One couple goes the distance, with plenty of fun along the way

From the moment Martha Milne was introduced to Bram Willets by a mutual friend five years ago, something just clicked. The deal was sealed when that same friend sat the fledgling couple at the same table at his own wedding two weeks later. They spent the entire evening in close conversation and discovered they shared similar childhood experiences.

Martha Milne and Bram Willets
August 22, 2009
Photo by Jack Looney

“Every summer as kids, both our families would fly to some pocket of the country, rent a car, and spend hours and hours and hours driving from one national park to the next—Yellowstone, Glacier, Yosemite,” says Martha. “I’d never met anyone who’d done as much driving around national parks as I had. It was so great to meet a guy who shared my joy and happiness over having been to those places.”

The evening ended with Bram and Martha feeding each other wedding cake, a portentous gesture (no doubt fueled in part by champagne, but whatever) that all their friends immediately picked up on.

“All our friends knew before we did how well we’d hit it off,” says Martha, 29, an analyst for human resources consulting.

In fact, Bram’s friends knew to what extent the 30-year-old financial consultant was smitten when he was later able to rattle off exactly what the tall, blue-eyed brunette wore to the wedding—a light pink cocktail dress.

And she was a sports fan—which for Bram, a lifelong Steelers fanatic, was a huge bonus. Some of their early dates were spent tailgating with Martha’s family before Hokies games. In fact, it was at one of those tailgate parties where Bram was first introduced to Martha’s parents. Her mom immediately took to him, and got the sense she was looking at her future son-in-law.

“I, uh, have a reputation in my family for totaling cars,” admits Martha. “And when my mom heard Bram say to everyone, ‘Martha is a good driver’ the first time she met him, well, she thought he was awesome.”

A full six months passed before the couple uttered the three little words to each other. “Saying ‘I love you’ was such a big step in our relationship that it became like a running joke,” says Bram. “Now we always preface something special or the next big step in our lives with ‘I know we are taking it slow, but…’”

After that, the couple, who lived in Richmond, became inseparable. When Bram decided to train for the Richmond Marathon, he managed to persuade Martha to do it with him. They started out running three miles together, and eventually progressed to running up to 15 miles on the weekends.

Though those long runs could be tedious, they allowed the couple to talk at length about all sorts of minutiae. “I remember on one long run, we spent two hours discussing dog names,” says Martha. The couple, who’d recently adopted a female lab/golden retriever, eventually settled on the name Charlie, named after Kelly McGillis’s character in one of their favorite movies, Top Gun. After finalizing their decision, they rewarded themselves by chowing down on burgers and fries.

The couple began spending a lot of time around Charlottesville, hiking on the Blue Ridge, picking apples at Carter Mountain Orchard, sampling wines at many of the area’s vineyards, particularly Veritas.

Three years into their relationship, Bram was ready to make a proposal.  Before he popped the question, he made sure to preface it with “I know we’re taking it slow here, but….”

The couple, who have since moved to St. Louis, had their rehearsal dinner August 21 at Wintergreen and got married the following day at Veritas before 185 family and guests. After the ceremony, all their family and friends headed back inside the banquet hall to watch the couple feed each wedding cake….only this time, it was their own. 

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