Engaged: Nola Dobratz and Christian Martin
Buying a ring for the marketing director of Radcliffe Jewelers was a challenge he readily accepted.
Christian Martin and Nola Dobratz (Nola Dobratz, Handout photo / August 1, 2012)
Her story: Nola Dobratz, 33, grew up in Chicago, Ill. She lives in Fells Point and is marketing director for Radcliffe Jewelers. Her father, Walter Dobratz, is deceased. Her mother, Nola Dobratz, is a retired accountant.
His story: Christian Martin, 34, grew up in Reisterstown. He lives in Fells Point and is global category manager for DSM Nutritional Products. His father, Dave Martin, is a University of Maryland senior extension agent. His mother, Rose Martin, is a Carroll County family and consumer science high-school teacher.
Their story: Even though Christian went to University of Maryland College Park and Nola went to Towson University, they met then through mutual friends. However, their relationship stayed on the "casual acquaintance" level, hanging out with the same group of friends, but not dating.
"Years passed and we would run into each other at Orioles games or a bar, and he would always try to pick me up," Nola says. "His first job out of college, he handed me his business card. He'd put the onus on me, but because I'm a girl, I would never call."
Five years ago, that changed.
"He finally got smart and asked for my number and called me," she says, with a laugh.
It was around the end of April, 2008, and Christian took Nola to the [now closed] restaurant, Bicycle, where the two met their first challenge as soon as they walked in.
"When we [walked in], my ex-girlfriend and her entire family were there," Christian says. "It was a very awkward situation."
"I had no idea," says Nola. "We walked up to the table and he introduced me. Then we sat down and he said that's my ex-girlfriend and her entire family. We just giggled about it; those awkward first date giggles."
"But, it turned out to be really great dinner," says Christian. "She handled a tough situation with unbelievable grace...By the end of the evening, I think we both were locked in."
It wasn't long before they were talking on the phone every day and seeing each other frequently. About six months later, they realized how attached they'd become when they each had previously scheduled vacations that kept them apart for about a month.
"He went to Italy for two weeks and I went to the Mediterranean for two weeks after that," Nola says. "During that time we were emailing each other back and forth."
"That was the time we were grew closer and realized [how much] we liked each other," says Christian. "We were trying to see whose trip was better."
"We were trying to upstage each other's trips," she says. Traveling is a mutual passion. And trips since — to places like California's Napa Valley, Norway, Bermuda, Switzerland, Vancouver, Vail and Park City — they now take together.
Their easy comfort with each other was obvious to everyone around them.
"At my work holiday dinner, the president of my company came up to say hi, and asked, 'What's your wife's name?' We've said since that he was true visionary," says Christian.
The Proposal, July 2, 2011: "We went with my father and mother, and my sister and her husband to Yellowstone [and Grand Teton] National Parks for my parents' 40th wedding anniversary the end of June, beginning of July, 2011," says Christian. "There was natural beauty everywhere."
"On the last day we headed back to Jackson, Wyoming," says Nola. "We were driving through Jackson Hole, the cute ski town — checking things out, sightseeing. This is all six of us in a Suburban. We pull up to [look at] the Four Seasons Hotel and we were all, 'Wow, we should've ended the trip here, this is amazing. Then the doorman starts walking to the car. So, I said, 'We should probably get going.' At that point, Christian hopped out of the car and opened my door and said, 'We're staying here for the night.' At this point, I'm so clueless and thinking this is part of the vacation."
"She wasn't thinking this was the proposal; that was the best part," says Christian. "She thought it was the end of the trip and we were just doing a special night together, away from the family."
"We went to the room, showered and got ready for dinner," says Nola. "Christian was persistent about getting a bottle of wine sent to the room and I didn't understand. I was saying, 'We're going to dinner. Why do we need a bottle of wine?' The wine comes to the room. We're still finishing getting ready and I'm thinking, we have this balcony with this gorgeous view of the Grand Tetons. So, I took the wine to move it out to the balcony. When I turned around, Christian was on his knee and saying wonderful things and proposed."
"I was completely freaking out at this point," says Christian. "I proposed July 2, 2011. But, I started the process in November 2010 at the Radcliffe's holiday party. I started [looking for the ring] with one of Nola's close friends and colleagues, Renee Townsley and [Radcliffe Jewelers owner] Paul Winicki. I had to sneak around. Because Nola works at the Pikesville store, I would go to the Towson store."
Nola didn't make Renee and Paul's sleuthing work easy — in either the type of engagement ring she liked or her ring size.
