On a tour of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., in March 2012, two King’s College alums were walking across the stage together when Colin Walsh suddenly dropped to one knee, held out a sparkling engagement ring and asked Stephanie Gawlas to marry him.
Saying yes, Stephanie was astonished by a burst of cheering and applause from the balcony.
Unbeknownst to her, Colin had arranged for her parents, Stephen and Nancy Gawlas of Hanover Township, and her sister, Alyssa, to be there, along with his parents, Charles D. and Cynthia Royer Walsh of Northampton; sister Mary Catherine Kresge and brother-in-law.
“I’m very intuitive, but I had no idea,” Stephanie said, recalling her surprise and delight.
The theatrical setting for the proposal was especially appropriate because the couple, who exchanged vows on July 6 in St. Nicholas Church, Wilkes-Barre, first got to know each other in the King’s College theater department.
Back in 2008, they appeared together in the leading roles of Romeo and Juliet in what many consider Shakespeare’s most romantic play. They didn’t begin dating until six months later, but even when they considered themselves just friends, other people sensed something more.
“I could just tell,” maid of honor Alyssa Gawlas said. “A sister always knows.”
“It was just the way they looked at each other,” mother of the bride Nancy Gawlas said. “I didn’t give it a lot of thought. I sort of forgot about it, but later on, when she told me they were dating, I wasn’t really surprised.”
So the couple planned a festive wedding, with 12 attendants and many special touches. A handkerchief bonnet the bride wore as a baby would be attached to the stem of her bouquet. A cloth embroidered by the bride’s great-grandmother, Bertha, when she was growing up in Germany, would cover the altar table. An uncle of the bride, John Rama of Clarks Summit, would greet the couple with bagpipe music after the ceremony, and their guests would shower them with white rose petals.
A subtle touch of “Romeo and Juliet” appeared at the wedding, including a guest registry with the complete script printed on it, the playing of the classic “A Time for Us” at the church and the couple’s choice of “Romeo and Juliet” by The Killers as music for their first dance at the reception.
There was a great deal of dancing at the reception, guest Anne Rodella said later, explaining how, during the last song or two of the evening, some of the couple’s theater friends hoisted them onto their shoulders so they could “dance in the air.”
That sounds like a much happier ending than the tragic demise Shakespeare gave his star-cross’d lovers in the play. In fact, Stephanie and Colin’s story is happier all the way around.
Instead of the warring Capulets and Montagues, there are two families happy to embrace a new daughter or son.”
“He is so thoughtful,” Nancy Gawlas described her new son-in-law.”He put a lot of thought into (inviting us to the proposal.) He was texting us, making sure we had the directions.”
On the morning of the wedding, while the bride and her attendants were out having their hair done, he slipped into her parents’ home and left a bouquet of white roses.
In another thoughtful gesture, Colin made sure to buy the engagement ring at Bartikowsky’s in Wilkes-Barre, before it went out of business, because that’s where Stephanie’s father had bought her mother’s ring.
On the first Saturday in July, Colin and Stephanie exchanged vows not furtively in front of Friar Laurence but openly and joyously in front of Monsignor Joseph G. Rauscher, great-uncle of the bride, and a church filled with friends and relatives.
In true great-uncle fashion, the monsignor told a family story about Stephanie — how she was born not long after he and her father returned from a Notre Dame football game, and they were so glad they made it home in time.
He also had a story to tell about Colin — who as a little boy heard the biblical story about God putting Adam to sleep and removing a rib to create Eve. Young Colin reportedly approached his mother and said, “Mommy, I don’t feel too good. My side hurts. Maybe I’m going to have a woman.”
At that, the congregation roared.
So much merriment and good will was evident throughout the day, Rodella said, it reminded her not of Romeo and Juliet but Miranda and Ferdinand from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”
Gaslight Theatre put on that show a few years ago, with Stephanie and Colin cast as the young lovers who meet on an island after a shipwreck. “It has a much happier ending,” said Rodella, who also appeared in that play.
Speaking of happiness, the mother of the bride described the wedding as “one of the best days of my life. The births of my daughters were my best days, and this ranks right up there.”
Following a honeymoon trip to Riviera Maya, Mexico, the couple will return to Virginia, where Stephanie, 24, works as a first-grade teacher for Loudoun County and Colin, 23, is employed by Catapult Consultants.