Lifetime Job

Erin & Brad Zisow First Date:  May 8, 2012,  Fells Point Wedding Date:  Nov. 1, 2014 Venue:  Grand Historic Venue,  Baltimore Residence:  Fells Point Favorite Activity:  Traveling, trying new restaurants

Erin & Brad Zisow
First Date:
May 8, 2012,
Fells Point
Wedding Date:
Nov. 1, 2014
Grand Historic Venue,
Fells Point
Favorite Activity:
Traveling, trying new restaurants

Erin Iwanicki answered an advertisement for a job with Bradley Images and met with owner Brad Zisow in November 2012.

Brad was impressed by her drive, dedication and attention to detail. After an hour, the conversation turned chatty, and Brad invited Erin for a drink the next day.

“He was cute,” said Erin, 29. “But I really didn’t know what ‘grabbing a drink’ meant.”

They met at the Red Star in Fells Point. They learned they lived near each other and ran in the same circles. Brad told Erin he couldn’t hire her.

For each of the next four days, they enjoyed a date. By May 18, they had declared themselves official. When Brad returned from a shoot in Philadelphia, Erin blurted out that she loved him. Brad responded in kind. Both were shocked that they had progressed so quickly into a serious relationship. It just “seemed right.”

They also discussed religion. It was important to Brad that his children be Jewish. Erin, from upstate New York, was raised Catholic.

“My grandparents were in the Holocaust, and I wanted to carry on the family name,” said Brad, 39.

They discussed their children going to the mikvah.Brad then set out to plan a proposal. Being an “over-the-top” kind of guy, he contemplated somewhere elaborate such as Times Square, a Baltimore Ravens game or on an airplane.

Instead, he did the exact opposite.

At her favorite restaurant, her dessert appeared with the engagement ring resting on top. When Brad knelt down, everyone stopped.

At their engagement party in Baltimore, with Gail Piazza and Jim Iwanicki and Marcie and David Zisow meeting for the first time, Erin told Brad that she planned to convert to Judaism.

“Family is really important [and I knew] it would bring us closer together,” Erin said. “It would be easier for our kids growing up, and not so confusing. We need to be one united family.”

Erin started the process and when she went to the mikvah marking her conversion, Marcie presented her with a Kiddish cup and Shabbos candles.

Brad and Erin were married in an Orthodox ceremony on Nov. 1, 2014 before 150 guests at the Grand Historic Venue. Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt officiated. Although nicknamed “Bradzilla” during the planning process, Brad was not desensitized at his own wedding.

“I was crying … all of a sudden I turned around and it hit me like a ton of bricks. You can’t put it into words how different it is when it is your own wedding.”

They posed for pictures for seven hours prior to the ceremony and in total have 8,800 photos.

It took Erin five hours to review them the first time. It may take them longer to put their album together than it did to fall in love.

“We both dated other people before, but this time nothing else mattered,” Brad said. “She is the most beautiful girl in the world, and she is the one who made me not want to date anyone else. She is perfect for me.”

Best Friends

120514_beshertJulie & Cory Oppenheimer
First Date: December 2010
Wedding Date: Oct. 18, 2014
Venue: Windham Grand Hotel in Pittsburgh
Residence: Federal Hill
Favorite Activity: Going to Orioles games

Three years after meeting through the online matching service JDate, Cory Oppenheimer proposed to Julie Cohen.

After connecting online, they had agreed to meet in December 2010, and over drinks they spent three hours getting to know each other. They discovered both attended the University of Maryland at the same time and even had mutual friends. Julie also saw Cory’s sailing scar, as he removed his boot in the restaurant, following her prodding.

Their courtship consisted of dining out, sailing, seeing a few movies, going to Orioles games and watching Ravens and Steelers games. When the two go head- to-head, however, they “attempt to be respectful,” as they are a “house divided,” Julie said.

