It was to be the perfect end to a perfect day. Hillary and Jason Martin had just gotten married. They arrived at Bakersfield's swank Padre Hotel — the bride in her wedding dress, the groom in Marine Corps dress blues.
They were 18 and in love.
They were 18 and out of luck.
The two were old enough to marry. Jason Martin, on leave after completing boot camp, was old enough to join the Marines. The Padre Hotel's age policy, however, required them to be at least 21 to get a room.
"I was so upset," Hillary Martin said. "I just broke down. I thought, 'Here I am looking for a place to stay on my honeymoon.'"
The couple dated all through their years at Bakersfield's Foothill High School, where Jason was a standout on the baseball team. They had talked of getting married. But someday became now with the birth of twin sons 9 months ago and Jason's enlistment. He proposed to Hillary just before leaving for boot camp for three months earlier this year.
The idea was to get hitched during Jason's 10-day leave before he headed off to combat training.
"I planned it all myself," Hillary said. "We couldn't afford to go out of town or anything."
They were young and broke, and so Hillary's mother offered to spring for their honeymoon night at the Padre, a newly renovated Bakersfield landmark where the "Oil Baron Suite" will set you back $649 on Saturday night.
The couple's Nov. 12 incident at the hotel found its way to the local media thanks to an angry cousin of Hillary's. The hotel's manager explained to a television reporter that employees were simply following a longstanding policy to which no exceptions are made.
And just like that, the hotel found itself with a sticky public relations problem.
"This is an outrage!" a reader posted on the Bakersfield Californian's website. "If a person can sign up to fight and possibly die for his country then he should be able to stay at any hotel he wants to."
On Thursday, Brett Miller, a co-owner of the Padre Hotel, apologized to Hillary Martin.
"He was very sincere," she said.
Miller explained that the hotel's policy is intended to prevent underage drinking and partying. He offered the Martins a room and dinner — on him.
"An exception should have been made. If you show up in a military uniform and a wedding gown — sure, we'll give you a room," Miller said in an interview. "When I found out all the facts, I was sick to my stomach. This should have never happened."
While the Martins will never get their perfect wedding night back, they will at least have a story to tell their grandchildren.
After leaving the Padre Hotel, they drove to a gas station and got some chips and soda; their reception had been such a whirlwind, the couple hadn't eaten and they were starving. Then they drove around Bakersfield for a bit, munching on the chips and looking for a room for their wedding night. Well past midnight, they settled in at a Doubletree hotel.
"They had a military discount," Hillary said. "They were very sweet. We even got a free breakfast."