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Blankets of orange haze may be unwelcomed guests at weddings this weekend in the U.S.

Christina Lamoureux and her fiancé, Brian Fritzsche, have been planning their wedding since January 2021. Now they may have to scramble to avoid the wildfire smoke from Canada that's drifted into the U.S. across the Northeast and Midwest.
Christina Lamoureux
Christina Lamoureux and her fiancé, Brian Fritzsche, have been planning their wedding since January 2021. Now they may have to scramble to avoid the wildfire smoke from Canada that's drifted into the U.S. across the Northeast and Midwest.

Christina Lamoureux is a planner and for the last year and half, she and her fiancé have tried to predict every eventuality that might interfere with their wedding in Washington, D.C., on Saturday.

"It's June in the District, so we planned for rain, for thunderstorms, for heat and humidity. And because it's going to be close to the White House, we had to think about President Biden and if he might be doing something that day," Lamoureux told NPR.

But the one thing they never saw coming was a cloud of potentially poisonous, thick orange haze hanging over their nuptials — or their wedding pictures.

"The air quality is one of [those] things you never think you would have to worry about," she said with a laugh, adding that now, it's the singular thought in her mind.

"I didn't fully understand when I first went outside [on Wednesday] morning what was happening. But it's really crazy to be in Virginia and smell smoke in your hair from Canada," Lamoureux, who lives in Alexandria, Va., admitted.

Until this week, when she thought of her wedding, the 28-year-old lawyer, who is getting married at the historic Daughters of the American Revolution building near the National Mall, pictured herself and her 100 guests celebrating among the elegant beaux-arts style columns on a clear summer day.

"Just beautiful skies and a beautiful view of the Washington Monument, which we are supposed to have from our venue," she said, noting that "it might not be as clear a view now."

Haze blankets over monuments on the National Mall in Washington, Wednesday, as seen from Arlington, Va.
Julio Cortez / AP
/
AP
Haze blankets over monuments on the National Mall in Washington, Wednesday, as seen from Arlington, Va.

Something borrowed, something orange

Lamoureux is among the unlucky set of soon-to-be married couples and wedding-goers who are frantically keeping an eye on weather reports, hoping that a predicted shift in winds will push the dangerous air over the Atlantic and dissipate the remaining smoke before the weekend.

A bride in Canada, not far from the rash of wildfires in Quebec that are causing the alarming conditions, bemoaned the situation she now finds herself in.

"The air quality in Toronto due to the wildfires is gonna be so bad this whole week, including my wedding day which sounds so selfish but I'm just [sad face emoji]'" she tweeted.

A.Z. Madonna, a reporter for The Boston Globe, also took to the platform seeking advice: "I'm participating in an outdoor wedding this coming weekend in Brooklyn. If the air quality index doesn't drastically improve by then, will a KN95 protect me from the worst of it or do I need to find an N95?"

Lamoureux is also worried about the well-being of her guests who are flying in from California, Colorado and other states that have not been affected by the fires.

"I just want everyone to be safe," she said.

If the situation doesn't improve soon, Lamoureux intends to switch gears and go with a "rain plan" that would move the dinner and dancing reception from the portico into one of the building's many rooms.

"We are lucky ... and happy that the space can accommodate that," she said.

But taking a more macro view of the current state of the environment, and the broader impacts of the pollution in the air that is posing short and long-term health risks for millions of people, Lamoureux sounded a bit more melancholy.

A crisis like this, she said, illustrates "just how connected the world is and how much actions in one part of the world impact how every part of the world, especially when it comes to climate change."

"These are just things that we really can't and shouldn't be ignoring," Lamoureux warned.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.
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