When things progressed in the direction of getting engaged, Julie thought it might occur during a Thanksgiving 2013 trip to Europe. Both were adjusting to adulthood, Cory, 28, transitioning into his job as an estimator for Manganaro Midatlantic and Julie, also 28, as a research audiologist at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Cory bought a ring with his mom, Maxine Cohen, and called Julie’s father, Jim Cohen, in Pittsburgh.

Two months later, they traveled to Vail, Colo., with friends. Cory tried to plan the perfect spot to propose, where he could stage a picture with the ski resort photographer.

Cory contemplated proposing over dinner one night, but the food was horrible and the service was worse. The next day, a storm dropped a foot of snow. Cory feared losing the ring outdoors. Instead, after their first ski run, as they sat on the lift, Cory got Julie’s attention. He showed her a ring box with a beautiful ring but did not pull it out.

Stunned and shocked, Julie was speechless. Cory had to ask her to marry him a second time. They skied down the mountain and rushed inside the ski lodge. There, Cory knelt down, told Julie he loved her and placed the ring on her finger. A weepy Julie agreed to a staged photo outdoors with the lodge photographer.

They were married Oct. 18, 2014 at the Windham Grand Hotel in Julie’s native Pittsburgh. Julie’s mom, Randi Cohen, and Maxine worked together to plan the affair, attended by 185 guests, with the traditional ceremony officiated by Julie’s childhood rabbi, Larry Freedman.

Julie admits to being “a ball of stress and nervousness” but that subsided after Cory commented on how beautiful she looked.

Just like their choice of football teams, the pair acknowledges their differences in temperament, which often sparks differences of opinion.

“We’re honest with each other and talk through [our differences]. We move past them and know we have each other’s best interests at heart,” said Cory. “I love her, and we are best friends.”

Linda L. Esterson is an Owings Mills-based freelance writer. For “Beshert,” call 410-902-2305 or email

Funny in Love

MIA & MICHAEL ARONIN First Date:  July 2012 in Columbia Wedding Date:  Aug. 10, 2014 Venue:  Beth El Congregation’s  Goren Chapel Reception:  Mari Luna Residence:  Pikesville Favorite Activity:  Taking road trips

First Date:
July 2012 in Columbia
Wedding Date:
Aug. 10, 2014
Beth El Congregation’s
Goren Chapel
Mari Luna
Favorite Activity:
Taking road trips

From the moment they met online, Michael Aronin had Mia Stein Corvilla laughing.

Michael, a Social Security Administration program analyst by day and a comedian by night, sent Mia a YouTube link of a motivational speech he had delivered. Instead of telling her that he has cerebral palsy, performs comedy routines and was previously married, he preferred to “break the ice” with the video. About a minute in, he talks about being born with CP, and later, he talks about using humor to make others feel comfortable. The video also includes many jokes.

“If you still want to meet me, let me know,” he wrote.

Mia “was sold right away,” finding Michael adorable and funny. She hasn’t looked back.

“I really do appreciate that side of him,” said Mia, 45, a kindergarten teacher at Scotts Branch Elementary School in Randallstown. “He will keep us young.”

After sending the link, Michael, 46, heard back from Mia the next day. She considered him very brave and able.

“He certainly doesn’t need to live in the spotlight, but he wants people to [see] him as a positive role model for people who are disabled,” she said. “I respect that; I’m amazed by that.”

They met at a Columbia restaurant for dinner and learned about their similarities. Both were Jewish, both hailed from New York, and both had children. They found themselves smiling at each other and laughing throughout the meal.

A few weeks later, Michael met Jared Corvilla, now 11. Michael brought a football for him, which they later tossed around despite Michael’s disability.

Mia calls him “the most able man I know,” and the only activity they don’t do together is taking long walks. Michael tags along and relaxes on a bench, and Mia joins him after she’s walked.

“He may take longer or need a hand, but I don’t feel limited at all being with him,” she said.

Within a few months, they professed their love in Ocean City. Their relationship quickly grew serious. Michael proposed at Hemingway’s on the way to Ocean City in November 2013. They married on Aug. 10, 2014 at Beth El Congregation. Rabbi Dana Saroken officiated the ceremony, which included Jared Corvilla and Michael’s children — Brandon, 21, Sydney, 16, and Jon, 13. Also part of the festivities were Michael’s father, Lee Aronin, and Mia’s brother, Alan Stein, both from New York. They celebrated with their 50 guests at the Mari Luna restaurant.

