Progressive Valentines


Catherine Irwin, a 27-year-old director of orthopedics at a Chicago hospital, could be described as the classic type-A overachiever.

She would not marry her longtime boyfriend Matt Corbin, 29, until after she finished a two-year MBA program at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern in Chicago. “I just had this hang-up about being in school and being married,” she says. “I wanted to get school out of the way, then focus on being a good wife, as antiquated as that sounds.”

Catherine Irwin and
Matt Corbin
August 2, 2009
Photo by Jack Looney

Matt, for his part, was ready to tie the knot long before she was, so “It took a couple of conversations to convince him that it wasn’t a commitment issue, but a timing one,” she says.

“Matt has this uncanny ability to make me laugh and relax,” she says. “I wouldn’t say I’m uptight, but I was the oldest child in my family, so I’ve always been a little on the serious side. So he’s always cracking corny jokes….and I keep him in line.”

The couple met eight years ago when she was a sophomore and he was a senior at UVA. They were introduced, auspiciously, on Valentine’s Day, or rather, anti-Valentine’s Day.

A bunch of people who lived in Catherine’s apartment building threw a “progressive Valentine’s Day party,” she called it, for any girl who didn’t have a date that night. Matt attended because he belonged to the fraternity that supplied the alcohol. He didn’t actually speak to Catherine until the end of the evening when one of their mutual friends, oiled by a few cocktails, became so engrossed in PlayStation 2 that Matt and Catherine started laughing at him before turning to each other and talking for an hour.

In the days following the party, Catherine asked some of their other mutual friends about the handsome guy with the broad smile and the classic UVA frat boy ’do (longish, flipping up on the ends behind the ears). Her inquiries must have got back to Matt because he called a week later and asked her to dinner at Vivace.

The relationship took off, or rather, ambled…casually…from there. “I thought most guys were in it for the short term, but my relationship with Matt moved so slowly at the beginning that that was also concerning,” says Catherine. “But I came to appreciate that.”

A moment of epiphany came one gorgeous spring day as they sat on a bench together in a garden near the UVA Lawn at UVA. “I leaned in to kiss Catherine and suddenly an overwhelming feeling of happiness and warmth came over me,” says Matt. “I knew right then and there that all the flirting and having fun and doing the dating thing had turned into something real—I loved her. I could tell she felt the same way.” (She actually said, “Wow.”)

But as graduation approached, the lure of a beefier job market beckoned.  Catherine moved to Chicago and Matt joined her nine months later. “I figured if I could get a Southern boy to move north, it was serious,” she says. She eventually started grad school while Matt got a job at J.P. Morgan.

In the summer of 2009, Catherine not only finally finished grad school and landed her current job, but the couple bought their first house and Matt was promoted to an investment associate at the bank. Somehow during all of this, Catherine found time to design and sew her own wedding gown. After a rehearsal dinner in their special garden, the place where they first fell in love, she wore the gown to their nuptials on August 2 at King Family Vineyard before 150 guests.