A Bright Natural Park-Inspired Wedding at the Audubon Center in Columbus, Ohio
Katherine Ritchey (33 and a physician) and Mark Hanke (32 and a scientist) met at the College of Wooster where they were both studying biochemistry and molecular biology. Though good friends and colleagues, they never took things further. After graduation, they maintained a friendship, periodically meeting up in Columbus for happy hour and Wooster social events, contemplating a romantic relationship, but give then their busy schedules, decided not to push anything. Late in 2009 while Kay was rotating as a medical student in Pittsburgh, she received an unexpected package in the mail — a personalized autographed copy of "Mountains beyond Mountains," one of Kay's favorite books, plus other inspirational stories. This simple and thoughtful gesture won her over in a special and unprecedented way, removing the physical obstacles and distance between them and changing their friendship forever.Three years later on a trip across Nebraska, Colorado and Utah to visit a series of national parks, Mark popped the question. After a long day of hiking in Zion National Park, the couple stopped for a picnic lunch alongside the river running through the park. It was here, against a serene, natural backdrop, that Mark got down on one knee and asked Kay to marry him. For this nature-loving couple, a national park-inspired affair was a given. They started by choosing the Audubon Center in Columbus, OH as their venue. The center works to increase environmental awareness and provides cross-curricular nature-based education designed to improve the academic performance of students and schools in all areas, a cause close to the couple's heart. "We chose this location given our love for nature and desire to share the inspiration we derive from the natural world with our family and friends. It was a perfect fit for our day, highlighting our passion for adventure and preservation and showcasing a beautiful reclaimed area of our hometown," says Kay. Keeping with the day's nature theme, the couple use vintage post cards from national parks across the country as their table names, used seasonal blooms to fill their centerpieces and incorporated beach rocks and driftwood from their new home in Seattle into the decor.