Both are thankful for their second chance at love.

It’s hard to express,” said Michael. “It’s a feeling I get. When we’re together, we can be ourselves around each other.”

School Daze

110714_beshertLauren & Matthew Mittleman
First Date: June 2008, Artful Gourmet Bistro

Wedding Date: June 14, 2014
Venue: Woodholme Country Club
Residence: Owings Mills
Favorite Activity: Walking their Golden Retriever/Border Collie mix, Chloe

Lauren Shapiro and Matthew Mittleman were schoolmates. They played at the JCC preschool and attended Franklin Middle School together. They even summered together at Camp Milldale.

However, the two were just acquaintances. It wasn’t until after their college graduations in 2008 (she from Towson University, he from the University of Maryland) that they actually became friends. By then, Lauren had moved to Pikesville, so Matthew offered her a ride home from a graduation party. The next day, he called.

They met at the Artful Gourmet Bistro in Owings Mills during Matthew’s lunch break. Flattered by his choice of one of the nicest restaurants in the area, she also was concerned about the menu, not wanting to be embarrassed by lettuce in her teeth. So, they headed over to Courtney’s, where they enjoyed a simple bagel. That impressed Matthew.

They were together again the next day, and that quickly grew to about four times a week. Within a month, they returned to Courtney’s, where Matthew asked Lauren to be his girlfriend.

Both returned to graduate school. Matthew earned his M.B.A. and is now a health care consultant for Signature Consulting Group in Windsor Mill; Lauren earned her master’s degree in education. After briefly teaching, she is now a real estate agent with Keller Williams in Ellicott City.

They professed their love about a year into their relationship. By 2010, they discussed marriage, but there was no rush.

“We were young, having fun, trying to find what we were going to do with our lives,” Matthew said.

Their first major vacation together was to Turkey and Greece in June 2012. Matthew proposed in Athens on the last night. They strolled in a park next to the Acropolis, and he knelt down and presented her with the ring she had helped design a year earlier.

They were married at Woodholme Country Club on June 14, 2014. Columbia Jewish Congregation Cantor Jan Morrison officiated the traditional ceremony. The weather was perfect for the outdoor ceremony witnessed by 200 friends and family members.

The most telling moment was Matthew’s first glimpse of Lauren in her wedding dress. As he twirled his bride, he was shaking and crying, full of emotion. They celebrated with their 28-member wedding party, and the night concluded with a sparkler sendoff, as they departed on a golf cart.

Matthew calls Lauren the “It girl,” noting her drive, determination and bubbly nature. Lauren relies on Matthew’s calmness, and his caring and romantic nature.

“He’s the type of guy who would rather please you than himself,” she said. She must have known something good was in store when he shared his blocks with her in preschool.

Linda L. Esterson is an Owings Mills-based freelance writer. For “Beshert,” call 410-902-2305 or email

All Smiles, All the Time

101714_beshertLaurie & Mike Rosen
First Date: Sept. 27, 2011, for yogurt
Wedding Date: May 17, 2014
Venue: Royal Sonesta Harbor Court Hotel in Baltimore
Residence: Pikesville
Favorite Activity: Spending time with their 4-year-old puggle, Bentley

Laurie Collins planned a surprise for boyfriend Mike Rosen’s 26th birthday. They were vacationing in Naples, Fla., and she arranged for a catamaran excursion.

Secretly, Mike was in touch with her mother, Shelley Collins, and planned to propose that day on the boat.

They awoke that morning, May 1, 2013, to rain showers. Shelley suggesting a nice lunch instead at the Ritz Carlton.

With the showers at bay, they ate outdoors, on the empty beach. After the staff sang “Happy Birthday,” Mike invited Laurie for a walk. Mike asked the hostess to snap a picture. Laurie turned to him and was surprised to find him on one knee.

