by Lisa Tome
Jennifer Baker is chronically late. Her husband-to-be, CJ Heitz, is compulsively early to all his appointments. No matter what time it is, it's a match made in heaven.
Heitz, 38, and Baker, 35, met via the online dating site match.com, about a half dozen years ago. Both had enrolled on a three-day free trial...
They met on the dating site and exchanged instant messages. They then moved their relationship to Yahoo messenger. For weeks, they didn't meet, opting instead to chat online. He sent her photos of himself. She opted to send a photo of her feet, and later, of her head wrapped in toilet paper. "Before I ever met him, I would laugh hysterically (at things he wrote). I was like, I have to meet this guy," said Baker. "Before I went on match.com, I hadn't dated in six or seven years. I was focused on my child and career," said Heitz.
After a month of chatting, they met at a Delaware restaurant. He arrived at the first date, ahead of schedule. She was about 40 minutes late. Their second date was to a wedding. A while later, they had a "family" trip visiting the King Tut exhibit in Philadelphia. "I felt like we knew each other before we dated. We talked a lot," she said. They dated for about three months, with Heitz living in Rising Sun, and Baker in Delaware. Circumstances surrounding Baker's housing caused the couple to have to move in together, with their children, after three months. "It was a two bedroom apartment. We had to respect each other, living in such a small space," she said. "It was a true test to see. We knew it was right," he said. After living in the apartment for a year, they bought a home together.
On March 25, 2011, they got engaged. Heitz hadn't planned to propose that day. He had a custom ring made, using stones from his mother's original engagement ring. He hadn't planned to present it when he did. Baker was at home preparing for her grandmother's birthday party. She was running late and still had to stop and buy a gift for the party. Heitz called her and asked that she wait at home for him to arrive. She was annoyed.
When he arrived home, he presented her with diamond earrings. Being distracted and running late, Baker didn't react enough to the earrings, so Heitz presented her with a matching necklace. He still didn't get the expected enthusiasm, so he gave her the ring. "He got down on one knee and gave me the ring. I don't remember what he said. I was just bawling," said Baker. "I'm so glad he proposed that way. I was completely surprised and I'm a hard person to surprise." "It was like our whole relationship - it was spur of the moment," he said.
While they were engaged, they hadn't made wedding plans. They were raising their children together and living as a family. One day, Heitz, who as a member of the Elkton Chamber of Commerce, received a chamber bulletin telling him about National Marriage Day. He forwarded the message to Baker as a joke - laughing that they could save on the cost of a big wedding by joining with other couples in wedded bliss during the upcoming event in Elkton. The joke became a reality. They started researching the event and decided to marry on June 14. "I wanted to make sure she would have no regrets," Heitz said.
"My vows are the most important thing and involving the kids (in the ceremony). I don't need the dog and pony show. It's neat that they (sponsors of National Marriage Day) have everything. It's simple and carefree. It's us," Baker said. "I love how we're doing this. It's stress free and we can focus on the vows. I don't need to worry about flowers or the caterer." The couple say they cherish each other because of their similar, traditional values. They are both focused on their family and the next chapter in their life together.
Baker and Heitz are one of two couples who have signed on to wed at National Marriage Day on Friday, June 14. This annual event celebrates Elkton's history as a wedding destination. Those who want to marry or renew their vows at this event, which begins at 7 p.m., may register by calling the Elkton Chamber/Alliance at 410-398-5076. The $75 per couple fee includes a horse and carriage ride, champagne and wedding cake reception. Those who are marrying, must also obtain their Maryland State Marriage License at least 48 hours prior to the ceremony. Most years, this event attracts about eight couples. Last year, 16 couples wed or renewed vows. Same sex couples can now wed in Maryland. As of last week, none had signed on.