One Week to GO!

Danielle and I are incredibly excited to celebrate our marriage with you just one week from today! We never really go around to updating this blog, so I’m going to paste in “Our Story”, my favorite piece we’ve written on here, for your reading pleasure. Can’t wait for June 1st, pray for sunshine!

– Karl


From their first date, one pulled from a carefully written Hollywood script brimming with spontaneous romance and riveting, undeniable chemistry, one that could have captivated audiences in a blockbuster film, one that culminated in a magical late-night first kiss huddled under a giant oak tree in the pouring rain overlooking the gleaming historic monuments in our nation’s capital, Danielle and Karl knew. They knew it was right, they knew it was for real. Just ten months to the day after their first date, Karl tricked Danielle into returning to the location of their first kiss for an impromptu and casual photo shoot, which Danielle thought was nothing more than a fun way to get great pictures together. When Karl popped out from behind that memorable Oak tree, the same tree they attempted to use as shelter in the thunder-storm ten months ago as they shared their first kiss, he had what he called a “prop” for the final picture of the day.

His knee hit the ground, the bright, shining sun bounced excitedly off of her eagerly waiting diamond engagement ring, her face jumped to

attention in utter amazement, tears welled up faster than he could get out the first words. She threw her hands up to her face in awe, then immediately reached out for him, instinctively trying to put her arms around him to say “YES” before the question had even been asked.

Danielle and Karl met the good old-fashioned way – online. Good friend and proposal photographer Shaunica Pridgen had strongly encouraged Karl to join a new site that was quickly gaining in popularity in the DC area, OkCupid.com. It wasn’t long before he stumbled upon the girl he would soon know as “Dani,” a cute and impressive PhD student at Oxford in England who was moving to Washington, DC for the summer. Dani’s interest was peaked by the blonde haired (she has a weakness for blondes) software executive who happened to own a restaurant that specialized in her two favorite things: coffee and Nutella.

After a few weeks of excitedly writing emails back and forth and anxiously waiting for the next message to arrive, Dani finally moved to Washington. Their first date was scheduled for less than a week after she arrived, but despite her high hopes for the first meeting, Karl canceled. While he assured her that it was simply because he was moving from Arlington to DC in a few days and had to finish packing, she was temporarily heartbroken. She was sure she’d been blown off and thought, that’s that. Fortunately for their future children, Karl quickly rescheduled for Monday, July 12th – enticing her with the offer of dinner and a walk around the moonlit monuments.

DC, which was supposed to be a temporary two-month stay for her fellowship, turned into her home and her plans to return to England were put on hold; but only after she met the real reason she absolutely could not leave – Maxwell. Karl’s little Jack Russell Terrier Max quickly stole her heart on the third date, and she hasn’t let go yet.

Their mutual love of dogs, animals, food, politics, culture, and world travel has meant they’ve never been bored and ensured that everyday is more exciting than the last. Today, they count down the hours until the big day. Immense excitement cannot begin to describe the feelings they share in anticipation of their life together. Many, many adventures await them in a life lived together in love!

And we’re back!

Well, it’s been awhile.  Things got crazy in the last several months, as I hit the home stretch of my PhD and Karl focused on making Pound even more popular and successful – not to mention becoming CTO of DC’s hottest new start-up, Venga.  But now we’re back, with lots to blog about.  Since I last wrote, we’ve made a major dent in our planning checklist:

1.  I officially submitted my PhD dissertation.  Which means it’s time for some serious wedding planning!  (Ok, so this wasn’t exactly on the checklist, but it really, really helps!).

2.  We booked a venue and set a date!  We’ll be getting married on Friday, June 1, 2012 at Stone Manor Country Club in Middletown, MD.  Check it out at http://www.stonemanorcountryclub.com/.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that this place ticks every box for us.

3.  I said yes to the dress!  And luckily, I got to share the experience (and some celebratory champagne!) with my mom.

4.  We chose our photographer (http://jeffsimpsonphoto.com/wedding/) and had our engagement photos taken.

5.  Karl designed gorgeous Save the Date cards and just sent them to the printers last night.  I can’t wait to get them out – I can already imagine them gracing refrigerators across the world!

More on each of these soon…

Karl and I made our first wedding site reconnaissance mission this past weekend, checking out some Loudon County, VA vineyards and an old manor house in Middletown, MD (and taking a lovely walk down Karl’s memory lane at the same time, since these places are close to where he grew up).  Our ‘must-have’ list is pretty small at this point, and nothing other than budget is a definite deal-breaker.  Leaving aside for the moment the question of a metro DC wedding – which remains a possibility – we know we want an outdoor ceremony and reception, preferably somewhere with gorgeous views and hopefully close to Karl’s hometown of Harpers Ferry, WV.  We’d like to have some flexibility with catering, and a great bridal and groom’s suite would be a perk too.  Ideally, the place wouldn’t make us shut down the party by the ungodly-early hour of 10:30 pm.  We want our guests to be stunned by the beauty of the setting, to relax and have a blast (croquet court and late night grilled-cheese sandwiches, anyone?), and to leave feeling like it’s the best wedding they’ve ever been to.  That means, above all, no rubber chicken dinner and no stuffy hotel banquet hall!

