Tying the Knot: The Muellers’ journey from Blacksburg to Old Town

Tying the Knot: The Muellers’ journey from Blacksburg to Old Town
Wendy and Mark Mueller have been together for more than 30 years. (Courtesy photo)

By Caitlyn Meisner | cmeisner@alextimes.com

Wendy and Mark Mueller were cut from the same cloth despite being from Massachusetts and Texas, respectively.

Having both ended up at Virginia Tech for college, the pair remain a power duo more than 30 years later. They met while taking courses for their hospitality major and became friends with one another. Mark always knew Wendy was the woman for him.

“I saw her across the room [and thought], ‘Hmm, OK, I like her,” Mark said with a laugh.

The pair had a mutual friend that lived next door to Wendy at the time, which helped Mark “stumble upon” Wendy in Florida over a spring break trip.

“I went with a group of girlfriends from Virginia Tech and Mark and his friend, they were cruising the state of Florida,” Wendy recalled, chuckling at the memory.

Mark and Wendy, telling the story at the same time, said Mark bumped into Wendy’s group in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and hung out with them – even sleeping on the floor of the hotel room.

They both graduated in December 1991, and, from what Mark remembers, the economy was not great for fresh graduates. So, instead of getting a fancy sales and marketing job at a hotel chain, he went to manage a Taco Bell in Richmond.

And thankfully, his college sweetheart got the opportunity to come along for the ride.

“The dean of the [business school] said, ‘Hey there’s a racquet club in Richmond that needs a wedding and banquets manager. Do you know anyone?’” Mark recalled. “[I said], ‘I actually know of the perfect person.’”

Right then and there in a Bob Evans restaurant – or a Cracker Barrel, they couldn’t quite remember which country-style restaurant it was – Wendy called the club manager and interviewed for the job soon after.

So, in Richmond, Wendy and Mark lived together as Mark managed the Taco Bell and Wendy was assistant managing the racquet club, coordinating events and weddings. Both said they had demanding schedules, yet were engaged around June 1992.

Their engagement was a bit impromptu, as the James River cruise they booked was a little less spectacular than anticipated. The couple recalled the smell of the refineries on the river and overcooked green beans, which didn’t make for much of a romantic setting.

“It was very low budget, and I was like, ‘Lord, I got to find a place to propose,’” Mark said, remembering his panic on the boat. “We get off the boat and we’re walking in Richmond and right by a warehouse, there’s a cobblestone street [and] there’s a fountain. … I was like, ‘Thank God for this fountain. I’m not going to propose to her on this dumpy ship in front of a refinery.’”

From there, the wedding planning kicked off. The couple already knew where they wanted to be married – the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden just outside of Richmond – and set a date for Sept. 11, 1993.

After two years in Richmond, the couple moved up to Woodbridge so Mark could get his master’s of business administration from George Mason University and Wendy could transition to working for her family’s dental practice, where she continues to work today.

And just one week after Mark started his master’s program, the couple was married. They had about 80 people at the wedding in an attempt to keep the ceremony intimate. Wendy, having had contacts in the industry, had a colleague cater and hired other dependable vendors to ensure the day went off without a hitch.

But, as it is with any wedding, there was one hiccup: the band.

Mark swears to this day that the band was “more hungover than I was” following his bachelor party the night before. Thankfully both of their families are musical or else the dance floor would’ve been empty.

According to the couple, various family members took over for the band and began playing the instruments as their own. This truly revived the wedding and made the day even more jovial.

Monte Durham, who went on to star in “Say Yes to the Dress, Atlanta” from 2010 to 2020, was also an integral part of the wedding preparations, especially for Wendy and her bridesmaids. Durham was a wedding consultant and was hired by Mark’s mother to handle hair and makeup on the day-of.

Monte Durham helped Wendy Mueller and her bridesmaids get their
hair and makeup done on her wedding day. (Courtesy photo)

Wendy and Mark honeymooned in Saint Lucia over Mark’s winter break that same year, having expressed interest in visiting various Caribbean countries – which, they’ve done several times since then. The next winter, in 1994, the couple traveled together to Costa Rica for a three-week study abroad trip.

Then, in the summer of 1995, the now-wedded couple moved to Alexandria on Church Street. But, Wendy had her sights set on moving into the heart of Old Town.

“I’ve always loved coming into town, and my dad’s office was here,” Wendy recalled; her father’s office with The Hartford was located in Old Town starting in the 1980s.

It was a perfect midpoint for both of them commuting wise: Mark was working in Maryland, Wendy in Woodbridge.

“Finding an apartment then was difficult,” Mark said. “Every Saturday morning, Wendy’s up at the crack of dawn looking at the newspaper, finding some in Old Town.”

The couple was able to secure their current house on South Royal Street in 2000 after stumbling upon it during Thanksgiving 1999. They’ve remained in the antique home and are just now start-ing renovations.

Since their beautiful wedding in 1993, the couple has traveled the world a few times, welcomed a daughter, Natalie, into the world, hosted two dozen Christmas Eve dinner parties and embedded themselves into the Old Town fabric.

When they were not yet parents, Wendy and Mark spent each Thanksgiving traveling to a new country and part of the world, including more Caribbean islands, Honduras, Mexico, Italy, France and various countries along the way. And, even when Natalie was just a baby, the couple made it their mission to continue traveling with her by their side.

“We’ve always taken her with us everywhere,” Wendy said.

“She’s been to Rome, she’s been to Paris,” Mark said. “The only way I would do the Disney thing is if it’s Disney Europe. I’m not doing Orlando. … We did day trips [in France].”

Wendy and Mark reminisced on this specific adventure, allowing Natalie to explore many of the playgrounds that Paris had to offer their then-5-year-old.

Reflecting on their more than 30 years of marriage, they had one piece of advice, jokingly: don’t develop the negatives from your wedding – not having a wedding album may be the secret to a successful marriage.