Adam & Rena – A Love Story from Maryland
Baltimore/ Inner Harbor/ Submarine USS Torsk/ Canals/ Sea Food/ Parks/ History/ Sailing/ Annapolis/ Severn
Originally, Rena is from southern Anne Arundel County, Maryland and Adam is from Columbia, Maryland. They both currently live in southwest Baltimore, MD.
We’ve known each other for almost 10 years, and we’ve been together for nearly 4 years.
We met in college, probably in a singing group (we both were in the Gospel Choir, the Chorale, and the music ensemble that served at university Masses). We never dated in college, and lost touch for a few years after our respective graduations.
At a mutual friend’s wedding in May 2011, we found out we were living very close to each other and we decided to hang out.
On our first “hangout,” we ate at a vegan restaurant, played laser tag, and we rounded out the evening by watching The Neverending Story. We continued “hanging out,” falling for one another more and more each time, and eventually decided we liked each other so much that we would risk the whole “couple thing” out.
We retroactively determined that initial hangout was our first date (it must have been obvious to our waiter, at least, since we shared a chocolate dessert!). Almost 3 years (and many, many, many personal and mutual milestones) later, we officially said “yes” to one another’s proposals, and started planning our wedding (and, more importantly, preparing for our marriage).
We have always been incredibly open and comfortable talking with one another about things both trivial and important. Even when it’s hard, we talk things through, and that vulnerability has made us strong. We can laugh together, learn together, forgive one another, and support one another only because we are committed to true, deep communication.
We like hiking, walking, camping, cooking, eating, enjoying good beer, singing, dancing, karaoke, traveling, reading, playing board games, laser tag, keeping up with current events, philosophical and theological discussions…
We don’t exactly like grading, but when we both have grading to do (Rena sometimes teaches a course at our alma mater), listening to music and doing our grading at the same time makes it much more fun!
ADAM: For our first Christmas, Rena gave me a cookbook that I’d wanted. Every chapter was themed (party guide, pizza night, lite fare, etc.) and one chapter was an entire proposal meal. I got it in my head to make this very involved meal which included lobster bisque, spicy balsamic BBQ ribs (oh yes), truffled potatoes, a raspberry trifle dessert and champagne kirs. I also had found a closed section of a trail in the local park (don’t tell the rangers!) and found it to be the perfect spot to pop the question. Rena and I decided we would take a short hike there after she got home from work.
I got home early, put the finishing touches on the dinner, and waited for Rena to come home. Then she called and said she’d be a little late. Half hour later, another call – still running late. As the sun sank lower, so did my spirits; it would be too dark to have our hike. I started to get mad that things weren’t going to go as planned. When Rena arrived to my house, we enjoyed the meal. I agonized over what day I should try the hike and proposal again.
Little did I know Rena had immediately recognized the meal and was debating if she should tell me she knew what was up! Just when I had decided my plans were ruined, she said “is there something… you want to ask me? Why don’t you take me on a walk?” We walked to the neighborhood park a few blocks from our home, sat on a bench talking, and then I got down on one knee and asked her. I had hardly finished asking the question when she said “YES!” So, it wasn’t exactly according to plan, but it still turned out okay. We’ve decided that will be a good mantra for our life together: having a plan is great, but life never plays out exactly like you planned it, and how life does play out is often so much better than you imagined it could!
RENA: I had no idea that Adam would propose on a random Wednesday night! It was beautiful, and very real, and very appropriate to who we are: good food, honest communication, and the beauty of nature are three of our favorite things. The trees and streetlights and distant train noises in the park made it all very romantic, and it means even more to me that I said “yes” on a park bench in Baltimore, the city I now call home. The dusk meant that I didn’t even look at the (beautiful heirloom) ring Adam gave me at first; all I could see was the wonderful man in front of me.
Later that week, on a gorgeous sunny day, we went to the hiking spot Adam had staked out for his proposal but never got to use. There, I got down on one knee and asked Adam if he would marry me. Even though I was certain of his answer, it still a scary moment! He said “yes,” of course. Adam and I both knew that I planned to “propose back,” but I think it took Adam by surprise that it happened so soon after his proposal!
Ceremony: St. Bernadette Parish in Severn, MD, where Rena works as a Coordinator of Youth Ministry.
Reception: The Great Room at Savage Mill in Savage, MD.
Our dream wedding was always pretty practical, because we don’t exactly work in the most lucrative fields (teaching and youth ministry). But we dreamed of a day when people we love, from all the different parts of our life, could come together and celebrate. We wanted good music at both ceremony and reception, satisfying food, dancing, family, friends, and imagined that we would do this all in some place that was both beautiful and relaxed. We wanted to not contribute to wasteful consumerism, and so we dreamed that we could impact the world positively by giving to charities in lieu of favors.
Our wedding ended up being a beautiful start to our marriage. The weather was outstanding. Our priest-celebrant is an amazing presider, our liturgical ministers (readers, musicians, etc.) were fantastic, our wedding party and parents were all present, and so, so many loved ones were able to be present with us. Rena’s new little-sister-in-law even caught the bouquet (even though she had some tough competition, since the toss was open to everyone!)
