Shannon Gierczak thought that when Matthew Marriott proposed, it would be thrilling, but in an easygoing sort of way. Matthew is not given to grand gestures. Shannon had loved him long enough to accept that.
So when Matthew began acting odd during a Ravens football game in 1998, Shannon was concerned. The Ravens were set to play the Minnesota Vikings on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Shannon and Matthew were tailgating with a large group of family and friends outside the stadium.
Matthew asked Shannon to accompany him to the restroom. After standing in line for some time, Matthew went into a Porta Pot, immediately came out and began running back to their tailgate party. It was obvious he hadn't used the facilities. Dragging Shannon by the arm, Matthew mumbled something about wanting to get back before the hot dogs got cold.
When they returned, Matthew's uncle was videotaping them. Matthew was looking at an airplane circling overhead.
"Look up," he told Shannon.
Behind the plane was a banner that said, "Shannon Lynne, Will You Marry Me? Love, Matt."
Shannon read the words, but they didn't register. When Matthew got down on one knee to ask the question himself, Shannon -- thinking he had fallen -- tried to help him to his feet.
Then it dawned on Shannon what he was doing. While their family and friends cheered and strangers shouted "Congratulations!" through bullhorns, Shannon answered "Yes." It was a moment made even more meaningful by the lengths to which Matthew had gone.
"I wanted to make it memorable," he says.
Normally unflappable, Matthew was too nervous that day to let Shannon out of his sight.
Arriving at the stadium, he feared the plane wouldn't be able to fly because of the weather. Then he worried he'd be in the bathroom when the banner went over. When he heard the buzz of the engine nearby, he was sure he'd end up proposing in the restroom line among strangers.
The situation was an interesting role reversal for the couple. Carefree and fun-loving Matthew has been the perfect foil for Shannon. Disciplined, determined and detail-oriented, Shannon leaves nothing to chance. She needed laid-back Matthew to loosen her up, she says.
Matthew grew up in Ellicott City. Shannon was raised in Baltimore and then Forest Hill in Harford County. Their paths crossed in 1996 at Wake Forest University in North Carolina when they attended a group interview of students being considered for a physician's assistant program.
Shannon and Matthew didn't end up at Wake Forest. They returned to Maryland and began dating shortly before they both were accepted into the physician's assistant program at Beaver College near Philadelphia.
The couple graduated from the two-year program in May 1998. They returned to Maryland that month and began working. A few days before Matthew proposed, they passed the Maryland licensing exam. (They are now working in Dover, Del.)
On April 29, Shannon, 28, and Matthew, 32, were married at Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore. Shannon's parents, Doris and John Gierczak of Forest Hill, and Matthew's parents, Micki Marriott and Richard Marriott, both of Ellicott City, were among the 150 guests.
At their reception that afternoon, Shannon and Matthew indulged in a number of customs reflecting their shared Polish heritage. Despite the good-natured teasing of guests, Matthew donned a funny-looking hat, representing the hope that the couple share much laughter and happiness in their marriage.