"I'm more traditional and old school and I just wanted to be surprised," she says. "I didn't want to know about it. I have a David Yurman ring I wear a lot. One day Renee came up and said a customer wanted to look at it, but they didn't have a similar sample in the case. So, could she borrow mine? Then, 20 minutes later, she brought it back and said the customer decided against it. After the engagement, Renee told me that was when she got my ring size.
"Renee was saying, 'You guys have been dating a while. You should try on some rings. And I was saying, no. Finally, she took me in the back and said, 'Let's just play around a little bit. Let's have some fun.'...They all figured it out on their own and knocked it out of the park. It's amazing; a Henri Daussi [ring featuring] a cushion cut diamond with a diamond halo."
"It is spectacular," says Christian.
The Wedding: The ceremony will take place at Corpus Christi Catholic Church on W. Lafayette in Baltimore, with Nola's godfather, Deacon Al Laabs, coming from Illinois to officiate.
Nola's maid-of-honor and six bridesmaids will wear champagne satin Lela Rose cocktail-length, one-shoulder dresses from Cupcake that feature a draped bow on the shoulder and a black grosgrain belt
Her three junior bridesmaids — her sister's 16-year-old twins and 12-year-old daughter — are wearing short black dresses.
Each will carry a bouquet of one type of white flowers; each one different, like tulips, hydrangeas, ranunculus or roses.
She's not revealing much about her own dress, except to say it's white and long and by designer Maggie Sottero, from Betsy Robinson Bridal. But that hasn't kept her from teasing Christian about what it looks like.
"I keep telling him it has a hot pink butt bow and a polka dot top and neon stripes. It gets bigger and bigger every time I tell him. It had flashing LED lights at one point," she says, as they both laugh.
Her white Prada shoes from Nordstrom in Chicago are embellished with rhinestones.
"I splurged," she confesses.
Christian's best man and six groomsmen will all be wearing "very classic" black tuxedos with black vests and bowties. Christian will do the same, but with a white vest and bow tie. All the tuxes are rented from Tuxedo House. And each groomsman will have a different white flower as his boutonniere.
After the ceremony, the wedding party and 140 guests head to the Four Seasons Hotel for the reception.
The cocktail hour — featuring a yet-to-be-determined signature drink and passed hors d'oeuvres — will be held on the fourth-floor terrace.
Then it's inside the hotel's Cobalt Room for the seated served dinner. Christian says the room is so nicely decorated, that — other than table centerpieces — no other decor is needed.
"The room is all brown, champagne and wood, with silver accents," he says.
"The best part of the room is that it's rectangular, with one long wall all windows. So, people can go out on the balcony all evening and take in the view," Nola says.
The room's shape also dictated the layout of dining tables.
"We're having two gorgeous long tables that seat 24 each," she says. Those tables will extend off each side of the dance floor, with several round tables filling the rest of the space.
The long tables will have different heights of glass vases with flowers — the same as in the bouquets — slanting out of them. The round tables will feature lower, wide landscaped arrangements.
"And tons of candlelight," adds Nola.
All the flowers are being done by Julie Wit of Julie's Floral Design.
"We have a travel theme going," says Christian. "We're naming each table for the places we've been able to travel."
"We're going to tell a little story about each of those places with a picture of us on each table," explains Nola.
The couple is keeping the dinner menu a surprise.
Their wedding cake — lemon cake with raspberry buttercream frosting and raspberry filling — is being created by Jessica Obst, who they got to know as regulars at her Cafe Latte'da.
"She's a trained pastry chef and now has a catering business," says Nola.
However, Nola's own creativity has played a role with the wedding, as well.
"I can be a little crafty...So, we did our own Save-The-Date," says Nola. "We set up our own photo shoot. I ordered a white backdrop and painted a red heart and the wedding date on it. Then, we set up the tripod and did our own photo shoot [using the self-timer]."
"Nola also designed our invitations," Christian adds, with pride. She says the invitation was done using thermography — "a raised printing" — on white paper with a champagne shimmer, ordered from Kate's Paperie in New York City.
ONYX — a seven piece band from Washington Talent — will help guests dance the night away. And Laura Ashbrook will be the wedding photographer.
The couple says thanks to the Four Seasons catering manager, Katie Shannon, wedding planning has been more fun than frantic.
The Honeymoon: The couple is going to Costa Rica.
"We both have never been there," says Nola. "And it's a mixture of romantic and adventure."
"It's both nature and luxury in one place," Christian says.