Jane Wrenn pops into the Wyndham lobby, where a reporter is waiting.

The first thought in that reporter’s head: This can’t be her.

The Wyndham’s wedding coordinator is rounding the bend toward 80 years old. This trim, stylish figure with the springy step? Nothing elderly here.

Wedding coordinator Jane Wrenn keeps everything on track at Wyndham hotel

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“Do you mind taking the stairs?” Wrenn asks, bypassing the elevator as she chatters her way up two flights to show off the Oceanfront resort’s ballrooms.

“Why on earth do you want to write about me?” she asks, her words drawn out by a vintage Tidewater accent rarely heard anymore. “I’m no stoh-ray.”

We beg to differ. At 78, Wrenn is a whirlwind, juggling multiple weddings at the same time, five in one recent weekend alone – just as Hurricane Matthew was blowing into town.

She’s aiming to do 80 weddings to mark her 80th year.

“Oh, no,” she says.” You’re not going to say my age are you? My brides will just die.”

We explain that she’s an inspiration . Proof that the later phase of life doesn’t have to be about winding down.

“Well, all right,” she shrugs. “I guess my brides will just have to get over it.”

My brides. She’s not sure exactly how many are in that club but figures – with 30 years in the business – she’s tended to at least 2,000 “I do” couples.

Along with them came fretful mothers, tipsy fathers, awkward divorce and in-law dynamics. And endless all-important details – from decorations, dinners and deliveries to cakes, cocktails and confessions.

“One groom told me, ‘They don’t know it, but I’m still married to someone else,’ ” Wrenn says. “I told him he’d better start having a chat.”


“Some can be a challenge,” she says tactfully. “I try to make each one feel like they’re my only one.”

Her signature saying soothes nerves: “Everything’s going to be just fine.”

Marianna DuBois of Bethesda, Md., was one of Wrenn’s August brides.

“If Jane says it’s going to be all right, you feel like it probably is going to be all right,” DuBois says. “She’s just got this calming way about her.”

Kelcy Saunders of Chesapeake joined Wrenn’s club in October.

“I started freaking out right before I walked down the aisle,” Saunders says. “My guests thought I was about to pass out. But Jane told me, ‘You’re OK. You know you want this. Just breathe and do it.’ She was awesome.”

Neither woman had a clue Wrenn is approaching 80. When told the reason for this story, both gasp: “Whaaat?”

“I would never ever have guessed!” Saunders says. “We loved how energetic she was. I’m in total shock!”

Wrenn’s boss, Courtney Wydra, says she has to order Wrenn to get off and stay off the clock: “I tell her, ‘Jane, you absolutely cannot come in to work today.’ We joke that she’s going to drop dead at her desk.”

Wrenn, originally from Richmond, didn’t have much of a wedding herself. Her fiance, Dick Wrenn – they’ve been married for 57 years – was Catholic and she was Methodist.

“In those days,” she says, “it was scandalous to marry outside your faith. So we had a very small wedding. Nothing fancy. Just me in my pale blue suit.”

Her husband went to work for a pharmaceutical company, and she became a stay-at-home mom.

“I always wanted to work,” she says. “But women used to be shamed for that.”

It wasn’t like she didn’t have her hands full. The younger of the couple’s two daughters, Amy, was born with cerebral palsy – intellectually and physically impaired.

Jane dove into volunteer work on behalf of cerebral palsy and kept herself fit so she could continue to carry her growing daughter, who was eventually settled in a group home.

“There are so many ups and downs with raising a handicapped child,” she says. “At times, my husband and I thought we wouldn’t make it. For a long time, I was hell-bent to ‘fix’ Amy. I was determined that child was going to walk. And she did, for a little while, with steel braces and all. But eventually you realize, just let Amy be Amy. As long as she was happy, I needed to be happy, too.”

The family moved to Hampton Roads in 1986, where Dick Wrenn retired and became a golf pro. Jane Wrenn, in her late 40s by then, began longing for a career outside the home.

Armed with some training in planning meetings, she spent the next few decades with a string of outfits, migrating from conventions to weddings long ago.

“You get hugs after a wedding,” she says.

When the Wyndham called in 2007, Wrenn says, eyes twinkling, “I don’t think they had any idea I was 69 years old.”

Nearly 10 years later, she’s their star.

“Jane has a hard job,” says Wydra, her boss. “I tried it and didn’t last six months. You’re dealing with the most-difficult clients and everybody’s ‘perfect day.’ Brides don’t know what they want. Their mothers want something different.”

Wrenn seems to thrive on the pressure. Working out compromises. Being a buffer.

“I’ll never forget that shy little Mennonite groom who was horrified when the bride’s parents wanted to stay in the room right next to theirs on the wedding night,” Wrenn says. “We made up an excuse to get them moved.”

Wrenn says she keeps her battery charged by doing something she loves. She tries to eat healthy, watches her weight, enjoys a margarita – “a big one” – after a hard week. She participates in the annual Shamrock Marathon and hits the gym three times a week.

That’s where Wydra first detected Wrenn’s competitive streak.

“We wound up side-by-side on the treadmills,” says Wydra, who’s 37. “And I noticed that Jane kept going faster and faster and faster. I couldn’t believe it, but she was trying to beat my time. I knew right then why she has to book the most weddings in the city or she’s not happy.”

Wrenn grins: “Well, I did finish first in my age group in the Shamrock.”

Clearly, she’s been blessed with good health. No major maladies or even aches and pains worth mentioning. Most of her friends are a decade or two younger .

“I have no interest in sitting around talking about ailments and funerals,” she says.

A few years back, Wrenn considered retiring. The hotel had installed a new computer system she didn’t feel up to learning. She wound up mastering it.

Change is good, Wrenn says. She’s glad that even weddings can now buck tradition.

“ Bare feet. Mixed races. Couples with babies. Dogs in evening dresses. I love the diversity. It’s so much fun!”

Sherry Gorman’s daughter, Ashley, had more than 250 guests at her wedding.

“Once everybody is having a good time,” Gorman says, “Jane just scoots off into the night and you don’t even know she’s gone.”

Wrenn winks: “They’d better keep an eye on me here. I tend to change jobs every 10 years.”

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