The bride looked radiant in her pink and white dress. The groom was dapper in his business suit. The ceremony backdrop consisted of books on shelves, books on tables and a backroom cafe with patrons who seemed oblivious to the whole thing.
Welcome to the Annapolis Bookstore wedding of Mark Hutson and Melanie Frances, a couple who on Wednesday proved neither rain, snow nor a government shutdown could prevent them from uniting in holy matrimony.
While Wednesday's winter storm proved to be a nuisance for many, it provided a matrimonial wrinkle for Hutson, from Severna Park and Frances, from Montreal.
The two had planned to get married at the Anne Arundel County courthouse. But when Wednesday's threat of snow closed government buildings, the two called bookstore proprietors Mary Adams and Janice Holmes and requested an impromptu wedding at the shop — the site where Hutson had popped the question.
Adams got the wedding request from the couple about an hour and a half after the store opened Wednesday.
The eight-year old store features maritime, classical and children's books and hosts such events as poetry readings and music. But Wednesday was its first-ever wedding, Adams said.
"My business partner was here the day that he proposed to her," Adams said of the bride and groom. "He put the proposal in a book and handed the book to her. They've been in here quite often."
They were wedded in the bookstore's front room by the Rev. Tracey Moe, an interfaith minister who said she's also performed wedding ceremonies in living rooms and on bridges and sailboats.
Hutson, 37, said the two planned to get married at the courthouse to jump start the immigration process for Frances to stay in the United States.
"You have to just get married before you can start the process," he said. "She'll go home on Monday back to Montreal and then we start the paperwork with immigration. It's a 12-month process."
Hutson's two young children, Jack and Emma, also took part in the ceremony, while his mother, sister and brother in-law, who live locally, attended. The couple Skyped the whole ceremony for Frances' mother in Paris.
"I was never someone who was obsessed by the idea of marriage," said Frances, 40, who has siblings in Canada. "When true love showed up in an American boy living in Maryland, then marriage became a necessity because the idea was to move in together. ... I didn't want to settle. It was either going to be the right guy or no guy. So it was worth the wait."
"We'll spend a couple of days just hanging out locally," said Hutson, who added the couple will honeymoon and have a party "once we can get everyone in the same country."
After the ceremony, the couple shared an impromptu champagne reception, where Hutson's mother, Peg, toasted the two, saying to her son with tears in her eyes, "May you have 40 years of marriage just as your dad and I had 40 years of marriage."
The bride said she will look back "with love" on the place where she was both engaged and married, saying of the bookstore, "It's a magical place."