned glorious. He knew we’d wanted to take photos outdoors at the vineyard. “Why don’t you throw on the tux and the dress,” he said, “and we can drive back to the vineyard and get some of those shots? No charge.”

It was a very generous offer from someone who had obviously never worn a wedding dress and thus thought the phrase “throw on” could be applied. My gown had spent the night crumpled on a couch. The thought of redoing my makeup and hair made me queasy. It was a moot point anyway, since we were about to take off our shoes, display our gels and liquids, and fly to Spain.

We thanked Chris and boarded our flight. I let myself fantasize briefly about having those sunlit photos among the grapevines. “It’s too bad,” I said to Doug. He shrugged. “That’s not what our wedding was like.”

After the honeymoon I came down with an unshakable post-wedding and post-travel virus. While I wallowed with cough suppressants and mugs of tea, the worry returned. Had people hated our wedding? Did they think upstate New York was a pit? Would our pictures be gray and sad, with no beautiful reminders to display in our living room?

Doug’s grandfather, who had been too sick from Alzheimer’s disease to travel to the wedding, passed away later that month. As wife and husband now, we flew back to the East Coast. It was another damp, chilly day when we stood at the graveside, but it was the right kind of weather this time. Someone from the Air Force played taps. Now a part of the family, I hugged cousins and uncles I’d barely had time to greet at the wedding.

We returned to Chicago and finally our photos arrived. When we sat down to view the proofs online, I was nervous. The camera, an objective third party that wouldn’t try to spare my feelings, would reveal whether our wedding had been a letdown.

I pored over the photographs for clues. There was the priest, laughing with us as we struggled to get our rings on. There were the glasses raised high to toast us. There was the dance floor, wall-to-wall with happy faces, from our college friends to Doug’s elementary-school cousins to my grandfather doing the twist.

And there we were: Doug and I, tucked under a big umbrella in the cold rain, laughing.

What is this mysterious thing we’ve agreed to, I realized, if not a shared umbrella? It says that when the days are uglier than we’ve hoped, we’ll hold close and keep each other warm. We’ll be together at the funerals and the doctor’s offices and the windy shores. Stormy days are the days that matter. The sunny ones are easy.

On the cover of our photo album, Doug has his arm around my shoulders, holding our umbrella as the rain comes down. I wouldn’t have anything else.

The Info—Photography: Christopher Morris (APW Advertiser) / VenueAnyela’s Vineyards / Catering: The Sherwood Inn / Cakes: Biscotti CafeDress: Nicole Miller / Shoes: Nina Shoes / Rings: Sea Babe Jewelry

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  • carrie

    “Stormy days are the days that matter. The sunny ones are easy.”

    Wow. So much this. Congratulations and thank you for summing it up perfectly!

  • I loved this. Elizabeth, the pictures are just lovely and your story is beautiful. Makes me want rain on my wedding day!

  • PA

    “It’s too bad,” I said to Doug. He shrugged. “That’s not what our wedding was like.”

    I teared up at this – there’s something so amazingly accepting and beautiful and loving and … wow. (Grooms: they are full of wisdom.)

    “We dug our big coats out of the back of the closest before heading to our anniversary dinner. I knew something was up when we left the restaurant and he suggested we take a walk around a nearby pond. I was using both hands to hold my skirt in place against the whipping wind when he got down on one knee.”

    I am glad I am not the only person who got proposed to while wearing a gigantic puffy coat!

    • MDBethann

      Same here – pink puffy ski jacket on a misty, cloudy day.

  • Maggie P.

    “Would our pictures be gray and sad, with no beautiful reminders to display in our living room?”
    FAR. FROM IT. (I seriously laughed when I read that, having already seen half of these GORGEOUS pictures.) I blame the photographer (clearly a bad@$$) and the happy faces.
    Also, I did do the whole impatient-scroll-down-before-you-read thing just so I could find out who made that beautiful dress of yours. :)

  • Nice post! I love the apples as favors. Pretty, affordable, practical! This should become a thing.

    • Thank you! My mom and I picked them locally a couple days before the wedding. It was a nice little retreat in the middle of all the errands. (Plus they doubled as place cards, so there was one less thing to make.)

