The bride's sister. The groom's brother. A love match made at a wedding.



On that September day when he walked me down the aisle, little did my father know that he'd be walking the same aisle just 21 months later.

He probably never imagined that my little sister, Susan, would marry so soon after me. My own wedding in 1983 had been a bona fide event, the kind it takes families years to get over. I was living in Arizona. I got married in my hometown of Rochester, N.Y. My husband was from Boston.

The airlines seemed to be the only people happy with this arrangement.

So it likely never occurred to Dad that he would be accompanying his second daughter down the aisle so soon.

And I'm sure he never imagined that he would be giving away my little sister to my husband's little brother.

But it happened.

That means my sister is also my sister-in-law. My brother-in-law is also my husband's brother. Our kids will be double cousins.

It seems there is no simple way to say it once. Conversations about my sister marrying my husband's brother always start the same way.

"What? Who is married to whom?"

They pause. They say, "Boy, that must be weird."

Sometimes it is.

Both sets of parents confuse the names of their sons-in-law and daughters-in-law.

Sometimes we hear news about blood relatives from relatives by marriage.

This can make for some tense moments. You wouldn't want to hear from your mother-in-law that your own sister was having a baby, would you?

Trust me. You wouldn't.

But, there are certainly many more fun times than trying times.

For example, when we go to Rochester for a visit, my husband, Paul, gets to see his brother, Al, as well as my family.

And, Susan and I stand together on Stowell vs. Bradley fights. We're convinced her son, Michael, got his good looks and brains from the Stowells. The Bradleys, of course, think otherwise.

While I never would have imagined all of the things that have happened during the past nine years, the fact that Sue and Al are married is no surprise to me.

The moment I met Al, my husband's junior by four years, I figured he was a good match for my sister, Susan. Al was like Paul, only a bit more reserved. She was a lot like me, only quieter.

I thought maybe they would be a soft-rock version of my husband and me.

Of course, no one believed me. They said I was playing matchmaker. Neither Sue nor Al would admit any interest. But then I saw them meet and I knew.

Of course, I had a few other things on my mind.

I remember the day Sue and Al met like it was yesterday. It was three days before my wedding -- the biggest day of my life.

My family was meeting his family for the first time.

I was a wreck. The families were about to meet. I was getting married. And a billion things were going wrong. My dress didn't fit right. The guys were late for the rehearsal dinner. I was getting married.

While most of it was a blur, I remember one thing perfectly clear.

His family was getting out of the car. There are a lot of them -- five brothers, a sister, two parents and my soon-to-be husband. They left the dog at home.

The Bradleys are a large Irish Catholic family from Boston. They ++ love the Kennedys.

My family was coming out of the house. There are fewer of the Stowells -- a brother, a sister, two parents and me. We've never had a dog.

We're Presbyterians and our roots are Vermont. We hate the Kennedys.

Susan walked out of the house last -- wearing a drop-dead gorgeous turquoise jumpsuit.

Now, first of all, I'm the clotheshorse in the family.

When I transferred here, the very first thing I did was check the Yellow Pages for Saks and Lord & Taylor.

I had Nordstrom's opening on my calendar in bigger letters than Opening Day at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Sue is not the type to buy new duds for a meeting of her sister's new in-laws.

Unless that is, she thought there might be something true to her big sister's words. That Al really is a great guy. Handsome and smart, too. But not as handsome as Paul.

Just in case Big Sister is right, she goes out and buys a drop-dead gorgeous turquoise jumpsuit.

Sue and Al meet and talk. And talk. And talk. And talk. Through the rehearsal dinner and into the reception.

At the reception, they get bolder. They dance. Closer and closer. People -- even my mom -- are asking me what's going on. I'm supposed to be the center of attention. I am, but just to answer questions about Susan and Al.

They danced all night at the wedding reception.

The day after the wedding, the guests are buzzing about this new romance at breakfast.

We go on a wonderful romantic honeymoon to Maui.

When we get back, we talk to both families. But instead of, "How was Hawaii?" they say, "We hear that Sue is moving to New England to be closer to Al! We hear they're talking about eloping!"

Well, they don't elope. They listen to our parents' good advice and they get engaged two and a half months after our September 1983 wedding. They marry in June 1985.

Today, 7 1/2 years later, they have a beautiful son and another child due in the spring. They live in upstate New York close to my parents and we live in Catonsville. We get together as often as we can.

Invariably we talk about those first few days we all got together for the first time.

We laugh.

We talk about that fateful September weekend.

We argue about the details.

Susan insists that turquoise jumpsuit wasn't new.

LINDA STOWELL is the bureau chief for the Associated Press in Maryland and Delaware.

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