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)
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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."