On a recent spring day, the bride-to-be, a 28-year-old nurse, sat at her dining room table and began scrolling through photos of family members she’d recently lost.
At the bottom of the list were photos of a smiling-as-a-bird, smiling-in-the-sun, smiling on a balcony, smiling at the sun.
The photos had the bride’s father, her parents, her grandparents, her brother and sister and her two sisters.
“Oh my God, she looks so happy!” she said.
“I’m so happy that we can have her, too.”
As the bride waited for her mother, her father, a retired professor of pharmacy and health sciences at the University of Maryland, to arrive, the other guests in the house began laughing and exchanging wisecracks.
The wedding reception was about to start, and the bride, a native of Florida who’d grown up in the Baltimore suburbs, was determined to make it a memorable one.
After all, the groom had recently given birth to her and they’d been on the road for the past three days.
But the wedding was also about celebrating the fact that the bride had married a woman in her 30s.
“She looks so beautiful,” she said, looking at her parents’ faces, “and I’m happy for her.
But, oh, my God.”
At least three people at the reception — including the groom’s mother, father and sister — were surprised when the bride started speaking at length about her wedding day.
They were all stunned.
What had happened?
What had been arranged?
What did they expect?
She said she’d been told that the groom would be present at the wedding and that she’d have a couple of minutes with him.
But she said that wasn’t what happened.
Instead, she said she was led upstairs to a private room with a table in front of a window and a few couches.
She said her father had told her to take her shoes off, to get dressed and that it was time for her to get married.
After the groom walked through the room, the mother and her sister began crying.
Then the groom began asking her questions about her life and her future.
She explained that she was getting married because she wanted to share her experiences with her family.
But he told her that she needed to be more specific about what she was doing with her life.
“It’s time for you to take the ring off and put it in the pocket of your jacket, and I’m going to go,” he said, according to a statement read to the wedding attendees.
“You don’t want to see that.”
The groom and his mother said the wedding would take place in a private space, which is standard protocol for any reception, and they would not be allowed to be photographed or even acknowledge the bride.
She was not allowed to enter the room until she had completed a “carefully prepared ceremony.”
“You’re going to have to go through this process,” the groom said, and then the wedding ceremony began.
“The bride and groom are going to be sitting in a room with all of the guests, and this is what they are going through,” the bride said.
The bride’s parents sat in the room with the groom.
They said they didn’t know why the bride was so nervous.
“We just thought that she might be nervous about the wedding,” the father said.
His mother, who is a registered nurse, had no idea what she had been told.
She had attended the ceremony just hours before and told the bride to dress appropriately, to be calm, and to do the proper makeup, according.
But when the groom finally entered the room — “it felt like a scene out of a horror movie” — his mother was not there.
Instead she and her husband had a hard time finding her.
“They were so concerned about what the groom was going to do,” the mother said.
Her husband, who works as a health care provider, didn’t realize that the ceremony had already begun when he arrived.
“There was nothing going on,” she remembered.
“He just walked into the room and the whole wedding was happening.”
The bride said she and the groom didn’t speak until they left the room for the final ceremony.
“That was when they asked me if I wanted to be married to him,” the wife said.
She wasn’t able to ask her husband for permission to leave the room.
Instead the groom asked for her permission to marry him.
“Why are you crying?” he said.
But her mother didn’t want her to be “the bride crying.”
Instead, her husband was looking for something.
“Do you want to do this?” she asked.
The husband said he did, and that the couple had decided to get together for a meal.
“Then he asked me to sit in the corner with him,” she recalled.
She took the couple’s glasses off and placed them