In early 2011, Mark Gleason and his college buddies were planning yet another Vermont skiing trip over a long weekend. It was something they did regularly since graduating from Penn State together in 2002, but truth be told, it was rarely just about skiing.
The guys had a system: The ones in a relationship would ask their girlfriends to bring some single girls along, so the single boys didn’t feel like the odd ones out.
“I want to stress that this was all done in a very gentlemanly manner,” Mark says with a laugh. “Zero creepiness. I promise.”
That winter, Mark was one of the single guys on the trip and Lauren McGinniss, a native of Potomac, Md., was one of the single girls. They were both Penn State alumni — Mark graduated a semester before Lauren started — but had never met. When she arrived at the Killington, Vt., mountain home, he immediately took notice.
“I saw Lauren from across the room,” Mark says. “I just remember a kind glow about her and really wanting to go talk, and I remember her curly hair.”
Out of the 20-plus people at the house that weekend, Mark and Lauren were the ones who hit it off right away. By the time the weekend was over, the two had arranged a date for when they were back in New York together.
They decided on Diablo Royale, a Mexican restaurant in the West Village, where there was a surprise waiting for Mark once he got there.
It was a Friday night, and a bunch of Mark’s friends from work knew about the date. After a few margaritas, they decided to swing by the restaurant to check up on how things were going.
“He actually did a great job pretending to not know them,” Lauren says. “They were just guys hanging out in the corner or whatever, but later I found out that they were some of his closest friends.”
“And really it was just a continuation of how we hung out on that ski trip,” Mark says. “She already knew a few of my friends and how we are, so it always felt comfortable with her.”
After more dinner dates, feelings started to grow.
“I’d say after the first few dates I started thinking that it would just feel weird not to be with this person,” Mark says.
After a few months of serious dating, they went on a trip to Turks and Caicos, which left a few of their friends baffled.
“They kept on telling us that it was too soon and that it was all a horrible idea, but we ended up proving them all wrong and came back even better together,” Lauren says.
And then the move-in process began. It actually started rather unofficially with Lauren slyly and gradually bringing her stuff over to Mark’s apartment.
“I remember one weekend she brought over two huge bags of stuff and I thought, ‘I should feel weird about this,’ but I really didn’t,” Mark says.
After they officially moved in together in the summer of 2012, they understood why they worked so well together from the beginning.
“It’s all about how we complement each other. Since moving in, we’ve realized how different we are, but it works,” Mark says. “She’ll freak out about a lot of stuff, and I can be laid-back. I think we have a calming effect on one another.”
That November, the day after Lauren’s birthday, Mark pulled off a huge surprise.
“I was not expecting anything at all,” Lauren says. “We had plans to celebrate my birthday that night because my birthday that year was on a Monday, so it was sort of a bummer day and we were just in our apartment where I was changing like six times trying to find the perfect thing to wear.”
Meanwhile, Mark was armed with a card, a written-out proposal and a ring. Around her fourth or fifth outfit change, Mark started to get a little nervous. After her sixth, he told her she had to open the card he had for her before they left.
Written in the card were all of his feelings for Lauren and the words: “Look up.” When she did, Mark was on one knee in front of her with a ring.
The funny thing about their wedding, they both says, is that although their love story almost entirely takes place in Manhattan, they came back to Lauren’s Washington stomping grounds to make it official.
“I always pictured myself getting married back in my home town,” Lauren says. “And it turned out to be more convenient since Mark’s from Pittsburgh and getting into [New York] is always a hassle.”
They looked at several places in the area before settling on the National Museum of Women in the Arts, a venue that both suited their desire to be different and their need to fit all of their loved ones.
On Jan. 25, Lauren McGinniss, 29, and Mark Gleason, 33, married in an interfaith ceremony on the first floor of the museum in front of more than 200 friends and family members. Because of the venue’s size constraints, some creative planning was needed fit everyone; the cocktail hour took place on the gallery’s fourth floor while family and friends were split between the first and second floors for dinner and then dancing.
“Although it was a production, what mattered to us was having everybody we love most in our lives in one space and throwing a party for all of our favorite people,” Lauren said after the wedding.
“I feel like a huge part of our relationship was spent planning this,” Mark added. “So with our actual marriage, I’m excited to really just be. We work so well when we’re together and living and being chatty friends like when we met for the first time, that I can’t wait to have that with Lauren again.”