Christine Welcker and Robert Bartholomew met almost 30 years ago, when they were both married to their former spouses. They were both part of a social group of couples who would get together for movies, dinners, and birthdays several times a year.
“During that time, Rob was also kind enough to provide enormous personal and professional help to a young man from a disadvantaged background that I was working with to enable him to interview for a position at the Air Force Academy,” Christine shares.
“It was Rob’s kindness and generosity of time, talent and treasure that impressed me the most. Having known him in social situations for so many years, I knew he was exceptionally bright and modest of his successes, but I did not know the extent of his kindness and dedication to paying it forward. I divorced in 2015 and eventually moved out of state to be near my daughter. I would fly back to California about every 6-8 weeks and stay with a girlfriend and just have fun girl time with all my old friends. On one occasion, I ran into Rob at the local Starbucks, and we truly enjoyed catching up on what was going on in our lives.”
“Neither of us ever thought we would find deep and abiding love at this point in our lives.”
“After a few months of occasional emails and texts, we started very casual dating,” she continues. “It was during this time that the Covid pandemic hit. I was with Rob in California and suddenly became ‘stuck’ there. Everyone was afraid to travel, airlines were out of the question, and we decided to ride it out there. No one predicted that it would not be weeks, but months; and then well over a year. It only took a few months ‘stuck’ with each other in the same house 24/7 that we were both smitten. Neither of us ever thought we would find deep and abiding love at this point in our lives, and I had completely walled myself off to any idea of marriage. His kindness, thoughtfulness, and generosity to those in need completely won me over. I think that having known each other for so many years made things so very much easier. There were no secrets, no agendas, no getting to know how the other person thinks, etc.”
By late summer of 2020, both Christine and Rob were eager to get out and unwind somewhere. Rob made plans for them to go to the Grand Del Mar Resort in Del Mar, California, and the couple spent most of the day touring a WWII battleship in San Diego. As they were rushing to get ready for dinner at a Michelin star restaurant on the grounds of a hotel called Addison, Rob suggested they stop in the garden of the hotel, where they have a beautiful fountain and gazebo.
“I was worried about being late to dinner, but he had his heart set on it,” Christine adds. “We made our way to the gazebo and Rob began talking about how much he loved me and how perfect we were for each other. As he was speaking, something flashed by out of the corner of my eye. I looked over and saw a little cottontail bunny skittering past. I stopped him mid-speech and said, ‘Oooh!!! Look at the bunny!!’ He took my hands and said, ‘Christine, focus!’ I realized something was amiss and looked into his eyes as he got down on one knee and proposed. I was totally and completely surprised. He pulled out the most magnificent ring I had ever seen, and I was speechless. I regained my composure and immediately said YES!”
The wedding planning process was initially overwhelming. Although Christine and Rob decided to get married the following summer, they quickly discovered that most venues were already booked up due to all the weddings that had been cancelled in 2020. Fortunately, they decided to get married at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, where the wedding consultant had a referral list of talented vendors on hand.
“I made an appointment with Lindsay Wiggins with Bliss Productions, and I never looked back,” says Christine. “She was warm, knowledgeable and took care of every detail to perfection. Rob and I wanted our wedding to be a day where every single person felt the love we had for them and for each other. We wanted the day to reflect pure JOY. I had chosen a wedding dress of bright happy colors of orange, yellow, fuchsia, and green, and we built the entire wedding theme around it. We were going to Italy for our honeymoon and wanted an Amalfi Coast vibe to it. The invitations, flowers, food, and drink were all based around it.”
The wedding ceremony took place on a grassy cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and dinner was served in an outdoor courtyard. Christine’s daughter was her attendant, which “made her heart sing.” One of her dearest friends also sang during the ceremony and reception. For the décor, the ceremony seating was lined with lemon trees; individual paper fans with a lemon motif were placed on each chair; and there was an arch dripping in colorful roses, peonies, jasmine, other brightly colored blooms, and lush greenery. Fabulous appetizers and champagne was being served before and after the ceremony, and the outdoor courtyard was transformed. There were floral arrangements everywhere, spilling out over the tables, and everyone raved about the delicious food.
“After the dinner and toasts, we adjourned to the ballroom,” Christine recalls. “The ballroom had been totally transformed, including bringing in white silk wallcoverings and a special cover for the dancefloor that was inscribed in large script, ‘La dolce Vida.’ We had a 13-piece band that played everything from 60’s rock to current hits. They were Las Vegas quality and completely enthralled everyone with their musical abilities both vocal and instrumental, and band members who would jump down from the stage and do back flips and splits like something you would see on television or film. We had boxed gifts for every couple that were specially made for our wedding.
All the boxes were made of wood and had each person’s name scripted on the top. Inside was a large luxury candle, a box of lemon scone mix, hand poured chocolates, a tea towel with lemons on it, a box of tea and a tube of L’Occitane en Provence hand cream. We had a table set up with individual bottles of Limoncello that I made myself for each guest. The wedding cake was accompanied by a dessert table that had 8 different types of delicacies. We started things off at 5 p.m. and people were still dancing at midnight. Rob and I were both floating somewhere in the silky haze of blissful happiness. What made me the happiest though was having my daughter there along with my family. Her toast to Rob and I made me well up and I could not have been prouder or happier.”
A few days later, the newlyweds left for Italy, where they spent almost a month honeymooning among their favorite spots, from the Amalfi Coast to Sicily.