  • goodheart

    teary here too. another lovely story this morning. thanks!

  • Heather

    OMG. Love how you summed up everything I love about Upstate.

    “They’d see why I loved this cloudy, moody landscape.”

    Also, I find the timing on this post really odd. My fiance and I just decided to hold our ceremony on my parents back deck in my teeny tiny hometown outside of Syracuse, and then throw a big-ass party back in our new home – Chicago.

    • Laurel

      YES! I knew you would comment on this one!

  • SaraB

    Good timing on this post! We’re gettting married (hopefully outside) in Michigan at the end of September and I’ve been worrying about the weather and what if it rains and will people hate it if we have to get married in the reception hall? Thank you for the reminder that it isn’t the weather that dictates happiness and joy.

  • Megan (from Nova Scotia)


    “What is this mysterious thing we’ve agreed to, I realized, if not a shared umbrella? It says that when the days are uglier than we’ve hoped, we’ll hold close and keep each other warm.”

    OK-today seems to be the day for sniffing back tears at my desk. Those sentences=pure wisdom.

    • Those were my favorite lines too. So perfectly & beautifully said!

    • Yes yes yes yes yes. A hundred times YES! I want to frame this.

    • Yes this is it. I want to emphasize it so much. We planned a wedding in the Netherlands, and basically we were expecting rain, but had an outdoor terrace just in case. We were lucky and it was sunny , but the whole week had been raining like crazy.
      All the best to you. Your words are wise and beautiful.

    • Melissa

      This was me reading this:

      (just got home from hurrying around on 20,000 errands)
      *scans Meg’s intro*
      “meh, I’m not feeling very sentimental right now”

      *reads post*
      *hits those lines you quoted*
      *tears flow*
      *bookmarks as inspiration for the vows we’ll be writing next month*

    • What a beautiful metaphor for marriage. Despite Meg’s warning, the umbrella sentence caught me off-guard and I got teary with its perfectness.

    • Suzanna

      Add me to the list of people who got all misty-eyed at those lines!

  • Christina

    How beautiful…thank you so much for this!

  • katieprue

    Usually the tearjerker warnings make me think, “Aw, touching, I get it” but I don’t really ever cry. But on a day when I’ve already cried, and been snuggled and told that it’ll be okay… yep. This is it. Shared umbrella, indeed.

  • mimi

    Beautiful! I teared up at the end too. My boyfriend’s grandfather’s funeral was this past Saturday and we stood together in the cold gray drizzle (after a week of way-above-normal temperatures here in Michigan). You’re so right about the stormy days being the ones that matter. Congrats, and it looks like you had a beautiful wedding!

  • This: “What is this mysterious thing we’ve agreed to, I realized, if not a shared umbrella?”

    I’m teary-eyed at my desk at work. Thank you for sharing your touching words and your totally gorgeous photos. :)

  • Sarah (WUFA ’08)

    Congrats, Elizabeth and Doug! I’ll admit, I had to read the post twice. I got distracted looking for familiar faces the first time through.

    Having buried both of my grandfathers over the past two months, it was the paragraph about Doug’s grandfather that got me. My grandfathers valued their marriages and families over all else, so it seems fitting that a baby cousin — now named for my Dad’s father — was born just a week after the funeral (6 weeks premature, but healthy), and that all those who sat shiva with us will celebrate with us when Ben and I get married in May. Rainy days suck, but they can make the sunshine seem that much brighter.

    • Thanks for saying hi, Sarah! So sorry to hear about your grandfathers. But I’m glad you and Ben are finally approaching the big day. Hope it’s wonderful!

    • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

      I am so very sorry for your loss, but so very happy that you have someone to ‘ hold your umbrella’.

  • “It says that when the days are uglier than we’ve hoped, we’ll hold close and keep each other warm. We’ll be together at the funerals and the doctor’s offices and the windy shores. Stormy days are the days that matter. The sunny ones are easy.”

    Woah. This is awesome. I’m holding this line close, Elizabeth.

    P.S. Your day looks amazing. Thank you for sharing.

