Catherine Campbell and Jim Hibbert

JUST MARRIED

It all works out for gym friends

May 12, 2002|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,Sun Staff

Joining a gym might be good for the heart in the physical sense but for Catherine Campbell and Jim Hibbert, it was good for the heart in the romantic sense as well.

Catherine, an underwriter for CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield in Owings Mills, and Jim, a stockbroker with First Allied in Baltimore, started out as friends when they met in 1997 at the Harbor Nautilus fitness center. Jim had lived in the city for many years after earning his master's of business administration degree at the University of Baltimore and Catherine had recently moved to Baltimore after earning her bachelor's degree in political science at the University of Delaware.

The two were content to be part of a small group of friendly health-club regulars for more than a year before they realized they could be something more. Then, in February 1999, a group of people went out dancing at the 13th Floor lounge of the Belvedere hotel for Catherine's birthday.

As she and Jim spent time together in that evening's social setting, they thought, "This could definitely be something more than just friends," Catherine says. A week later they shared their first kiss and their romance was on its way.

Catherine, 29, and Jim, 42, both enjoy outdoor activities, especially hiking. Catherine owns a racehorse and both want to have more horses in the future. They also enjoy traveling. They went together on Catherine's first trip to California and on Jim's first trip to Scotland, where Catherine spent her childhood.

For the couple, the key was finding a relationship that was very comfortable and felt right. Both had established their identities as individuals, and gotten ahead in their chosen careers.

Says Catherine: "We were grounded independently, [we're] ready for this marital thing." At the same time, neither felt rushed to get married just because people around them had.

They took a low-pressure approach to their relationship, helped by the fact that spending time as friends gave them a sound foundation on which to build.

"We just get along well," says Jim. "That's the key to a long and secure partnership."

After they dated for a few months, Catherine moved into Jim's Otterbein apartment and they found they were comfortable with that step as well.

Even though they are "grounded," the couple has a romantic side, too.

On New Year's Eve, as 2001 was beginning, Jim decided to surprise Catherine with a proposal. They had been joking about getting married for a few months, and even looked at rings, but she thought they'd get engaged later in the year.

Catherine had a hard time staying awake and resisted going up on the roof of their apartment building at midnight, but Jim insisted and when they got there, he asked her to be his wife.

"She never said yes because she was too busy crying," Jim says. Nonetheless, he took that as an affirmative.

Their April 19 wedding at the Cloisters in Brooklandville reflected Catherine's Scottish heritage. Twelve of Catherine's family members from Scotland came to Baltimore for the event and her father and brother wore kilts as part of the wedding party. A bagpiper provided the processional and recessional music at the civil ceremony.

At the reception, guests received Scottish "tablet," a rich, homemade fudge that Catherine's sister, who was her maid of honor, brought from Scotland. A Turkish flag joined Scottish and U.S. flags in the hallway as a nod to the country where Jim's father, who was his best man, grew up and where Jim was born.

Scottish music accompanied dinner, but a disc jockey switched to music from the 1980s for dancing afterward. After a honeymoon in Belize, the two are looking forward to buying a home, having a family and finding lots of room in the country. "Twenty acres would be a dream come true," says Jim.

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