He told her he was so happy that he couldn’t imagine his life with anyone else. He asked her to marry him.

It was the culmination of their 18-month relationship. They had connected via JDate and met for yogurt in Federal Hill in September 2011. Mike scored points immediately, as he brought Wisp mini-toothbrushes, which Laurie had mentioned to the then-dental student.

That led to a second date, and Mike came with flowers in hand. On their third date, Laurie met Bentley, Mike’s puggle. As their relationship developed, they enjoyed movies, the Inner Harbor, the dog park and dining out. Mike met Shelley and Larry Collins at a Ravens tailgate party.

Mike asked Laurie to be his girlfriend in late October, and they professed their love in December before heading to Mike’s native Suffern, N.Y., for New Year’s. That’s when Laurie met Heidi and Steve Rosen.

The next fall, Mike applied for his dental residency. Most applications were local, but they agreed to one in Palm Beach, Fla. Mike would only go if Laurie went along. They spent a fun year in the sun and lived at the beach, enjoying boating, jet skiing and restaurants. They returned to Maryland this summer, and Mike joined Smith & Co. Dental Practitioners in Bel Air. Laurie is a loan consultant for HFS Financial.

They married on May 17, 2014 at the Royal Sonesta Harbor Court Hotel. Rabbi Stephen Fink of Temple Oheb Shalom officiated at the traditional ceremony before 130 friends and family members as the two recited their heartfelt vows. The couple danced to “All of Me,” then broke into faster moves to “Happy.”

They agree they complement each other, and as Laurie put it, Mike is the peanut butter to her jelly, the bagel to her cream cheese and the love of her life. He’s calm to her impatience, and he’s pragmatic and rational to her impulsiveness.

But above all, his sense of humor won her over.

“His smile, his demeanor and tone” top the list of his characteristics that attracted Laurie, 30. “He made me laugh right away.”

The dentist, of course, noticed one thing immediately.

“She has a very nice smile,” he said.

Linda L. Esterson is an Owings Mills-based freelance writer. For “Beshert,” call 410-902-2305 or email

Love on Time


Photo provided

Evelyn Katz knew her date would be late. She told him she wouldn’t go if he was even five minutes tardy.

When he was 10 minutes late that Friday, April 11, 1946, she had removed her makeup and put her hair in curlers.

When her date finally showed up with his handsome second cousin, Mitchell Pollack, fresh out of the Army, she changed her mind, dressed again and they all headed out.

But there was no party. Instead they went to a supper club.

“[Mitchell] was so charming and so different from his cousin that I enjoyed his company immediately,” recalled Evelyn, now 85.

Evelyn invited Mitchell to a gathering she hosted around Pesach. Soon they were dating. They enjoyed movies, dining out, going to the beach and sorority dances.

New Year’s Eve 1948, Mitchell’s parents, David and Fannie Pollack, hosted Evelyn’s parents, Max and Sadie Katz, and Evelyn’s aunt and uncle for coffee and cake.

Evelyn and Mitchell stole a moment in the kitchen. Standing near the sink, Mitchell pulled out an engagement ring and asked Evelyn to marry him.

They wed on Sept. 11, 1949 at Agudas Achim Synagogue, then on Park Heights Avenue. Evelyn wore her sister-in-law’s dress that Fannie had made. Fannie had also surprised her with the gift of a handmade gray suit, patterned after one she admired in a local department store window.

After a New York honeymoon, they returned to Northwest Baltimore, where they rented a second-floor apartment before moving to their first house on Koko Lane. They welcomed daughter Barbara in January 1952. After moving to Elderon Avenue, they were blessed with two more daughters, Roslyn and Susan.

Mitchell put his graphic design degree to good use with a long career at Westinghouse. Evelyn raised the girls to school age and became a sewing, cooking and crafts teacher at the JCC in 1969. After 20 years, she retired and joined Barbara at the Hancock Fabrics store in Randallstown. After 40 years at Westinghouse, Mitchell retired, and 10 years later, Evelyn joined him. Then they traveled.

