Updated: February 2, 2014 at 10:45 am
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — For Megan Peterson, "Here comes the bride, all dressed in white," may always have a double meaning. She wasn't the only one in white on her wedding day.
So was all of Annapolis.
Peterson, 29, and her fiance, Tim Christofield, 33, of Baltimore, weren't expecting snow to crash their wedding last month. And they definitely weren't expecting the man who parked their car to pronounce them man and wife.
After a three-year relationship, the two didn't want to make a "big splash" for their wedding. They opted to go to Annapolis' courthouse with their parents Jan. 21.
"It was enough of a getaway to have an excuse to stay in a hotel," Peterson said.
Peterson, who works for global health nonprofit Jhpiego, and Christofield, a bartender, booked a room at Loews Annapolis Hotel on West Street, a couple of blocks from Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, and prepared for a laid-back affair.
The marriage forecast? They hoped not icy with treacherous roads ahead.
But that morning wedding photographer Dani Giannandrea texted the bride-to-be: Court was closed.
Peterson was still gung-ho. She figured they'd dress up, take the pictures Jan. 21 and try to get a marriage certificate the next morning.
Giannandrea loaded up her car in Frederick, where snow was already sticking, and embarked on the 1½-hour trek to Annapolis.
Meanwhile, Christofield was determined to be married that day. Along with his father and prospective father-in-law, he looked for the sheriff's office and banged on a few church doors to see if anyone within walking distance of the hotel had the power vested in them.
As a final resort, Christofield asked the hotel concierge for suggestions.
Funny he should ask, she said. She knew just the guy.
She walked a few steps from her desk to the valet stand, where she found Stephen Patterson.
Patterson, who has worked for Towne Park valet services since July, wasn't supposed to be there Jan. 21. He took the shift as a favor to a friend.
And he had a feeling.
"I knew it was going to be an intense day — a weird day," he said.
Patterson, 29, is a religious man. A few years ago, he started a home church in Bowie with 15 congregants.
He married one couple three years ago and was anxious about another coming up in March.
He recently shared this information with the concierge.
"I'll take being married over marrying someone else any day, because if you mess up, you mess up their thing," Patterson said, laughing.
When Giannandrea arrived, the weather had worsened. Blustery snow had begun to swirl over the streets.
The hotel staff prepared a suite for the wedding. They lit candles, moved furniture, made a bouquet of gerbera daisies and set out a spread of appetizers and champagne.
Patterson, whose Mandarin-collared uniform resembled that of a priest, led the ceremony, using the vows he and his wife wrote for each other.
As husband and wife, he said, the couple should shield each other from life's storms.
Taking shelter in a luxury hotel isn't a bad way to start.
"I cried," Giannandrea said. "Who knew a valet could bring everybody to tears?"
Returning on Jan. 24 from her mini-honeymoon in New York, Peterson said a perfectly executed wedding couldn't have compared to the one they improvised.
"It would have been memorable anyway," she said, "but it's sort of unbelievable how memorable it is now."