They shared a big secret: Maria Lehman and Tim Oxender, both systems consultants for the same firm, first fell in love in 1998 (they were assigned to work on the same project) but concealed their romantic relationship from coworkers. In fact, they hushed up about it for one year and seven heady months -- until the day after Tim proposed. They showed up at work one Monday and disrupted the post-Super Bowl Sunday office buzz with news of their engagement. "Needless to say," laughs Maria, "everyone was quite surprised!"
THE BRIDE Maria Lehman, 32, systems consultant
THE GROOM Tim Oxender, 32, systems consultant
THE DATE September 22
THE SCENE Ceremony at Ault Park Pavilion; reception at Maketewah Country Club, Cincinnati
THE PARK In September, it's certainly no secret that the scenery in Ault Park is utterly exceptional: formal gardens displaying late-summer blooms, just-turning leaves, and sprawling, still-green lawns. The massive, majestic pavilion projects a Palladian villa vibe and offers 360-degree views from the rooftop. Since it's so aesthetically dramatic -- and romantic -- it's an incredibly popular location for weddings. Maria and Tim had their hearts set on the spot, but soon learned that a traditional Saturday night affair was not going to be an option (the pavilion, not surprisingly, was booked). Instead of compromising their vision and looking at other outdoor venues, Maria and Tim booked the pavilion for Friday night. "If I were to do it over again, I would still go for a Friday evening wedding," says the bride. "The planning seemed easier, and we were actually able to get a better deal on things because the wedding wasn't on a Saturday."
THE CEREMONY When the much-anticipated Friday evening arrived, it began to sprinkle 30 minutes before the ceremony. Fortunately, it rained lightly for just 15 minutes or so and when it ceased, ushers were on hand to dry off the seats with towels. "This all happened without my knowing," says Maria. "No one told me that it had rained until after the ceremony." When they were pronounced husband and wife, the bride and groom recessed down the aisle but then promptly did an about-face, returning to personally dismiss their nearly 200 guests row by row. "We hoped this would be quicker than a receiving line," says Maria. "Plus, we got to hug and say hello to everyone." Once the crowd had dispersed, the bride and groom snuck off to snap pictures on the pavilion's terrace, urging their guests to head over to the country club for the reception.
THE CELEBRATION When they were officially announced at the party, beaming Maria and Tim walked through the dining room as guests rose up from their seats, clapping and cheering. "It was kind of surreal," remembers Maria. "It was hard to grasp the fact that they were standing and cheering for us." Guests dined on chicken chasseur, grilled salmon, and New York strip steak. "I barely ate anything," confesses Maria. "I was too keyed up to eat." She was not, however, too excited to wow the crowd with a professionally choreographed first dance. Maria and Tim took weekly ballroom dancing lessons for two months so that they could foxtrot to "It Had To Be You" with flair. "We'd told a few people that we were taking lessons," says the bride, "but I'd say most were surprised."
THE FLOWERS Flowers were a focal point and one of Maria's fondest memories. She carried a hand-tied bouquet of white hydrangeas, white roses, and white freesia tied with white ribbon, while her maid of honor held blue hydrangeas, lavender freesia, and white roses. The guys wore boutonnieres of either white roses or lavender freesia. At the reception, the centerpieces combined blue hydrangea, white roses, and lavender freesia in silver bowls.
THE DANCE FLOOR Inspired by Maria and Tim's performance, partiers of all ages eventually found their way to the dance floor, Tim's raucous fraternity brothers among them. The jazzy dinner music had morphed into crowd-pleasing, fun, and easy-to-dance-to tunes. Suddenly, it was the theme to "Hawaii Five-0" and Tim and his frat brothers hit the floor -- literally. Seated in a back-to-back line, they began to row, as if in a long kayak, across the dance floor. "It's something they'll sometimes do spontaneously at parties," says the bride. Later, the guys serenaded the bride with "The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi," a Greek standard. "The lyrics are all about a blonde," laughs Maria, "and of course I'm a brunette with blue eyes, so it was kind of funny." A final surprise came toward the end of night, when the guys hoisted Tim up and threw him into the air. Only then it was Maria's turn: Sure enough, they picked her up and threw her into the air too. "That was a quite shock," says Maria, an obvious good sport. "Luckily my mom didn't see!"
THE WEDDING CAKE Maria and Tim served a decadent four-tiered cake covered in pale blue icing with white accents. The first tier and second tier featured white chocolate cake with pistachio and raspberry filling; the third tier featured orange cake with strawberries and cream cheese filling; and the fourth tier featured white chocolate cake with mocha and raspberry filling.
THE FOND FAREWELL The newlyweds were the last to leave, sending guests out the door with packets of lilac seeds and chocolate mints. "I wished for a while it would go on forever;" says Maria, "but the next morning I felt relieved and was ready to get on with the honeymoon."
Photographs © Steve Lyons
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