“Oh, did we travel,” Evelyn said. They saw Europe, Israel, Alaska, Canada and Bermuda as well as other destinations by cruise ship.

After 47 years on Ames Court in Randallstown, they moved to the Atrium in Owings Mills in June 2013. They enjoy visits and meals out with their seven grandchildren, as well as movies, music and mah jong.

Mitchell has “loved every year” of their time together as they celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary.

“She was God’s gift to me,” said Mitchell, 88. “She was an angel from heaven.”

“It’s stronger now than in the beginning,” Evelyn added with a smile. “That’s when we were working hard to prepare for the future. The future is now.”






Linda L. Esterson is an Owings Mills-based freelance writer.

For “Beshert,” call 410-902-2305 or email

Smooth Sailing

100314_beshert1Sally & Arnold Rifkin
First Date: Moonlight cruise, August 1945
Wedding Date: Sept. 4, 1949
Venue: Chizuk Amuno Congregation
Residence: Pikesville
Favorite Activity: Cooking, traveling

Sally Conn fell in love with Arnold Rifkin on their first date.

Arnold, 17, needed a date for his fraternity’s moonlight cruise. A family connection paired him with Sally, 14. It was August 1945, and there was no hand holding or kiss goodnight. But they did dance, talk and gaze out at the water together. A “sophisticated” Arnold, with his brown jacket and pipe, blew Sally away. He noted her intelligence.

Young and popular, Sally went on many dates. But if they weren’t with Arnold, he would wait for her with Sally’s parents, Samuel and Mildred Conn. Although he hadn’t admitted it, he was smitten with Sally as well.

It didn’t take long; soon after that first date, it was just Arnold for Sally. They spent many Friday nights rolling back the carpet at Sally’s Baltimore home, dancing to hit records with other couples. They went out with friends Saturday nights after Arnold had worked 12 hours to earn enough money for the streetcar and date. On Sundays, they spent time alone, walking in Leakin Park.

During the month prior to Sally’s 16th birthday, though, Arnold didn’t call, and Sally was heartbroken. On her birthday weekend, Arnold finally did call, and on Sunday, they took their usual stroll.

As they sat on a park bench, Arnold gave Sally a present.

“I hope you will accept it,” said Arnold, then 19. “I really want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

He handed Sally a diamond ring.

On Sept. 4, 1949 at Chizuk Amuno Congregation, 100 guests witnessed their Orthodox nuptials. They endured 99-degree heat and toasted each other before honeymooning for a week in New York.

100314_beshert2They lived in a rented apartment for two years before Arnold was drafted for the Korean War. Sally joined him in California for a year and then moved in with her parents. Arnold returned home six months later.

They bought a house behind the Reisterstown Road Plaza and lived there for 12 years. Alan (in 1957), Scott (in 1959) and David (in 1960) were all born there. They moved to Randallstown in 1969.

Sally raised the boys and then went into teaching. Arnold worked as an engineer for WJZ-TV; he was the driving force behind the station’s mobile photography trucks. He retired in 1988 and then went to culinary school.

They love traveling and have visited such places as Rome, Athens, Israel, Russia, China and Mexico. They continue their rituals of a good-morning kiss and dinner every night together.

After a party for their 25th anniversary and a “second wedding” for their 50th, the Rifkins were happy to celebrate over a romantic dinner on the Eastern Shore and a few days in Cape May.

“I feel the same as I’ve always felt,” said Sally, 83.

“It’s hard to believe,” said Arnold, 86, when he thinks of their 65 years of marriage. “There probably won’t be another 65, but I hope it’s a little longer.”

Linda L. Esterson is an Owings Mills-based freelance writer. For “Beshert,” call 410-902-2305 or email

Sweet Love

090514_beshert-nowStacey & David Stern
First Date: May 1982 to see “An Officer and a Gentleman”
Wedding Date: Aug. 12, 1989
Venue: Martin’s West
Residence: Owings Mills
Favorite Activity: Exercising

While David Stern and a friend walked past the Pikesville High School cafeteria during a school day in the early 1980s, his friend was the recipient of a wave.

