It Happened to Me: I Was Supposed To Get Married At the Navy Yard The Week Of The Mass Shooting

I was literally showing my wedding dress to my friend when I received the call that our wedding was cancelled. 

Prior to September 16th, no one had ever heard of the Navy Yard.  

“You are getting married where?”

That day's events changed all of that.  Everyone all over the country knew exactly where our upcoming wedding was going to be held. It was Monday and our wedding was scheduled for Sunday.

Five minutes, before I was to stand in front of a room full of people to facilitate a training session, I heard the news.

“Did you hear about the shooting at the Navy Yard?

“Twelve people are dead.”

“They are still looking for the shooter.”

There was no time to think about my wedding at the Navy Yard. People had flown in from all over the country to be at this conference and I had 25 people to train and host.  I forced myself into presenter mode and tried to stay there for as long as I could.

At dinner and during breaks, I felt myself fading into a never-ending list of questions and what-if’s… and then reality would pull me back in…until the next text or voice mail would pop up on my phone asking me if I had heard about the shooting and whether the wedding was still on.

My cousin started making calls to another venue. For me, the thought of contacting and moving 300 people just seemed too overwhelming to even think about.  The barrage of voice mails and text messages sent me into a world where stress and questions made everything seem to stand still.

Was this really happening? Out of all of the places to get married, was there really a mass shooting at the very place we chose to get married?

And then came the questions:

“Even if you can still have your wedding, do you really want it there?”

“What are you guys planning to do?”

“Can you find another place to have it?

“Can you postpone it?”

It was now 9:30 pm and I had just stepped into my hotel room, marking the end of my conference for that evening. It would all begin again in the morning at 7 am.

Exhausted, I switched on the television to see faces of the distraught, mourning their co-workers.  I thought about the families who were devastated and the people who had been glued to the news channels for the entire day.  My phone vibrated. It was a text from a friend.

“What color should I wear to your wedding?” I quickly picked up my phone and called her.

“Have you not been listening to the news?” 

“I have been watching it all day”, she said. “But we are having a wedding on Sunday. So, what color should I wear?”

That 10 second exchange was all I needed.  I immediately let go of whatever was not in my control. Even if we were going to get married in my parents' backyard, there was going to be a wedding on Sunday.  All we wanted was to get married and both of us agreed that whatever the circumstances, that would still happen.

Fast forward a couple of days to Thursday, September 17th.  I was headed to my last fitting with the seamstress. We were all in limbo.  Would they cancel the events scheduled there? The Conference Center staff from the Navy Yard called and promised to let me know as soon as they knew something.  I headed back to my office with my wedding dress in my hands, honestly hoping for the best.

I popped my head in a friend’s office. “Do you want to see my dress?” I whispered to her.  She nodded feverishly. We both giggled and smiled as I unzipped the garment bag and reached in to take out my wedding dress. With my dress half in and half out of the bag, that was the very moment that my phone rang.  It was the the Navy Yard. 

The wedding was canceled.  It was Thursday afternoon and the wedding was on Sunday. After months of planning, that call had erased every ounce of laughter in the room.  I sat down, overwhelmed, and put my hands over my face as the tears began.  Three hundred people had to be contacted.

The Navy Yard had informed me that they were doing their best to reschedule the wedding at an alternate location, minutes from the Navy Yard.  An hour later, the director of the Navy Yard let us know that our wedding had been officially moved. The start time would have to be pushed back and hour and a half. I had a matter of hours to collect the names, birth dates, and driver's license information from all 300 guests so they could enter the front gate.

I don’t believe there is a word in the dictionary to describe the amount of stress I was under at that moment.  I am sure that the five new grey hairs that I currently have, all came from that 24 hour period.

Both of our families kicked into full gear to help call, email, and text as many people as they could. And the staff at the new location was AMAZING. (An extra thank to Lynn!) They all did whatever they could to ensure that we would have an incredible wedding surrounded by our friends and family.

By Sunday, all of that stress was in the past. We couldn’t have asked for a more amazing ceremony or reception, mostly because everyone we loved was there to watch us profess our love for each other.  We had a room filled with laughter, tears, dancing, and smiles from wall to wall. And we both got our wish…to spend the rest of our lives together.

Be sure to check out my book on Amazon: The Gift of Past Relationships