This past weekend was my BIGGEST wedding of the season! Lisa & Chris planned a food and wine festival themed wedding for over 150 people, and mostly all the decor and tablescapes were DIYed (I think I can now add Floral Design to my resume … uh yeah right – totally kidding). It would have never been possible without the help of some seriously awesome people, and Lisa & Chris’ super awesome family! My husband dutifully hung lanterns and helped with the escort station, and Jessica with Jessica Adams Designs was key to making the tables, centerpieces, and food stations look absolutely perfect. I cannot thank both of them enough.

There will be a LOT MORE to come from Chris & Lisa’s wedding (though I did post some sneak peaks on my Instagram!) but for now while these two jet off onto their honeymoon, I thought I’d share their adorable bowling alley engagement thanks to J/K Photography.

Lisa & Chris’ Bowling Alley Engagement Session in Maryland

maryland bowling alley engagement pictures

Lisa & Chris are part of a bowling league, so having their engagement pictures at a bowling alley just made way too much sense. They also had their rehearsal dinner at a bowling alley too (which I love!).

How they met (from the bride):

We met at a party in summer 2005.  It was at a mutual friend’s house.  I worked with Ian and Chris had just joined his band.  Fast forward to Fall, and we had seen each other a bit, I’d even seen his band play.  We kept running into each other, and had become part of the same crowd.  We ate lunch together once a week (along with our friend Ian).  We spent Tuesday nights at the same party every week.  It was there that we realized we had a lot of common interests.  He not so subtly would lean closer and closer to me throughout each night as we sat in the kitchen of this house party.  Finally, after a year of hanging out at parties and with other friends, we took the plunge and started dating.  We were inseparable from that moment on.  I spent the next semester working in Disney World so we would spend hours on the phone every day. We even watched entire football games together since my roommates were not sports fans.  If he could put up with me being 1000 miles away so soon after we started dating, I figured he was a keeper.

maryland bowling alley engagement pictures

The proposal story, as told by the groom:

To say that I had a plan for my proposal is like a bunch of high school kids sitting in their parent’s basement saying ‘we should start a band!’

First I should point out that Lisa has never been a jewelry person.  No bracelets, necklaces, earrings, nothing.  She not so subtly stated to friends of ours she didn’t want an engagement ring.   As an alternative, she said that she wanted a hand-made rocking chair.  This knowledge in hand, I set out to make me (her?) a rocking chair.

Fortunately, at that time I had a co-worker who did a lot of woodworking and a woodworking hobby shop on the base where I work.  I asked him how tough it would be to make a rocking chair having no experience (outside of some terrible carvings in boy scouts) with wood working.  He replied that he had not even tried something like that because of the difficulty of the rockers.  Needless to say his response was a bit of a downer.

maryland bowling alley engagement pictures

Unfettered, I started reading up on woodworking techniques and looking how I was going to actually try to go about this.  Then things went from bad to worse; due to budget cuts, the wood-hobby shop on base was closing down, with no plans to reopen in the future.  I was gutted, I felt like I was back to square one.

During one of our Friday visits to the local wine bar with our friends, Lisa hinted that rather than a rocking chair from scratch, she’d be ok with one that had be refurbished (ok hinted may not be the right word, “just propose already” might be a better phrasing).  I also discovered that a friend of ours had a small woodworking set up in his garage.  Confidence buoyed, I set about searching through the myriad of antique shops around town (we live in a beach town in southern Maryland, we probably have as many antique shops as we have gas stations) for a rocking chair I could fix up.  Easy right?

maryland bowling alley engagement pictures

Right about this time, I signed up to race in my first Ironman.  For those unfamiliar, an Ironman is a triathlon that is just long.  And when I say long, I mean “I’m hoping to finish in less than 15 hours long.”  Unsurprisingly, a race that will take 15 hours to complete takes up a fair amount of time to get ready for.  Training six days a week, with weekends being almost completely dedicated to running, biking and driving to various smaller races to prepare began to eat up most of my free time.