Looking back on the weekend, two things really surprised me.  First, I always knew weddings were expensive, but I never realized just how expensive.  Maybe this is because I’ve only ever been to three weddings in my entire life.  Or maybe it’s because the venue is one of the most important parts of a wedding in my opinion, so I’m being super picky.  But there are so many details to consider in terms of what’s actually feasible, and they all add up quickly.  What looks like a reasonable site fee on a website quickly spirals out of control when you start adding in catering, alcohol, tenting, etc.  And then when you throw in all the rest of it – the flowers, the photography, the favors, the centerpieces, the guest cards, the invites – you could be forgiven for breaking out the brown paper bag to breathe into.   As it turns out, the wedding business is a huge racket.  And yet I’m a sucker for pretty things and I’ve bought into the storybook wedding concept hook, line and sinker.  Faced with budgeting for a wedding, actually penciling those costs into your knot.com budget checklist and watching how quickly your allotted funds disappear, any self-respecting bride should at least consider eloping.  And yet, I’m determined to find the ‘perfect’ site at an affordable price.

Ah, the word ‘perfect’.  We all knew it would come into my wedding planning at some point, since I’m a notorious perfectionist.  I’m also a daydreamer and a procrastinator, and those are anxiety-producing combinations if ever I’ve seen any.  Anyway, this brings me to the second thing that surprised me: you should really have a strong sense of your ‘personal style’ and your ‘vision’ for your wedding when you go look at venues – and not just for yourself, but for how you see your relationship and the two of you as a couple.  This is essential if you harbor any illusions of choosing the ‘perfect’ venue, which for me in an ideal world would be the Biltmore estate in Asheville, NC or an Irish or Scottish castle.  But in the real world, what is it I’m trying to express with my dream wedding?  What are our ‘buzz words’ – romantic, laid-back, elegant, fun, timeless, chic, vintage?  Are we a vineyard couple, a rustic countryside couple, a waterfront couple, an historic house couple?  I think we’re potentially all these things, and that’s what I love about us.  I can see us taking our vows and becoming husband and wife, surrounded by our family and friends, in so many different settings.  Wedding planning is incredibly exciting when I think of it as weaving together a day that expresses all the diverse elements that made us fall in love with each other in the first place.  I just have to keep reminding myself of that, and if we have to keep looking, well, I have the best company ever for the road trips…

I said yes!

They always say pictures are worth a thousand words.  After the way Karl proposed to me last week, I’d have to agree (although that’s not gonna stop me from recording it in words).  There are a lot of things about our proposal that were incredibly special but I think the best part is that we have it all – every shocked, happy, excited, surreal moment – captured on camera (not to mention Facebook) for posterity.  Looking at the pictures, I don’t think I need to spell out in detail how thrilled I am that Karl got down on one knee and ‘put a (gorgeous) ring on it’.  That all speaks for itself.  What’s missing are the romantic little details, the answer to the common question ‘how’d he do it’?  So without further ado, here’s how it happened:

Thursday morning, bed:  I’m drowsy (as usual) and sick with a cold (unusual), but it’s our anniversary!  It’s the first thing I mention to Karl.  He asks me what I’d like to do to celebrate, and in predictable fashion, I can’t make a decision.  Lately, I’ve been lamenting that we have so few pictures together, so Karl suggests that we go to the World War II memorial – where we had our first kiss, in the middle of a thunderstorm, under a big leafy tree – and get a friend to join us with a camera.  This sounds fun.  I’m oblivious to the potential of a proposal, despite the symbolism of the day and the location and the fact that we’d been talking about getting engaged for awhile.  I mean, we went to the World War II memorial a few weeks ago and nothing happened, right?  (Turns out, this earlier trip was meant to throw me off the scent …which clearly worked).

Later that morning, the closet:  Karl is fussing over what we’re going to wear.  He says ‘we have to look equal levels of cuteness’.  Still oblivious, I secretly wonder if I can get away without washing my hair.

Later that morning, the kitchen:  I make coffee, and Karl mysteriously disappears to the basement.  He says he’s looking for something.  I pet the dog, still oblivious.  (The dog and I had been on ring reconnaissance for weeks and we had never considered the basement.  Fail).  Karl heads to work, and I go upstairs and wonder how much makeup it will take to cover up the fact that I’m sick.  Don’t want to look bad in cute couple anniversary pictures, after all!

Early afternoon, Pound the Hill:  I meet Karl and Shaunica, our friend and official photographer for the day.  Nothing seems amiss, except for Shaunica coercing me into wearing lipstick and parading me around the shop to get approval from random female patrons.  Also, Karl is asking a lot of questions, which apparently he does when he’s nervous.  I mainly worry about how my dress looks and quietly complain about my cold.

Later that afternoon, a taxi:  Shaunica frantically asks Karl if he remembered the camera.  He says yes, but double checks anyway.

Later that afternoon, the World War II memorial:  Shaunica asks lots of questions about how to use the camera and we take several great photos by our tree.  Then, we’re done taking pictures.  Shaunica looks at Karl and says, ‘is that it’?  He goes to get his backpack from behind the tree while Shaunica says, ‘let me just grab some pictures of Dani by herself”.  I’m confused, and I turn to see what Karl is doing.  I hear him say, ‘I just need a prop for this one’.  Next thing I know, he’s got a ring box in his hand and he’s down on one knee with tears in his eyes.  I’m so shocked and thrilled that I barely hear a word of what I’m sure was an absolutely beautiful proposal (whoops).  The super sparkly ring winking at me in the sunlight doesn’t make it easy to concentrate, either.  I’m shaking the entire time, and for many minutes afterwards.  Then, I’m grabbing Karl to kiss him, he’s laughingly slipping the ring on my finger, tourists are clapping for us, Shaunica is doing a ‘happy dance,’ I’m wrapped in his arms, and we’re engaged!  It’s the official start of our wonderful life together and there is no happier, luckier girl in the world.

P.S.  I have found a cure for the common cold.  It’s getting engaged.