It took only an hour with Christine Allie to convince Stuart Lazar that she was someone special. He knew he had to make their first date extraordinary, but how?
Buffalo, N.Y., his home base at the time, just wouldn’t cut it. So, he decided to email Christine a round-trip ticket to Paris.
“It was a chance, but it was worth it,” Stuart says. “And I’d do it again with her in a heartbeat.”
The two tax law professors — Christine teaches at the Delaware Law School at Widener University and Stuart at the SUNY Buffalo Law School — had met in Washington at an Association of American Law Schools conference in early January 2015. They connected during a cocktail hour for attendees at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel.
“He’s very animated, outgoing and confident,” Christine says. “I think I was standing there for only a minute when he walked up to me and said, ‘Hi! I’m Stuart. What are you doing? What do you enjoy?’ ”
There was an immediate attraction, Stuart says. “She was really easy to talk to, and we had a great time, even though it was quick.”
Christine, 36, and Stuart, 47, chatted briefly before they shook hands and went their separate ways. Later that night, he sent her a short message on LinkedIn, saying how great it was meeting her. She responded quickly and invited him for drinks the next evening with colleagues at Clyde’s in Chinatown.
It was there that their flirtation took an interesting twist. Stuart said he didn’t believe that there were dateable women his age. “That’s terrible!” Christine said. “I think I’m dateable.” Stuart was quick to respond: “Really? Would you date me?”
The question launched a long discussion about marriage, religion and kids. Part of it was serious, and part of it was playful banter, Christine says. When he asked, “How many children do you want to have?” she replied, “Many!” When asked specifically how many, she quipped, “Twenty-two.”
“He said, ‘Okay, we can do that! I just have to move some money around. It’ll be fine,’ ” Christine recalls. “So, really early on, he was like, ‘Anything, we can do it,’ even though I had only known him for a total of 60 minutes.”
At the end of the night, Stuart asked her out, knowing she would be in Buffalo at the end of February for a moot court competition. She said yes.
But the next day, Stuart decided he just couldn’t wait. He was supervising a school trip to Europe and decided he wanted her to meet him there.
He sent a box of chocolates and a flight schedule to her office with a note: “[It’s] a better first date than Buffalo. Think about it.”
Although flattered by the bold offer, Christine put him off, thinking his proposal was a bit premature. But two weeks and dozens of long conversations later, she began to think she’d be crazy not to.
Stuart emailed her a round-trip ticket to Paris. “It’ll be a better story for the grandkids,” he wrote enticingly.
Throwing caution to the wind, Christine met him in France a week later for a marathon first date. “I thought, ‘If I can spend six hours on the phone with him, I think I can spend three days with him in a city like Paris,’ ” she says. “I told several people his name and my passport number, just in case.”
It was a whirlwind trip. They walked down the Champs-
Élysées, strolled along the River Seine and toured the catacombs. The date was going so well that three hours after her arrival, they decided to step into a Tiffany’s and try on engagement rings.
“It’s hard to say what you want on a first date, but I knew I wanted more,” Stuart says.
They left Paris as a couple and were committed to making their long-distance relationship work. A month later, he introduced her to his parents and sister in New York.
Things progressed even more quickly and their trips became regular — a journey to Iceland, a weekend rendezvous in Louisville for the Kentucky Derby and a summer vacation in Traverse City, Mich.
Despite their short time together, both Stuart and Christine felt confident and comfortable in their relationship. “It’s not even about finding the perfect person or finding the person that everything’s going to be perfect with,” Christine says. “It’s about finding someone that’s going to be there when things aren’t perfect.”
“She’s already told me [that] she may not always like me, but she’ll always love me,” Stuart adds.
In June, he surprised her with a five-day birthday trip to London. On their first night, they dined at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and had the house’s special ice cream, in cones, for dessert.
Soon, the manager approached their table and unveiled a small jewelry box on a silver platter. The timing, however, proved a bit problematic.
Stuart “was halfway through the proposal and ice cream was melting all over my hand,” Christine says. “He got nervous and accidentally crushed his cone. Ice cream went everywhere.”
He also forgot one crucial element of the proposal. “I was so nervous, fumbling out words and . . . I paused and put the ring on her finger. She just sat there,” Stuart recalls. “After a while, she finally says, ‘But you haven’t proposed yet!’ I hadn’t asked the question.”
Once he did, she said yes, enthusiastically.
The couple exchanged vows Nov. 14 at the U.S. Tax Court in Washington.
“It was my first choice,” Stuart says. “The whole [wedding] is inspired by what we’ve done. We are both tax professors who practice tax law and met here in Washington. It all came together, and we were very fortunate.”
Stuart and Christine were one of only a handful of couples allowed to marry at the courthouse, and their vows fittingly included tax lingo and even referenced the Internal Revenue Code.
“While a marriage is a partnership, the profit that the parties seek is so much more than financial,” recited their officiant, federal tax judge Mark V. Holmes.
Stuart, a big sci-fi fan, had his groomsmen carry glowing “Star Wars” light sabers down the aisle and hid a Spider-Man at the back of the wedding cake.
Inspired by the Kentucky Derby, the couple asked their 50 or so guests to wear formal attire along with fascinators and hats. The men wore white-tie, and Stuart donned a top hat and tails and carried a cane. And continuing the tax theme, they entered their reception at the Darlington House to the Beatles’ song “Taxman.”
For now, they plan to continue to do long distance between New York and Delaware. “I think we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. This works now, but at some point it may not, and we’ll figure it out then,” Stuart says. “Love conquers all, right?”
“This year is our first Christmas, our first everything. Everything happened for us in 2015,” he adds. “We’ve only been together for one year, and in some ways that seems quick, but it has felt very natural from the very beginning.”