'Friends right from the start'



February 17, 2002|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SUN STAFF

From the setting at the National Aquarium in Baltimore to the handmade seashell centerpieces to the sand- and shell-filled globes guests took home, Melissa Fraser and Michael Freshour planned a wedding that reflected their love of the outdoors and their own personal style.

"I love aquariums," says Melissa, who once had planned to become a marine biologist. Even though the couple have no personal ties to Baltimore, the opportunity to get married at one of Melissa's favorite places drew them here for their big day.

On the evening of Dec. 2, Melissa, who grew up in Long Valley, N.J., and Michael, who moved with his father's Navy career, settling finally in Fredericksburg, Va., gathered friends and family into a circle on the pier behind the aquarium. The night was chilly as dusk fell, but guests didn't seem to mind as they watched the couple exchange vows. Afterward, everyone was invited to enjoy the aquarium exhibits until closing time at 7 p.m., when they convened for music and dinner in the fourth-floor Harbor Room overlooking the water.

Melissa, 30, and Michael, 31, both assistant public defenders for the state of Virginia, met when she started her job in October 2000 and Michael was asked to show her around.

"We were friends right from the start," says Melissa. They would invite each other over for dinner to watch programs on the Discovery Channel, although Michael became the host more often as Melissa discovered he was a skilled cook. Both enjoy the outdoors and liked gardening at Michael's house in South Boston, Va.

Michael says he was dropping hints that he wanted their relationship to become more serious, but Melissa didn't catch on. They remember the time he went with her on a whale-watching trip to Virginia Beach, Va., despite bad weather. Michael says, "She should have realized it was so cold something more than just whale watching was going on."

Finally, last spring, Michael's sister told Melissa how he felt about her, and that prompted a discussion of where their relationship was headed.

They realized they loved one another, and after a few months of serious dating, they started planning to get married.

"It's what was supposed to be," says Melissa. "It's the way he looks at me." Plus, she adds, "He's the only guy who hasn't annoyed me."

Michael says his bride is smart, pretty and "falls for little things" when he teases her, which "is very cute."

She replies, "I give it right back."

The couple wanted an outdoor wedding and a short engagement. When they found out the aquarium was available, it seemed perfect. Melissa says Baltimore has always been a great place for short getaways, and Michael also enjoys the city, especially going to Orioles games.

All the pieces seemed to fall into place for the wedding, just as they had for their relationship.

"We both like time by ourselves," says Melissa, but now, "we need space from other people, but we don't need it from each other."

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