Engaged: Louann Magi and Zach Shariff
He helped her train for a marathon, and soon they were in it together for the long run.
Caption: Louann Magi & Zack Shariff (Freed Photography / August 5, 2012)
Her story: Louann Magi, 45, grew up in Bedford, Pennsylvania. She is an interior designer and owner of L'Image Design Studio and lives in Glenwood.
His story: Zack Shariff, 56, grew up in Pakistan and moved to Maryland when he was 19. He is CEO of Allen & Shariff Design Build Manage, and lives with Magi in Glenwood. His son, Zain Shariff, 26, is an opera singer. His daughter, Sonia, 21, is a college student.
Their story: Louann and Zack had known each other in business circles. But the professional relationship took a turn into personal when they — almost literally — ran into each other at a Howard County Striders run about 8 years ago.
"In fact, I didn't recognize her," says Zack. "She had to come over to me and say, 'Do you remember me?'"
That's when they discovered that they shared a passion for running, which now includes participating in marathons and triathlons.
"I was actually training for my first marathon," says Louann. "So, Zack and another buddy of ours helped train me for it."
"I was going through a divorce and separation at that time and Louann was going through a similar thing," says Zach. "We started supporting each other through that time. Our friendship got stronger."
"[Our relationship] evolved over a period of time." Says Louann. "As we like to call it, it was friendship catching on fire."
Louann says since it was the second time around for both of them, they did everything a bit backward. They built a house together five years ago, which led to his proposal.
"It was the weekend we were getting ready to move in, October 1, 2007," she says. "We were moving out of a townhouse we both lived in. Zach was bringing a load of furniture over in his car. By the time I got here, I noticed that the master bedroom doors were closed. Zack guided me into the room and when I opened up the doors, he had one of our tables in the center of the bedroom with this gorgeous flower arrangement and rose petals sprinkled all over the floor. Of course, my expression was [one of] shock. Then, he got down on one knee and proposed."
"I wanted to surprise her," Zack says. "I had a bottle of champagne and strawberries. I proposed to her in private and then we shared the champagne with the contractor and workmen."
Although the Louann and Zack knew they were committed to one another and had exchanged wedding rings about three years ago, they decided that it was time to make it legal.
"I travel a lot, because I have offices overseas," says Zack. "We had a lot of things to accomplish. The timing had to be right. I have two kids. And last year, we decided this was the right time to get married. We wanted to take our time and just feel good about it...It's about sharing this with our family and our friends. In our hearts, we have been married, but we decided this was the time to share."
The wedding: Some 130-140 guests will come to the Walters Art Museum for a Tuscany, Italy-themed wedding in the museum's Sculpture Court. That theme — with scrolling detail — was first revealed in the couple's wedding invitations, from Invitations by Beth. The 6-x-6-inch squares were enclosed in suede-lined envelopes and opened like envelopes themselves to reveal the announcement, "A friendship shared by two has grown into a love so true."
Louann is keeping the decor secret, suffice to say the colors will chocolate, gold and cream. Floral arrangements will have an "antique flair," courtesy Wicked Willow.
The ceremony will be simple and intimate, officiated by Allan Field, the mutual friend who first helped Zack train Louann for that first marathon. A harpist, flutist and Zack's son will perform. His daughter has written something she will read.
Louann also won't say what she's wearing, other than to admit that it's a custom-made dress from Mary's Boutique in Annapolis.
Zack is wearing a tuxedo with a vest and bow-tie that Mary's is also making, to match Louann's dress. And he won't know what they look like until it's time for him to get dressed for the ceremony.
Roman Grinev will be doing the wedding photography. And Chef's Expressions is catering the four-course seated dinner.
"My family only eats kosher foods," says Zack. "They're coming from overseas, so Chef's Expressions customized [the meal] to our needs. It'll be a fusion cuisine that combines Baltimore and Asian flavors. The main dish is going to be a combination of fish and steak."
The cake — also by Chef's Expressions — will come in two different flavors: chocolate and carrot cake. It'll be covered in chocolate icing and decorated with gold and antique-looking flowers.
One surprise the couple is willing to reveal is that they'll be kicking off the dancing part of the evening — with the help of the 12-piece Motown band, Fresh Air — with a little performance of their own.
"We didn't want to go through the traditional stuff," says Louann. "We're not doing the dad and daughter dance or the bouquet toss or garter toss. So, we're working with Arthur Murray in getting [two dances] choreographed. We thought it could be neat way to keep the guests entertained and make it a little different. When they introduce us as Mr. and Mrs., we'll be dancing a foxtrot. Then, to get guests out on the dance floor, we're going to have a waltz; 'That's Amore." .
Later on, after the cake-cutting, Louann and Zack will return to the dance floor to perform a rumba.
The honeymoon: "Our wedding is an Italian theme. You've got to end it by going to Italy," Louann says, with a laugh. "We're going everywhere; starting in Venice, working our way to Florence, down to Rome and spending most of our time on the Amalfi coast. We're going to be gone for about three weeks."