Taking the Plunge A bride and groom, engaged on the sand, are ready to build their castle together. The way they see it, it's a shore thing.

August 17, 1998|By SARAH PEKKANEN | SARAH PEKKANEN,SUN STAFF

OCEAN CITY -- The bride stands barefoot in the still-steamy bathroom, reviewing her checklist with her reflection.

"Garter, penny, veil, perfume. I'm going without a watch. Got my teeth brushed. I need lipstick. What time is it? Whoa!"

Downstairs, the groom stands beside the minister on the porch, shifting from one foot to the other. "Got my rings," he says, his hand feeling his pants pocket. "I'm set." His eyes are fixed on the door.

The bride reaches with a trembling hand for a bouquet of plastic lilies. "Wow, this is weird," she says. "It's the moment you've been waiting for, like, your whole life."

L She walks to the head of the stairs and takes a deep breath.

Briana Woodruff, 20, and Jeremy Bauer, 22, met a year ago, and they haven't been apart a single day since. Neither is particularly impulsive, or for that matter, especially assertive. That's why what happened a week after they met surprised them both.

Jeremy was about to join the Army and move clear across the country. Then Briana did something completely out of character. Stay here, she said. Stay with me. And just like that, Jeremy walked away from his carefully planned future and toward something that somehow felt more permanent, more natural.

They kicked out her roommate, and Jeremy and his dog moved in. A few months later, they added a cat. Now they're waiting on one more arrival: A baby due in September.

The baby didn't change anything between them; they've always known they would get married someday. Someday just got speeded up a little. And here it is -- a cloudless, warm-but-not-too-hot, absolutely gorgeous August evening in Ocean City.

"We're ready for this," Jeremy said this afternoon, after he'd gone boogie-boarding and taken a shower and wandered down the boardwalk and eaten a gyro and ricocheted around their bed-and-breakfast like a pinball.

Grooms are always nervous, said Joyce Landsman, owner of the Inn at the Ocean.

"I'm not nervous," said Jeremy.

Grooms always say that, said Joyce. This wedding at the beach is so spontaneous, so crazy -- so perfect, when you think about how their romance started. They had planned a different date, May 17, but it slipped by in the frenzy surrounding their move from Florida to Cumberland. Neither of them being the take-charge type, they finally got around to rescheduling the wedding three days ago.

This morning, they filled their car with everything they needed: One of Briana's favorite white dresses, a bottle of champagne, Jeremy's new shoes from G.H. Bass, and the perfume he gave her as a wedding present. Joyce is arranging everything else, from the minister to the music to the cake with white chocolate frosting.

"I like that it's a simple wedding," Briana said. "Otherwise, I'd be really frantic right now."

"Nice and simple," Jeremy said. "Like I like things."

Her parents couldn't be here on such short notice, and neither could Jeremy's. Briana and Jeremy don't mind. They'll renew their vows in front of the family later. Today is just for them.

At 6: 45 p.m., she walks down the stairs and onto the porch overlooking the ocean. As the minister begins speaking, Briana's and Jeremy's hands find each other.

A family strolling down the boardwalk stops walking. A couple wearing tank-tops do a double-take, shading their eyes with their hands. A boardwalk tram slows down and people lean out the windows, snapping pictures.

Briana and Jeremy don't see any of this. They don't notice the crowd gathering on the boardwalk; they don't look at the inn's other guests, who are clustered on the porch. They just stare at each other, until it is time to kiss. And everyone erupts in applause.

"Do you feel any different?" he asks her afterward.

"I guess, kind of. Do you?" she asks. "It's like we were already married."

"Now we're really married," he says.

"You look really nice," she says.

"You look really, really, really, really beautiful," he says.

He wiggles the gold ring on his finger and thinks about how strange it is that he is more nervous now than before the wedding. She is, too, she tells him.

"The water helps calm you down a little bit, though," she says, looking out at the waves.

They take champagne glasses and sit on rocking chairs overlooking the water and plan their life. As soon as he finishes college, he'll work designing computer software and games. Good, steady work, something that pays well. She'll stay home with the baby. "I want to bake cookies and clean the house," she says. "I want to be settled."

They won't move around once their children enter school. Briana's family moved three times while she was growing up, and she was never more lonely than on her first day at a new school. Jeremy moved more often than that: His father was in the military.

"We'll be good parents," he says.

They sip champagne and look at the ocean, the same ocean that witnessed their engagement. They were living in Florida then, and one afternoon at the beach Jeremy handed her a Cracker Jack box with a diamond ring in the prize packet.

"Your eyes are blue today," he tells her.

"So are yours," she says. "They're very blue."

"Yours are yellow-green with a blue rim," he says.

"Cheers one more time," she says, and they clink glasses.

"For us," he says. "Forever and ever."

Across the porch, another couple also sit on rocking chairs, sipping wine. They got married young, too, when he was 22 and she was just 19. They look at Jeremy and Briana and remember how it felt to be newlyweds, to be starting a whole new life. Then they look at each other and smile, because they've come to the beach for a special reason, too. They've come to celebrate their 41st wedding anniversary.

Pub Date: 8/17/98

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