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From Croatia with Love: Chris Norwood and Rory Pearce’s Marriage Begins in Coastal Paradise

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By Henry V. Thiel
Photos by Anne Marie D’Arcy Photography

The Ravens defeated the 49ers at the 2013 Super Bowl in New Orleans, but Montrose residents Rory Pearce and Chris Norwood scored big-time during the watch party at Royal Oak Bar and Grill, where they met. Three years later, they were married.

“The moment I knew I wanted to marry Rory was just before he left on a three-week business trip,” confesses Norwood. “Just the thought of him being gone for so long helped me put my feelings into perspective. He knows me better than anyone else, and I couldn’t—and still can’t—imagine my world without him.”

“For me,” says Pearce, “it was an epiphany while driving to work.”

“Dating Chris just seemed so easy and effortless,” he adds. “Now don’t get me wrong—we work at our relationship, and we have our moments. To me, there are three pillars in every relationship: emotional, intellectual, and sexual. And Chris blows away all three! I have never had that in my life before. Knowing how much he loves me and my daughter, I knew that I was never going to let that go from my life. I knew at that moment that our relationship, our love, was meant to be.”

The Perfect Gift: Instead of being “given” away, Chris (l) and Rory chose to give themselves to one another.
The Perfect Gift: Instead of being “given” away, Chris (l) and Rory chose to give themselves to one another.

“Rory proposed to me while we were on vacation in Croatia,” Norwood smiles. “We had just gotten back to our room from spending the day at the beach. I will always remember the moment—I was sitting on the balcony watching the sunset when Rory knelt down beside me with a box in his hand. He caught me completely off guard.”

“I had wanted to propose for a while,” confesses 40-year-old Pearce, a marketer who studied at University of Houston and St. Thomas University. “But a proposal needs to be special—and in a place that we would want to revisit and remember as our engagement trip. That place, for us, is Croatia.”

“It was the best surprise ever,” says 27-year-old Norwood, also a marketer, who graduated from Louisiana State University.

“In 2014, we fell in love with Croatia,” says Pearce. “Chris and my best friend, Fady Armanious, joined me on a business trip to Budapest. On a lark, the three of us flew to Croatia. It was a dream trip, and we knew someday we would return.

“The following year,” Pearce continues, “Chris and I decided we needed to go back to Croatia and explore the central and southern parts of the country. Once we discovered Hvar, which is just basically paradise here on Earth, we decided to stay for a few days. We booked a lovely hotel near the beach, and our room had a balcony overlooking the beautiful dark-blue waters, swaying palm trees, and the sun-baked hills of the islands just off the coast. That’s where I asked Chris to be my husband. Croatia will always be where our marriage began.” 

Pearce and Norwood were married on Saturday, March 26, 2016, at The Gardens of River Oaks, with Justice Jim Sharp as officiant.

“We chose The Gardens of River Oaks as our wedding venue because we wanted an outdoor spring wedding,” states Norwood. “And their gardens, conservatory, and layout were exactly what we were looking for.

“One thing we decided not to do was the ‘giving away’ moment at the beginning of the ceremony,” explains Norwood. “I think we both had the view that neither of us was being given by anyone. We were giving ourselves to each other. So we walked down the aisle together, hand-in-hand.”

“And since we are not religious at all, we exchanged the standard vows minus the religion,” says Pearce. “We wanted the ceremony to be about us, our love for one another, and our love of our families. While holding each other’s hands, we recited the following:

• These are the hands of your best friend, full of love for you, holding yours on your wedding day. 

• These are the hands that will scratch your back when you have an itch you can’t reach.

• These are the hands that will help decorate your Christmas tree.

• These are the hands that will dial your number just to say hello—when you’ve been missed throughout the day.

• These are the hands that, at times, will want to strangle you.

• These are the hands that will passionately love and cherish you through the years.

• These are the hands that will tenderly hold your children.

• These are the hands that, even wrinkled and aged, will still be reaching for yours, still giving you the same unspoken tenderness with just a touch.

“Our ceremony concluded with a dear friend, Chloe Cromarty, reading part of Justice Kennedy’s Supreme Court opinion legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide,” states Pearce. “It reads like poetry, and perfectly captures what marriage is about.”

To help the busy grooms pull their dream-wedding together, Pearce and Norwood hired Wedding Bliss Events as their “day of” coordinator.

“Owner Dewayne Ross is a true professional,” praises Norwood. “Wedding planning is intense, with a lot of potential pitfalls, but Dewayne and his team coordinated with all the vendors and made sure everything went smoothly—not just on the day of, but throughout the planning process.”

They also retained the services of photographer Anne Marie D’Arcy and designer Jonathan Adler.

“She did an amazing job,” says Pearce. Regarding Adler, he gushes, “His flowers, design, and setup were stunning.  Everyone remarked how beautiful everything was. We were so pleased.”

Nothing Bundt Cakes provided their wedding cakes. “We had eight of them!” exclaims Pearce. “Each Nothing Bundt Cake was decorated with a huge rose in the middle, so they were as beautiful as the setting, and tasted great, too. Everyone loved the cakes. We had carrot, lemon, red velvet, and white chocolate raspberry.” 

For their honeymoon, the couple trekked around Southeast Asia, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. “We had been to Thailand a few years before and always wanted to return and explore more of the region,” adds Pearce. “It’s an amazing part of the world, with rich culture, beautiful beaches, and great food. Plus, massages are about $40 for two hours. Hard to beat that!”

Henry V. Thiel is a principal with The Epicurean Publicist, a boutique public relations company that works exclusively with chefs and restauranteurs. He loves Nothing Bundt Cakes.

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