During my various training runs and rides, I would think to myself “man, this is race is probably going to be a day I’ll remember forever, why not make it even better and propose after the race!”   With previously stated lack of free time, this seemed like a pipe dream at best, but at this point, Lisa and I had been together for almost six and a half years and had owned a house together for the last three; this proposal was a long time coming and there probably wasn’t going to be a better chance (debatable of course, but your brain probably isn’t functioning at 100% when it’s 85 degrees and has been on a bike for five hours).

maryland bowling alley engagement pictures

Click inside for the rest of Lisa & Chris’ bowling alley engagement pictures AND the rest of the proposal story!

As the weeks ticked away, my training got longer and longer, squeezing out even more of my free time with little progress on the rocking chair front, I had an inspiration.  With the bevy of antique shops around, why not instead of a full size chair, get a dollhouse rocking chair.  This seemed like a perfect solution, I mean how hard could it be?  I managed to find some time to browse the local stores… nothing, zip, nada.  I was convinced there was some dollhouse mogul somewhere buying everything up with a mountain of dollhouse furniture keeping it all to herself and her cats.

Race week came; we packed the car and started out road trip (the race was in Madison Wisconsin.  My mind was all over the place, a little nervous about the race, disappointed that I wasn’t going to be able to propose, wondering if I could have done anything else instead.

We finally make it to Madison, and as we’re almost to our hotel, we pass a jewelry store.  My brain fills with thoughts of just getting a small simple ring and trying to find a way to display it and just as quickly quashed that idea.  Then not five minutes later, not a quarter mile from our hotel, we pass a massive antique store/warehouse/emporium/whatever.  This was my chance!

maryland bowling alley engagement pictures

Over the next day, I subtly try to say how neat it would be to look through this giant place to see if there’s anything cool.  Much to my surprise, she agreed that after the race we may be able to stop by.  My head is quickly filling in with plans, do I try to separate myself and buy it when she’s not paying attention?  Point it out and propose right there?

I still hadn’t figured it out the day before the race, but I wasn’t too worried.  I had the whole race to work out those details, it’s not like I had anything else to think about at that point.

Back to that day, my plan was to head over to the race site to do a short swim, bike and run to keep my muscles loose and to check my bike into the transition area (as per race rules).  Lisa told me that she’d just hang out in the hotel room for the morning instead of coming with me as we’d planned on.  I couldn’t believe it!  I could do my work out, drop off my bike, stop by the antique store and (hopefully) find a rocking chair with Lisa being none the wiser!

maryland bowling alley engagement pictures

During the ‘bike’ park of my mini-work out, my bike started to give me some problems.  Problems that I had before but thought I had fixed without too much of a headache.  I wasn’t too worried, they had a maintenance tent right at transition where I could drop off my bike and they’d fix it and check it in for me if they had to.  So I hand over my bike, tell them the problem and set off to the antique store, no time lost.

I arrive at the store and literally as I’m walking in the door my phone rings.  It’s the bike people; I’m going to need a new part for my bike, a $200 new part for my bike.  And to make matters worse, I’m going to need to come back and do a short test ride on my bike to make sure everything is ok (when you’re getting ready to ride 112 miles in a race, doing so on bike with new parts isn’t advisable), all before the check-in time that afternoon.

I’m distraught.

maryland bowling alley engagement pictures

I dejectedly head back to the hotel, tell Lisa the situation and get ready to head back to the race site.  I assume that Lisa is going to come with me since she’s been cooped up in the room all day (it’s about 2 o’clock by this point).  For the second time that day I’m surprised she wants to stay at the hotel.  If the first time wasn’t a sign that I needed to do this now, this surely has to be one.

