Alexandria is for Lovers

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The bench facing the twinkling Potomac in front of the Chart House might be the most  romantic spot in Old Town, professed three lovestruck couples and the winners  of the Hilton Alexandria Old Towns Winter Wedding Giveaway. 

If the well-worn wood on the bench could tell stories, it might tell you contestant stories about Barbara and Kellys first date on the bench.  Or it might tell you of Meghan and Geoff snuggling on the bench and promising to love one another, even when they were fat and ugly, as the couple recalled saying to each other. Or Molly, a criminal investigator, who thought Russells engagement proposal on the bench inconceivable because she thought  she would know his intentions better.

This story, however, is about Megan Mascelli, 25, and Steve Goehler, 29, who also became engaged on the romantic bench and won the grand prize, about $25,000 in wedding loot from the Hilton Old Town and various vendors.

Mascelli and Goehlers love story began with a map of Old Town dotted with their ancestors’ love-prints on the grid. Their parents went on dates in Old Town, Uncle Angelo became engaged there, and Goehlers parents live on Prince Street.
Old Town soon became the site of Megan’s story soon after moving from Great Britain.  After some initial hesitation, she decided to try Match.com. Dr. Phil says its good, she said.  But after failing to make the right connection, she canceled her membership.  

Match.com had other ideas and kept her subscribed. 

One of the last  emails on the last day of her membership was from Goehler, who delayed their first meeting until he could get laser eye surgery and meet Megan as his new glasses-free self. 

Megan found herself tongue-tied after one of their first dates at The Wharf — an unusual state for the bubbly school teacher, Steve took her to the bench by the Chart House, with the lights twinkling across the river.

Two years passed and Steve planned a surprise engagement, inviting both families to a Thanksgiving dinner.  After dinner he took her to Restaurant Eve for drinks and the families feigned returning home. Instead, they gathered behind the bench, with video cameras rolling.

As they left Restaurant Eve, Steve admitted to Megan that she had thought he was going to propose there.  He apologized, and asked her if she wanted to go down to the bench on the pier by Chart House,  just like that one night after their date at The Wharf.

Video from that evening shows the next moments with Steve and Megan kissing, with their families looking on from behind.  Megan, oblivious to their presence, is jolted by the wild cheers. I hate you! she chided him.

A contest for the engaged
About 200 brides submitted their stories to the Hilton Old Town over the last months. 

The 11 finalist couples each had five minutes to convince a panel of judges why they deserved the extravagant package, which included a most serious bunch: Mayor William D.Euille; Stephanie Egan, director of sales and marketing at the Hilton Old Town; Stephanie Brown, president of the Alexandria Visitors and Convention Association (ACVA); Laura Overstreet, vice president of communications for the ACVA; The Alexandria Times; Lindsay Kahler, the hotel’s catering and weddings manager; Melissa King, director of revenue management for the hotel; Amanda Strzempek, the hotel’s director of catering, and Kevin Brockway, the hotel’s general manager.

By all accounts, the contending couples took their campaigns quite seriously, They brought their own cheering sections, campaign buttons, cocktails, nursery rhymes, banners, slogans and even divulged party affiliations.  The timing of the upcoming Super Tuesday primary imbued the fierce competition with a campaign-charged feel. Ive been in some hard fought battles, but this was tough, Euille said of the panels decision to hand over the package to the Mascelli/Goehler ticket.

The stakes were high.  

Megan and Steve received a wedding package worth $25,000, including a wedding reception and use of the courtyard at the Hilton Old Town, a ddejay from Bialek’s Music Ltd., bouquet  arrangements from Foxglove Flowers, treatments from Circe Day Spa, invitations and place cards from Herron Printing, a cake from Custom Cakes, a honeymoon from the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa and wedding photography from Robert Cummings Photography. 

Upon the announcement, there was streamers, champagne, raucous cheers and maybe a few tears.

Im the luckiest man alive, Steve said.

Megans cousins, Amanda Christopher and Kristina Mascelli, showed their support by displaying banners and wearing Vote Meg & Steve in ’08 campaign buttons. They are a hilarious couple, Kristina Mascelli said. Im really excited for the couple, Egan said.  They incorporated their love story around all that makes Old Town special.  They fell  in love here.  Were really excited to host their special day. 

Lucrative market
The competition kicked off Alexandrias new marketing foray into the lucrative destination weddings market.   With 251,000 weddings each year and the average cost of a Washington-area wedding at $29,000, the wedding industry is a booming business and Alexandria is positioning itself to capitalize on the market. 

The ACVA recently launched www.myalexandriawedding.com, which compiles listings of local businesses  for wedding planning. The weddings market is especially important for Alexandria because of the markets broad reach across so many businesses in the City, Brown said.  From hotels to restaurants, shops, historic attractions, and wedding services, Alexandria businesses offer the full range of services that are crucial to creating a successful destination wedding experience.  The City will benefit from the added  revenue generated in this market. 

Aside from the magic of the Chart House bench, Brown and Egan may have something in making Alexandria a destination spot for love stories.   

Last week, Amazon.com heralded Alexandria as the Most Romantic City in America after compiling sales data of romance novels, relationship and sex books since Jan. 1 on a per capita basis in cities with over 100,000 residents.

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