When Anna Slesinski began planning her wedding to Keith Ellis seven months ago, she anticipated the possibility of some snow the day of their ceremony — it would be January in Baltimore, after all.
But she was not anticipating a full-blown blizzard, let alone the largest winter storm in Baltimore’s history. The massive storm, dubbed “Snowzilla,” ended up burying Charm City in more than two feet of snow.
Needless to say, it threw a wrench into the couple’s plans.
“We basically made peace with the fact that we weren’t having a wedding,” Anna says.
But the resourceful couple were able to scramble and stitch together a last-minute game plan to ensure they would be husband and wife by the end of that cold, blustery weekend and still have their dream wedding.
Anna and Keith met online on OkCupid.com in December 2013. Anna, in the early stages of a divorce, had ventured online “to regain some optimism about the dating world, post-divorce.”
Finding time to meet men in person also was difficult. She was juggling work and getting her master’s degree in creative writing and publishing arts from the University of Baltimore.
Within hours of joining the site, she heard from Keith, a software engineer who was also in the midst of a divorce.
Anna’s snapshot and their high compatibility, 93 percent, had piqued Keith’s interest. And, like Anna, he understood the strangeness of reentering the dating pool.
“A lot of people that I had talked to that had been divorced before did not want to get back into the game. They were, I guess, just emotionally exhausted,” he says. “I was kind of the opposite.”
Separated for nearly a year from his first wife, the father of two young girls was still getting adjusted to dating in general.
“When you have kids all the time, you have that noise that is constantly going on. But then it’s their mom’s turn, and it’s deadly silent,” says the 39-year-old technical account manager at Adobe Systems. “Getting out, meeting people and dating were ways I could get out and try to forget that I wasn’t with my kids.”
Anna and Keith began trading long emails and, several days later, met up at Clyde’s Restaurant in Columbia, Md., a middle ground between Anna’s apartment in Baltimore and Keith’s home in Crofton, Md.
Right away, they were comfortable and open with one another, swapping divorce stories and discussing family. “Since it is a second marriage for us both, we both could have come to that first date very closed off and cynical,” says Anna, a 32-year-old grants manager by day and poet by night. “But instead, we were both willing to be open, trust one another and not let our past relationships define our current one.”
“We were very accepting of each other’s baggage,” Keith added. “It was very therapeutic.”
Keith’s thoughtfulness and small, kind gestures on their first date also went a long way. “I remember that he opened the door for me on our way into the restaurant,” Anna says, “and saved me the last bite of both our shared appetizer and dessert.”
Things progressed quickly, and by their third date, Anna told Keith that she had deleted her online dating profile. “Oh, you did, too?” he quipped back.
They became exclusive and from then on, things moved rather rapidly. “One day, I say to her, ‘I want to say something, but I feel like it’s too early, so instead I’m just going to say this — ‘I L You,’ ” Keith says.
As their relationship grew, he added letters, eventually completing the full phrase three months into dating. “I was not expecting to feel that way that soon in such a powerful way,” he says.
For Anna, it also was what she calls a “surreal experience.”
“It was the first relationship where everything just fell into place seamlessly, one date after another,” she says.
Six months in, Keith introduced Anna to his daughters. A few months later, after both of their divorces had been finalized, they began to plan for the future and discuss marriage.
Last June, Keith plotted with Anna’s close friend and her husband to plan a sweet, surprise proposal. After a double date at 13.5% Wine Bar in Baltimore, the group walked to Anna’s favorite ice cream shop, the Charmery. The women snagged seats while the men waited in line to get dessert.
When Keith returned, he encouraged Anna to look at the shop’s featured menu. “There’s a new flavor you might be interested in,” he told her. She swung around and spotted a strange new sign, nestled between the Mint Chip and Peach Cobbler: “Anna, will you marry me?”
Dumbstruck, she stared at the board for a minute before turning and facing Keith, who was on one knee holding a ring. She said yes, enthusiastically, as onlookers clapped. In mid-October, Anna and her three-legged pit bull, DeeDee, moved into Keith’s home.
Then there was Snowzilla. Anna and Keith’s initial wedding was supposed to be Jan. 23 at Chase Court in Baltimore. But every day leading up to the wedding, the forecast looked increasingly dire and more definite. They debated moving the wedding to Sunday, but the weather prospects still looked bleak.
Anna recalls telling Keith: “At this point, if we don’t have a wedding, I’ll be okay. . . . But at the end of the week, I just want to be married to you.”
Commence Plan B. On Wednesday, the couple made arrangements to wed at Chase Court after their Thursday rehearsal dinner at the Belvedere Hotel. It just so happened that Keith’s best man was ordained and able to officiate the short ceremony.
Afterward, the Chase Court owner took Keith and Anna aside and offered to host their official celebration at a later date, completely free. The couple was elated.
The day of the originally scheduled wedding, Anna and Keith decided to videotape an at-home ring exchange, with Keith’s daughters, and send it to snowed-in guests. Wedding decorations were repurposed to make the house look festive, and Anna and the girls baked a cake. The girls shrieked excitedly when the couple sealed their pledges with a kiss.
A month later, after a quick honeymoon in Charleston, S.C., Keith and Anna returned to Chase Court on Feb. 20 to exchange vows in front of 70 friends and family members. Keith’s sister, Jennifer, officiated, and the couple walked down the aisle together, hand in hand.
And this time, not wanting to take any chances, they had bought wedding insurance. Luckily, they didn’t end up needing it — the temperature was a balmy 66 degrees.