I would want to tell you their story but Susie was such a good writer and I couldn’t have done a better job. So here it is:
“How funny that this story should begin on the keyboard of my 2010 Macbook Pro… That’s exactly where my story with Frank began. Before you get any ideas, it wasn’t Match.com, ChristianMingle, Tinder, Bros before… Nevermind. It wasn’t any of the dating websites or apps that come to mind. No no, our master matchmaker is Frank’s godmother, Eva Muntean. By the end of this story, we might even dub her “Fairy Godmother.”
You see, mothers and godmothers know best, and Aunt Eva knew my older sisters Molly Zilli, Annie Ryan, and Tessa Williams, and our good friend Marianna Pedrelli. She had worked with all of them in different capacities over the years, and at some point she talked to Marianna and Tessa about the prospect of Frank and me. She knew we both shared an intense love of our families and kids in general, and that we were both athletic, fun-loving, and funny. When Eva asked my sister Tessa if she could give my email address to give to her nephew, I thought it was a perfectly normal idea!
Just kidding. I thought it was weird. What were we going to do, be pen pals? Yep. That’s exactly what we were going to do. At the time, I wasn’t so sure about this; I was, however, completely flattered that a woman I highly respected wanted me anywhere near her beloved Godson.
I had recently decided that I ought to stop wasting my time dating people who I knew I would never marry. I had pretty much always known what I wanted, and I had a good idea of what I needed. Somewhere along the way I got lazy and decided that this wonderful human didn’t exist, or that I wasn’t ready for him yet.
Enter Captain Francisco M. Garza. Once I had seen a picture of him, I decided that it wouldn’t be so bad after all if Tessa passed my email address to Eva, and if Eva passed it to her nephew. I mean, what’s the harm in having a dashing penpal? Just a few awkward emails later, Frank and I were well on our way to becoming friends!
And I do mean friends. You see, as I was growing fond of this funny, charismatic, intelligent, accomplished, courageous marine across the world, he was convinced that my “great personality” meant I would surely be hideous (his words, not mine). He may have been shallow, but he was also honest. Thankfully I didn’t find this out until after meeting him in person.
After returning from his last deployment (Frank is marine recon; if you’ve never heard of it, look it up– it might impress you like it impressed me), Frank visited his Aunt Eva in the San Francisco Bay Area, not far from where I lived. Eva was busy (or was she?) on one of the days of his visit, so he casually extended an invitation for me to come be his tour guide in San Francisco. We agreed to meet, we agreed that we both hated tourists, and we agreed that wherever we went, we would make up information about the city, its history, and all of its tourist attractions. At one point, Frank made up a story so interesting that a nearby tourist lingered after his group left, just to listen to the rest of Frank’s B.S. If you’ve never heard Frank make up a story on the spot, you’re in for a treat…
We spent the day laughing, walking, sharing stories, eating spicy chicken wings, and drinking beer. I vividly remember sitting across from Frank while he told me how proud he was of his sister Eva (this story is full of Evas) and who she has become as a person. I remember telling him, “Wow. I hope one of my brothers talks about me the way you talk about your sister!” It was so apparent to me that this man had the same love for his family that I have for mine. Up until that point I knew I liked him, but I think that moment made me really start falling for ‘ol blue eyes.
After our day out in San Francisco, I planned to part ways with Frank and head to my niece Etta’s Baptism. Her baptism happened to be a mere 350 feet away from Aunt Eva’s house. God bless that Aunt Eva. She and Frank came to the Baptism, and Frank set the record for “earliest introduction to family members ever.” This wasn’t even our first date! Frank rolled with all the punches, and hung out with a bunch of strangers like they were his people (little did he know that they would soon become his people). After a day that confirmed the real-life Frank was even better than the internet Frank, we parted ways.
A couple weeks later Frank used his desire to take a trip to Napa as an excuse to come hang out with me, and I acted again as tour guide. We spent another day laughing and adventuring in the company of good people, food, and wine. At Provenance winery, my hand accidentally landed on his on the counter (presumably after he had somehow charmingly made fun of me). I didn’t want to let go, so I didn’t. I haven’t let go since. The rest of the day turned into more hilarious adventures which included Frank singing a karaoke version of a Temptations song (what taste!), salsa dancing with me like a pro, and simultaneously being the most down-to-earth and most charming human being I’ve ever met. The day ended with a blunt conversation about what we both expect and want in our lives and in marriage. Goals, dreams, fears… Yes, this was our first date. Intense, hilarious, vulnerable, blunt. We haven’t stopped having those conversations, and I know we never will.
It was a lot of emails, texts, phone calls, and facetime (which often involved my nieces and nephews). We were well aware that our lives were busy, we were embarking on a long-distance relationship which neither of us wanted, and I think that neither of us was trying to just find someone in order to check off a box. BUT! Once we met, it was pretty much a done deal. We had very blunt conversations about our expectations, hopes, fears, and plans. We got along great, and made each other laughed, and we had a lot in common given our big family backgrounds and active lifestyles. We were very communicative about the road we were heading down, the non-negotiables, and the sacrifices we’d be willing to make. I moved to an apartment in Texas and started my teaching career, and Frank bought a house, started business school, left the active duty service, joined the reserves, and got a new job– all in the span of 4 months. I lived in Texas for about 1.5 months before we got engaged. It’s been a busy, wonderful, stressful, wedding planning whirlwind ever since, and we are so lucky to have each other and our families and friends to support us.”
How He Asked:
“He flew to California and surprised me. I was visiting my aunt at her timeshare in Carmel California for the weekend. We went on a hike to one of my favorite places in the world, Point Lobos. He came walking up out of nowhere along the path, with a bag of cracker jacks in his hand (my Dad had used a box of cracker jacks to propose to my mom). The prize inside was the ring. In typical Frank fashion, he did it his way, by saying nothing and standing there, and then we both started nervously cracking up. At some point while my nieces and nephews were trying to interrupt, he remembered to get down on his knee and actually ask the question.” – told by Susie
The Wedding Day:
Have I told you that I was intimidated by Frank before? Through our Skype meeting, Susie was almost the only one who shared their story and she stopped occasionally to look at Frank and confirm the facts. Frank would just nod and would not say much. I am usually very good with talking to people but when I tried to get to know Frank, I couldn’t. So I was afraid of how firm he was. “Typical military guy.” – I thought to myself. And on their engagement session, something happened. Susie’s engagement ring was lost. So the situation with my impression of Frank was not any better even he was loosing up toward the end of the session.
But on the wedding day it was a different story!
If you read everything Susie wrote above, you would know that Frank is totally different. I was so surprised when I saw him in his “setting” – surrounded by friends and family. He was goofy, relaxed, fun… and especially super excited to marry Susie :).
I thought this guy would never show any emotion before his wedding, but when Susie was walking down the aisle with her dad, he was tearing up. That is when I know what true love can do – it makes the toughest man become the happiest man.
During the speed of her sisters, I found out something very special about Susie. On top of her “real hug” – long and tight, she is all for others. Her sister Tessa told the story about how Susie and her got into an accident that was so serious, Susie had to go through so many surgeries after that – this explains the scar from her spine to the middle of her back. But Susie never complained. She was truly strong and beautiful inside out.
Oh, and can you believe there were 20 flower girls and ring bearers? All of their nieces and nephews!
See their engagement session here.
Venue: Galveston Island Palms
Ring: Stephen Ventura
Wedding Dress: Essence of Australia
Photography: Half a Rice Studios