Strong in love and independence

Just Married

Ann Erskine and Dominic Wiker

April 28, 2002|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,Sun Staff

When Dominic Wiker went to visit Ann Erskine for their first date in February 1997, he thought she owned the horse farm in Damascus where she was living. But he had misunderstood that part of the conversation when they had met two weeks earlier while out with a group of friends.

"I put him to work on the first date mucking stalls and that cleared up the confusion pretty quickly," says Ann, who helped take care of horses as part of her rent on a tenant cottage. But Dominic was not concerned. "It was a neat thing," he says. "The horses were great. Ann was great. The whole atmosphere out there was so different."

The differences in their lives attracted Ann and Dominic to each other. Ann lived in a rural area and Dominic lived in Baltimore. She had a close connection to her suburban Baltimore roots and childhood friends. He had lived many places, including Germany and Texas, as a result of his father's Army career, and traveled a lot as an adult.

"We were really happy when we met that we didn't have overlap in our backgrounds," Ann says.

As their relationship grew, Dominic, 31, and Ann, 33, found things they both enjoyed -- running, attending plays, going to museums and strolling through the Cross Street Market. But they also valued their independence. They like having time to themselves and have some separate hobbies -- Dominic likes to play baseball and golf while Ann likes to paint.

A year and a half after they met, Ann moved to Baltimore. She was working toward a master's degree in art education from Towson University, but wanted a change from teaching elementary-school art. She also was working as a docent at the Baltimore Museum of Art and visiting Dominic in the city. They were able to spend more time together, but Ann insisted on learning her way around the city and building her own identity here.

Now she runs the Baltimore Exposure Art Show, which uses grants to showcase art in restaurant and store windows around the city. She also teaches art part time at York College of Pennsylvania and is an art dealer. Dominic, who earned his master's degree in public policy and urban planning from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, supervises the Baltimore Main Streets commercial-revitalization project.

"What has made us work well is that we're both really attached and bonded to each other," says Ann, "but we also are really comfortable giving each other space."

Three years after Ann moved to Baltimore, she and Dominic realized it was time to talk about the future. But marriage was not an easy choice. In 2001, they spent a couple of months apart to figure out if they wanted the same things from the relationship. They decided they wanted to move forward, and when they got back together they began to talk seriously about marriage.

The pair realized "we were scaring ourselves out of the whole concept," says Ann, because some couples seemed to give up their individual interests and identities when they got married, and that was not what she and Dominic wanted.

"Then we realized we really [needed to] come up with something that works for the two of us," she says. "That's when things started to click."

"We wanted to go into this feeling really comfortable that our individuality would continue," says Dominic.

In August, Dominic chose a romantic moment to propose: in a garden after a dinner at the Johns Hopkins Club. A sudden rainstorm made him propose quickly, but Ann was impressed by the peal of thunder that accentuated his presentation of an engagement ring.

On April 13 they had a ceremony and reception at the Rowing Club in Baltimore. The couple exchanged vows they had written and Ann's sister and Dominic's best friend each gave a testimonial about the couple and their relationship. Then they enjoyed dinner and dancing to a rock and roll band.

After a two-week honeymoon in Belize, the couple returned to the Federal Hill rowhouse they renovated this winter. They are determined to keep finding a path that is right for them, one that includes enjoying their careers, traveling and taking advantage of life in the city.

"We really don't sit still," says Ann. "There is always something new and different."

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