The Maid of Honor (Rena’s sister) did Rena’s makeup; one Maid of Awesome braided the bridespeoples’ hair while the other Maid of Awesome kept us rolling in laughter. The Best Man (Adam’s brother), Best Lady, Groomsman, and Groomslady brought the house down with their dance moves. The whole wedding party just rocked so very hard and we are so grateful for their incredible friendship and support.
Our brunch menu was a hit, people enjoyed our photo centerpieces (and the game that went with them), the dance floor was always full, and the music our DJ Kelley spun set the mood perfectly for each part of the reception. Our cake was very close to what we refer to as the “Platonic ideal” of cake (the cake from our friends’ wedding in Florida is the best we’ve ever had). And we ended up staying at our afterparty much later than we ever expected. It was the fastest, loveliest 17-hour day we’ve ever experienced!
Our favors were one of the things we were proudest about. We chose to allow our guests to designate one of five charities as their “favor,” and we donated the money we would have spent on each person’s favor to his or her chosen charity.
We are both people who like to be organized and keep spreadsheets for little things like vacation expenses, so the temptation for us was to be too meticulous and detail-oriented. Our wonderful priest-celebrant actually teased us a bit at our rehearsal for being too organized! But the best part of our organization was being able to hand off binders to the appropriate people and literally not have to answer any questions or field any concerns on the day of our wedding.
Throughout the months of planning, we had a huge color-coded “To Do” spreadsheet with every individual task listed alongside of a due date, and this was a fantastic idea for us. As the completed tasks were virtually “checked off,” we could see ourselves progressing and could be proud of what we had accomplished already, even if there were lots of tasks left. We made sure that we put “tasks” like “Tell your partner you love them” and “Give a huge thank you to everyone involved in the wedding“ into the spreadsheet, too, because those sorts of important things can slip through the cracks if you are not intentional about them.
One of the other documents we used a lot was a running list of songs we were excited about having played at the reception. Spreading out the process of choosing songs over the better part of a year meant that we really were pleased with our end results, and our DJ was awesomely willing to work with our very long “must play” and “do not play” lists.
What everyone says about the week before the wedding is true: There WILL be unfinished tasks that need to be completed, and you WILL be busy. That said, we heeded the advice we had heard that nothing can be added to the “to do” list, only subtracted. We also were exhorted by a mentor of Rena’s to make sure that we had a “no wedding talk” date in the lead-up to the wedding. It was 100% worth the time!!!
We attended a retreat program called Engaged Encounter to fulfill our church’s marriage preparation requirements, and we would wholeheartedly recommend that experience to anyone who is looking for a way to deepen their relationship. It was run from a Catholic perspective, but non-Catholics can attend. The majority of the retreat is devoted to structured discussion time for just the two of you, on important but sometimes awkward issues like finances, childcare, career plans, in-laws, etc.
The important thing was to be authentically “us,” without falling into the trap of thinking that every decision we made needed to perfectly encapsulate our relationship and personalities. This meant we celebrated the sacrament of marriage, in a full Mass, for our ceremony. We knew our reception needed to be filled with good music and lots of dancing! Oh, and we had an afterparty at our favorite bar, which allowed us to spend some extra quality time with our loved ones (particularly with our out-of-town guests) and extend the celebration!
An advice I would give to a bride planning a wedding is: Use Google Drive! It keeps all of your files in the cloud and allows you to share information with attendants, family, and other relevant parties. The internet, in general, is your friend when it comes to collecting and sharing information. We did online Save-the-Dates and RSVPs, which cut down on the paper and the worry of waiting on “snail mail.” We used a SoKind Registry, which allowed our guests to purchase gifts from any store they liked, and even allowed us to request homemade and secondhand gifts.
We would have torn our hair out if it were not for two websites, Offbeat Bride (especially the forum) and A Practical Wedding. Both websites have books associated with them, and the A Practical Wedding book is one we would highly recommend to anyone getting married (and anyone on their “team”). Most other wedding websites have a tendency to feed anxiety and consumerism, which are two things you definitely don’t need more of in the planning process (definitely ration your Pinterest time, too).
Aside from the oodles of fantastic advice on both of those websites, we’d offer three more pieces of advice from our personal experience:
“Keep Your Eyes on the Prize”: In other words, continually remind yourselves that the wedding is the start to your marriage, and your marriage is the thing that you should actually pour your heart and soul into. It’s easy to get caught up in the details of planning the wedding, but it’s important to help each other see the forest for the trees.
Designate A “Mindfulness” Person: Make sure that you have someone (other than your partner) whose job it is to make you stop a few times during your wedding day, and remind you to consciously recognize where you are, what you’re doing, who is there, and what you are feeling. That’s the most effective way to actually remember your wedding!
Memento Mori: This might sound weird, but we regularly remind each other that we’re in this marriage thing together until one of us dies (you know, “til death do us part”). Morbid, yes, but remembering our mortality helps us to live each day to the fullest and to realize that we’re here to help each other do just that.