David learned that the friendly girl was Stacey Serpick.

“I saw her beautiful smile and her pretty face at first,” David recalled recently. “She had a great personality too. She blossomed like a flower in the month of May.”

Their mutual friend introduced them, and David pursued Stacey. She remembers the cute guy who sat next to her in the lunch room. He called her at home, and they talked for hours. David recalls hanging out at her home in Pikesville and sitting on the couch, happy to be together. He also picked her up from her job at Baskin-Robbins, and they would hang out on weekends.

They continued dating long after David asked Stacey to his senior prom and long after he graduated. He commuted to Towson University so they continued their relationship. After Stacey graduated two years later, she enrolled in a nursing program at St. Joseph Hospital and then graduated from the University of Baltimore with a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

“I found a good girlfriend, and I wanted to hold on to her,” said David, now 49. “She had a sweet personality, and I fell in love.”

090514_beshert-thenLate in 1987, David took Stacey to dinner, recited a sweet poem he had written and asked her to marry him. They were wed on Aug. 12, 1989 with Rabbi Donald Berlin officiating the traditional ceremony at Martin’s West.

David presented roses to their mothers, Beverly Serpick Fine and Peggy Stern, who is now deceased.

After a honeymoon in St. Thomas, the Sterns moved to their first home across from the Greenspring Shopping Center. Shannon arrived in 1991, and Taylor joined the family in 1993. In 1996, they moved to Worthington Park in Owings Mills.

They shared responsibility for raising the girls, who are now 23 and 21 years old. Stacey worked the night shift on weekends, and David reveled in spoiling them. He remembers giving Taylor the dessert that Stacey had taken from her earlier in the night.

The family loved to travel to Ocean City each summer, and they took trips to Walt Disney World and Mexico.

“I couldn’t be any happier,” said David, who owns Brother’s Bail Bonds on Lexington Street in Baltimore. “Thank God I have what I have. I’m grateful every day.”

They still enjoy hanging out as well as exercising together and traveling to regional and national softball tournaments with David’s competitive team.

“We still really and truly love each other,” said David. “I love her more than ever. Love grows stronger. I couldn’t imagine anything without her.”

Stacey, 48, added, “I’m looking forward to the rest of our relationship together.”

Linda L. Esterson is an Owings Mills-based freelance writer. For “Beshert,” call 410-902-2305 or email

Long-Distance Devotion

Jenna & Philip Sharp First Date:  March 2011, Ledo’s Pizza dinner and The Bridge concert Wedding Date:  Aug. 11, 2014 Venue:  Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah Hebrew Congregation Residence:  Baltimore Favorite Activity:  Attending concerts

Jenna & Philip Sharp
First Date: March 2011, Ledo’s Pizza dinner and The Bridge concert
Wedding Date: Aug. 11, 2014
Venue: Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah Hebrew Congregation
Residence: Baltimore
Favorite Activity: Attending concerts

Philip Sharp and Jenna Bishop met while on an Israel trip through the University of Maryland. Their individual trip leaders were married, so the groups came together for shared meals and activities. When they returned to college, Jenna and Phil discovered they had mutual friends, and they were both involved with the Meor program so they saw each other often. That connection developed into a friendship and then a romantic relationship a few months later.

Phil graduated in December 2011 and headed to Israel. He returned to work at the McDonogh School summer camp with Jenna but then headed back to Israel.  Both worked at camp the following summer too, and after Jenna graduated, she headed to Israel. But by now Phil was in working back in Baltimore. For almost three years, they maintained a long-distance relationship through Skype, emails, phone calls, packages and letters.

During one attempted overseas call, Phil, in Baltimore, was “super busy,” unable to speak with Jenna, still in Israel. But she understood, because Phil was a residential treatment therapist for Catholic Charities, he was involved in work around the clock. Jenna knew they would catch up when they could.

In Israel, everyone was celebrating the Fast of Esther, the 13th of Adar (March 13), and Jenna planned to go out with friends to break the fast but they chose a pricey restaurant. Jenna tried to convince them to go somewhere less expensive.