  • Lisa

    I love this: “What is this mysterious thing we’ve agreed to, I realized, if not a shared umbrella.” Especially since I recently learned that umbrellas can be symbolic of love in Japan… I guess they’ll write their names under an umbrella symbol, kind of like how in the Western world, people will carve their names with a heart into a tree.

  • Liz

    I think the next practical wedding book should be a compilation of the wise words shared by wedding graduates, and the shared umbrella could be its own chapter. This is exactly why I read this blog.

  • We’ve talked a time or two about what it would’ve been like if we’d taken our wedding photos they day before or the day after our wedding. It would’ve been sunny. But we got married in a blizzard. I’d much rather remember it as it actually happened than as we wanted it to happen.

    Keeping each other warm through the cold days is what it’s all about.

    And as someone who’s been pooped on by more than one bird (although not on my wedding day), I’m not so sure if that’s actually lucky. Probably just something people say to make you feel better.

  • Oh man I did not expect to be weepy but cried my way through the end of this. Too many favorite lines to copy and paste here. Beautifully done. Thank you for sharing this.

    Your photos are beautiful and I’m so glad you didn’t (even if you weren’t on line at the airport) choose to get sunny ones. We lost my mother in law just before the wedding and had people tell us that we should have new photos taken in our wedding day get-ups at some later date when we would be happier. So that we could look at them and have different memories. But that’s absurd. I only want the memories I have and I love those photos. They show us smiling even with everything that had happened. Like your umbrella, it’s a pretty wonderful reminder of what matters.

  • Alex

    Love, love, love this. I’m getting married in 6 weeks in the very town that Elizabeth and Doug were married in–we looked at Anyela’s Vineyard for our own reception! My fiance and I grew up in Syracuse, too, and are hoping for the best but expecting the worst even in May. I was born in the first week of May, and my parents brought me home from the hospital in a blizzard! The unpredictability of Syracuse weather is such a beautiful metaphor for marriage and it warmed my heart to read this as we find ourselves in the last weeks of wedding/marriage preparation.

  • I’ve loved the image of a couple sharing an umbrella since I was a girl reading Little Women. Great metaphor and great post. Congratulations!

  • Krista

    Beautiful photos, incredible writing. You are too wise, Elizabeth.

    It rained on our wedding day too, and I recall singing/shouting that Alanis Morrisette song while driving to meet my bridesmaids.

    I have no words to express fully how wonderful this post is. You are too wise, Elizabeth. !!! Seriously.

  • Morgan

    Another CNY gal here; we live in Ohio now and scoff when anyone here complains about the weather. If it hadn’t rained it wouldn’t have been real upstate style! I truly appreciate the metaphor you were able to take away from it. Absolutely lovely.

    I recognized Anyela’s as your venue from the first photo of the red doors in the side of the stone building. It’s such a beautiful vineyard. We both grew up in Skaneateles and we can’t wait to get back there to have our own cold, wet wedding day :)

  • Jessica

    It rained on our wedding day, in between the sun coming out and blasting us with 95 degree heat and humidity. But I felt the same way you did. The day was perfect, from the rainy morning, to cloudy skies, to blazing hot sun that had us all running for the AC in our limo bus between pictures. It made the day our own, and it turned out perfectly in its imperfection. And for what it’s worth, your photos are absolutely gorgeous–my favorites are the ones with the rain and umbrella!

  • Louise

    Beautiful post! It made me remember the night Nick plopped my ring down on the table: a November night dumping buckets of rain so hard we were soaked by the time we made it to the restaurant from our parking spot a block away. Hoping that doesn’t predict the weather at my outdoor wedding this August!

    I love the metaphor at the end — so perfect!

  • The weather may not have been beautiful, but you ended up with beautiful pictures! I love the ones of your husband looking at you- he clearly adores you!

  • so romantic of such amazing wedding in this kind of nice umbrella. Best wishes for new couple.

  • As a bride about the embark on a rainy wedding day in a few days time (yes, yes I know…never count on the weather to be what it says) this post has made me feel ten thousand times better. Call me crazy, but I just know in my gut somewhere that the forecast isn’t changing and that it’s supposed to rain on our day. Your pictures are gorgeous and I hope mine can be just as beautiful on my own gray but happy day.

  • Amanda

    Nothing more to say than this post was beautiful. Thanks for sharing.