Nina and Mark

How We Met: Mark likes to run. So does Nina. Interestingely enough, the two of them just “happened” to be on the same after work workout routine at the Morrison YMCA in Charlotte. After several months of sideways glances and friendly smiles (and perhaps some strategically planned workout schedules), the “cute gym guy in the retired athlete shirt” interrupted “the girl with the ponytail and nice smile’s” workout and introduced himself. Four days later, we went on our first date and before Mark dropped me off that night, we already had our next date planned. I’m sure it’s obvious how this turned out. When a new job moved Mark from Charlotte, NC to Bloomington, IL that summer, it didn’t take too long to realize that we needed to do something to fix this long (700 miles long) distance relationship ASAP. Mark proposed 11 months after we started dating. Hey, when you know you know.

How He Asked, December 23, 2009: Mark was in Charlotte the week of Christmas (Nina lives for this week and swears that her purpose on this earth is to spread Christmas cheer all year long) and Nina could not wait to share the week with Mark that would involve time together, Christmas magic and of course, good food. Nina is the “the planner” and little did she know that Mark was planning his own special surprise involving some Christmas magic of his own. The day after Mark made his merry way to Charlotte, Mark said that he didn’t care what the two of them spent the day doing but once it got dark, he wanted to go look at Christmas lights. Of course Nina was delighted with this idea so they spent the day finishing up Christmas shopping and getting things done. Around 4:30, Mark told Nina that they had to leave in 15 minutes. Nina is not always good at spontaneous situations and started asking so many questions. “It’s Christmas, you’re allowed to be surprised. Just get ready quickly and we have to go,” Mark told her. They hopped in the car to an undisclosed location and it took everything in Nina’s power to relax and just enjoy the ride. 40 minutes later they pulled into Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens, just as the sun was setting. The Christmas displays at the gardens are incredible and Nina was excited about this little surprise. This is where the magic starts…

As they walked to the front entrance, there were two horse drawn carriages outside of the building, one large one wtih two horses and a smaller one behind, with only one horse. Mark took Nina’s hand and veered in that direction and said he wanted to pet the horse. The man sitting in the front seat of the carriage looked up and said “Hi! Are you Mark?” And just like out of a movie, he told them to hop on and Seabiscuit, the horse, would take them around the gardens to see the amazing Christmas lights. About halfway through the gardens, Seabiscuit started to get restless which actually worked out in the favor of Mark’s master plan. The carriage driver stopped the horse and said he was going to re-adjust the horse’s harness but instead of waiting, he told Nina and Mark to take a walk down by the fountains. Mark took Nina’s hand and they hopped off the carriage towards the fountains. Somewhere down the path, Mark started squeezing Nina’s hand suspiciously tighter and stopped for a second. He said he had brought a little treat from Bloomington and reached into his pocket and pulled out…

A box of chocolates! They were from the Chocolatier in Bloomington which Nina swears are the best chocolates she has EVER put in her mouth. Mark opened the box and among a little box filled with cinnamon buttercreams and truffles was a sparkling surprise! Mark got down on one knee and asked Nina the easiest question that she has ever had to answer!

Our Wedding: We got married on September 4, 2010 at St. Matthew Catholic Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. The weather was perfect, the ceremony was breathtaking, and my parents hosted a beautiful evening of dinner and dancing at The Big Chill. Our reception turned into one huge dance party and we wouldn’t have had it any other way. Above all, we were able to share the first day of our Happily Ever After with our closest and dearest family and friends.

Nina blogs about peace, love, and good food. Check it out here.