Her friends won out, and as they walked into the restaurant, Jenna noticed a handsome guy sitting in a booth with a bouquet of flowers. She did a double take and realized it was Phillip.

“Why are you here?” she asked.

“How are you?” he asked.

Before she could answer, he was down on one knee, proposing to her right there. He presented her with a ring provided by her mother, Carrie Bishop, because, he told her, he wanted them to pick out her engagement ring together.

Jenna was speechless. Phil had to ask her several times if she was listening.

Phil began the wedding plans with Carrie and Michael Bishop and Michael and Sharon Sharp in Baltimore. By the time Jenna returned in May, everything was booked.

Meor’s founder, Rabbi Beryl Gershenfeld, officiated at their Aug. 12, 2014 nuptials at Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah Hebrew Congregation. About 200 guests witnessed the Orthodox ceremony and the emotional bedekken.

“With everything we’ve been through, all the challenges and ups and downs, there hasn’t been a doubt in our minds that this was the end goal,” said Jenna, 24, who is preparing to be a Goddard School preschool teacher, while Phil, 25, prepares for graduate classes at the University of Maryland School of Social Work. “We bring out the best in each other.”

Linda L. Esterson is an Owings Mills-based freelance writer. For “Beshert,” call 410-902-2305 or email

The Magic in ‘We’

080114_beshertLisa & Brian Bennett

First Date: May 18, 2011,for sushi in Columbia
Wedding: May 25, 2014
Venue: Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel
Residence: North Bethesda, Md.
Favorite Activity: Going on picnics

After Lisa Blatt and Brian Bennett went on their first date, Lisa looked up his Facebook profile and determined they had a mutual friend.

She called the friend to ask about Brian. The friend said she had to “marry him right now.”

That was enough approval for Lisa.

They met through the online dating service J-Date in the spring of 2011. Lisa had just moved back to the Baltimore area after completing physical therapy graduate school at Widener University. Brian was cute, looked ambitious and liked animals.

“I couldn’t find anything I didn’t like,” recalled Lisa, now 28.

By the same token, Brian found Lisa’s profile cute and laid-back, and he found her easy to talk to after making the initial move. He was on summer break from the Catholic University Law School and needed to have fun.

They talked online for two weeks. Brian was in final exams, and Lisa was studying for her board examination. They “met in the middle” in Columbia, and without revealing their dietary restrictions (Lisa kept a kosher-style kitchen and Brian is gluten-free), they settled on a sushi restaurant.

Brian remembers the conversation flowing easily, without the awkward pauses found during a typical first date. They realized they shared a similar sense of humor and often the same viewpoints. He remarked that they should “do it again sometime.”

Lisa wasn’t sure if it was a line … or not. She hoped he would call or text.

Brian did hope to see her again and broke his “three-day rule.” He had tickets for the Orioles, and they arranged to meet after the game. They strolled around the Inner Harbor several times, getting to know each other. They shared their first kiss by the harbor.

A few months later they professed their love, and they soon realized they were destined to be together. Brian completed law school and an internship and then studied hard for the bar exam. He still, however, made time to see Lisa.

“I wanted to make time for her,” said Brian, 29, a native of Potomac. “Every time I could, I made time to see her.”

Lisa was the first to learn Brian had passed the bar after his computer froze. She texted him a mazel tov.

In May 2013, Brian re-created their first date at a downtown restaurant and proposed.

They married May 25, 2014 at the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel. Rabbi Susan Shankman of Washington Hebrew Congregation performed the traditional Reform ceremony as witnessed by 160 friends and family members.

During the ceremony, Rabbi Shank- man whispered to them to take it all in, that there would never be a moment more magical.

They do acknowledge the magic in their relationship, however.

“He’s my best friend, and I feel like a better person when I’m around him,” said Lisa. “He completes who I am.”

Linda L. Esterson is an Owings Mills-based freelance writer. For “Beshert,” call 410-902-2305 or email