Wedding Plans Up in the Air

Wedding Plans Up in the Air

Airport provides a fitting locale for the wedding of pilot and flight attendant.

Midway through the wedding ceremony for Justin Van Horn and Stephanie Edens, a 737 pulled up to the window. Guests thought it was a masterstroke.

“Everybody thought we had planned it,” said Eleana Edens, mother of the bride. “I said, ‘You all are giving me too much credit.’” It was a complete accident, she said.

But an accident that might have been a catastrophe for any other couple seemed completely appropriate at the June 14 wedding at Washington National Airport, a marriage that had its roots in air travel.

In mid-2000, Justin Van Horn was working as a flight instructor in Orlando, although he aspired to work as a pilot. “At the time, that was the only flying job available,” he said.

One weekend, one of his co-workers invited Justin to join him for dinner. The man’s wife, a flight attendant, was coming into town, and a group of people were getting together for dinner and drinks.

“They had a layover, and we went to meet them for dinner,” said Justin. “Stephanie was there, and we really hit it off.”

“There was this nice young man,” said Stephanie. “I said, ‘You didn’t tell me he was coming. I would have put some lipstick on.’”

After that meeting, they started calling, and soon the two were in a long-distance relationship: Justin still working as a flight instructor in Orlando, Stephanie Edens based in Virginia.

<b>SOON, JUSTIN WAS</b> looking for a flying job in the Washington area. When he found one, he moved. “I got hired at Midwest Express on Sept. 17 [2001], and was promptly furloughed,” he said, though he was rehired in 2002.

When they got engaged, and started planning the wedding, Stephanie knew she didn’t want a wedding like any other. “Stephanie is never going to have a wedding anyone anywhere else is having,” said Eleana Edens, “so she’s never going to any hotel or any country club.”

The bride-to-be flirted with the idea of an outdoor wedding at her parents’ house. But Eleana feared weather could confound the best laid wedding plans. “Sure enough, it rained on June 14, it rained on June 13 and it rained on June 15.”

As a flight attendant for Continental, Stephanie thought she could have the ceremony in the airline’s President’s Club at National. “But I would have had to buy all the security for Continental and Delta,” said Eleana, and even then all of the guests would have had to go through the same security checks that passengers undergo.

<b>INSTEAD, STEPHANIE</b> and Eleana looked to the old lobby at Washington National, now the terminal for small commuter flights.

“I grew up here, and my mom was a flight attendant based with United at Washington National,” said Stephanie. “So I remember when that lobby was the lobby for the airport.”

It also played into her hopes for a “vintage” wedding. “I like vintage cars, and clothes,” she said. “And I got to use my mom’s dress, which added to the vintage feel.”

Airport authorities were not happy about the idea of renting out the terminal. Eleana and Stephanie turned to a friend of a friend who sits on the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority board, the governing body for National and Dulles.

Once they were cleared to use the terminal, the task became turning it into a place befitting a wedding ceremony. “We walked in there with the florist,” said Stephanie. “ She said, ‘Are you crazy? This place is the ugliest place I’ve ever been in.’”

It was a common opinion when friends found out where the wedding would be held. “A lot of people thought it was strange,” said Justin. “I don’t think anybody was expecting what they got.”

<b>WHAT THEY GOT</b> was a terminal hallway lined with small trees wrapped in tulle, draped with Christmas lights. “We used 4,000 lights, and 650 yards of tulle,” said Eleana. Brightening the interior were giant candelabras, decorated with white rose balls. A cousin from Ohio, a minister, performed the ceremony.

There were some minor catastrophes — curtains designed to hang in the entryways fell down just a few hours before the ceremony; the groomsmen and bridesmaids lined up in the wrong order; and a few weeks before the ceremony, the fire marshal told the Edens that the tulle trees needed to be sprayed with fireproofing.

Overall, said Eleana, “It went very smoothly.”

“We actually sat down and ate,” said Stephanie. “People seemed surprised, but I said, ‘Do you think I’m going to miss this, that I planned for months?’”

<b>PLANNING DIDN’T BRING</b> the 737 to the wedding, though — a touch that seemed especially appropriate for a young pilot and flight attendant, starting their lives together.

“During the ceremony, Continental had a mechanical problem with a plane,” said Eleana. “They wheeled this 737 right up in front of the windows.”

Wedding guests congratulated Eleana on her planning coup, which came as a surprise even to the bride and groom.

But the mother of a bride, at the end of her wedding plan, didn’t mind dispensing a dose of reality. “I said, ‘Do you think Continental’s going to spare a 737 just for me?’”