I finally take care of my bike and rush back to the antique place.  I set foot inside and I’m instantly blown away by the sheer size of this place.  Eventually track down someone to help me find some dollhouse furniture and learn that this enormous place is more of a conglomeration of antique sellers with their own inventories.  He points me to a couple places where he thinks there will be dollhouse furniture.  No rocking chairs.  Lots of beds, tables, dressers, even a horse carriage but no rocking chairs.  There’s not even anything close to a child sized one that I considered using in a pinch.  I thank the man and with increasing apprehension and anxiety continue my search.  There has to be one here right?  All the other pieces have fallen into place, there has to be one here.

maryland bowling alley engagement pictures

I’m ready to give up and as I’m walking towards the door, I see it.  In a case I must have walked by a dozen times, a small set up antique dollhouse furniture that includes a rocking chair!  I call over a sales person and ask if there’s any way I can get just the rocking chair and not the whole set.  He kindly tells me that the owner of that set isn’t here right now so he can’t let me take just the chair.  My heart drops into my shoes (again).  I’m about to tell him I’ll just take the whole set when he chimes in that he can call her and see.  I practically run him down following him to the front counter so he can make the call.  After what seemed like an eternity of a delay (probably about twenty minutes) while he checks someone else out and deals with a question from someone else he finally picks up the phone.

The seller is on the fence, she’s not sure if she wants to ‘break up the set’.  I consider telling him to tell her that I want this as an engagement gift but before I can, she changes her mind.  I spend the next five minutes haggling over the price (something I’m terrible at) before we finally agree on a price.  I’m overjoyed; I can’t believe my luck.  As I’m coming back to the car the next problem hits me.  How the hell am I going to get this to her?

I throw out the idea of proposing at the finish line.  For one, Lisa would hate having hundreds of eyes on us and would probably punch me if I did that (this was later confirmed after the fact when it was brought up later).  For two, I had no idea to get this tiny rocking chair at the finish line.  All of my gear is packed in plastic bags that I’ll have access to at various point of the race yes, but trying to run with a small wooden chair is hardly ideal.

I finally decide to stash it in my ‘morning clothes bag’ that I can pick up immediately after the race.  Now, I apparently wasn’t smart enough to have them pack the chair in a box or anything else that could have held up in a bag I was going to leave at the starting line, then be thrown around and dropped in the finish area.  I finally settle for a Cheez-It box I have, stuffed as much as I can with toilet paper, desperately trying to do this unnoticed in the bathroom with Lisa in the room next door.

Race day arrives.  I pack all my stuff, drop off my bags, get a kiss from Lisa for good luck and drop off my all important bag at the start, saying a silent prayer that a box stuffed with toilet paper will keep that little piece of wooden furniture safe.

Fast forward 14 hours and 43 minutes.  I’d like to say I was thinking about it the whole race but I’m a little fuzzy on the details; suffice to say that I had a great time.  Huge crowd, lots of people cheering, I was feeling on top of the world (this of course could be a massive dose of hindsight).  I cross the finish line, I’m feeling exhausted and worn out but about 100 feet tall.  I find finally find Lisa in the post race party.  We go into the stands at the finish and hang out with some of our friends as I’m getting some real food and drink in me.  After a while, I tell Lisa that I need to go pick up my bike and the rest of my gear and that I’d probably need some help.

I walk into the room where my gear bags are (only participants are allowed in that area) and quickly search for my Cheez-it box.  The rocking chair is still intact!  I quickly shove it back into the bag and grab the rest of my gear and head out.  We (slowly) walk up to where all the bikes are in transition.

Let’s set the stage, it’s almost midnight, I’m on top of what’s essentially a parking garage (a pretty nice parking garage mind you, the Monona Terrace convention center), surrounded by racks for hundreds of bikes.  It’s late, probably three quarters of the bikes are gone, there’s one or two people meandering around.  We walk to my bike, all the prepared speeches I had in my head gone.  I stop at my rack, still wearing all of my race clothes that probably stink to high heaven:

‘I’ve been thinking about this’ I say.

‘Yeah?’ she responds.

I drop to one knee and pull out the tiny little rocking chair.

‘Yeah?!’ she says again.

‘Will you marry me?’


We hug and kiss and laugh and cry a little.  It’s finally happened, after six and a half years, on top of a parking garage surrounded by bikes and smelling of sweat; I’m going to marry the girl of my dreams.

maryland bowling alley engagement pictures

If that proposal story doesn’t put  a smile on your face this Monday morning, I don’t know what will! Congratulations Chris & Lisa – I had so much fun coordinating your wedding this past weekend. Cannot wait to see the pictures and hear about your honeymoon! A special thanks again to J/K Photography for sharing his images!

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