A tropical paradise of their own


Kimberly Hartley And David Johnson

February 10, 2002|By Sandy Alexander | By Sandy Alexander,Sun Staff

Kimberly Hartley and David Johnson's wedding started in a traditional way, with the bride and groom in formal attire standing in front of a priest at the Church of St. Michael the Archangel in Overlea.

But, by the early afternoon, they and a room full of guests, many in Hawaiian shirts, were drinking pina coladas, dancing to Jimmy Buffett songs and doing the limbo.

"We want to celebrate and have fun," says David, who had hoped to avoid having guests "put on a suit and tie and go to a big hall with a big chandelier where everyone sits around and looks at one another."

The couple had originally thought about getting married on a sailboat in Key West, Fla., as a friend of theirs did. But they didn't want to exclude family and friends, so they turned Overhills Mansion in Catonsville into a slice of the tropics.

A thatched roof covered the bar, a bamboo fence surrounded the disc-jockey stand and birds of paradise and other tropical flowers, sent from Florida by David's parents, added to the atmosphere. David wore a shirt with a pattern of pink flamingos (the bride still wore her white floor-length gown) and everyone enjoyed Key lime pie and a wedding cake decorated with white chocolate seashells.

The couple took a short trip to the Poconos after the wedding, and a longer honeymoon to Hawaii is planned in the spring.

When she first met David in 1995 at the Baltimore biotechnology company where they both worked, "he was quiet and reserved," says Kimberly. David, who grew up in Rosedale, and Kimberly, who spent most of her youth in Texas, started talking at after-work gatherings. Over the next few months, they became friends.

Kimberly left the company to take a new job in Frederick, but by then her relationship with David extended beyond the workplace. They enjoyed spending time together on weekends, going to movies, roller-skating and attending home and garden shows. Soon, they were dating seriously.

A year later, David took a job as director of engineering at a biotechnology company called QIAGEN Sciences, in Germantown. That move prompted him to look for a new house, and the couple decided to build a home in Kemptown.

"We have a good foundation for understanding each other," says David, 34. "We became good friends before we started dating." And dealing with challenges like new jobs and new homes strengthened their relationship, he says. "We had the attitude that we work as a team."

The couple says deciding to get married was a natural transition. Even so, Kimberly, 30, was surprised when she started baking a cake for David's birthday and found an engagement ring hidden in a bowl of apples in the refrigerator.

"He is my balance," says Kimberly, who is now a microbiologist at IGEN International Inc., a biotechnology company in Gaithersburg. "He's strong when I need him to be strong. He knows when I'm upset and helps me through it."

The couple is ready to settle down, but they couldn't resist celebrating their new union with a tropical twist.

Says David, "We just thought it would be a fun thing to do."

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