Tying the Knot: The Bowens’ journey from friendship to forever

Tying the Knot: The Bowens’ journey from friendship to forever
Lauren and Blake dancing under their party tent at their wedding reception. (Courtesy photo)

By Caitlyn Meisner | cmeisner@alextimes.com and Wafir Salih | wsalih@alextimes.com

Blake and Lauren Bowens’ love story began as a casual friendship that, before they knew it, blossomed into a lifelong partnership.

“We recommend marrying friends,” Lauren said with a laugh.

Blake was raised in the same Arlington neighborhood his dad grew up in, while Lauren hails from south Virginia, which she described as less intense compared to the bustle of Northern Virginia.

Lauren moved to the region in 2005 to attend George Mason University. She then attended the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design at George Washington University for graduate school to obtain her master’s in interior design. Blake went to college at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He highlighted the irony of where their college choices took them.

“She came north for college, I went south,” Blake said.

The couple met each other through Lauren’s friends who were working at the U.S. State Department, where Blake was working at the time.

“We began socializing outside of work, happy hours,” Blake said. “Little by little, [I] started meeting more of the extended social network, and eventually met Lauren.”

They frequented Arlington’s Spider Kelly’s in those days, although denied they were “regulars.”

“We have pictures together from that night, but we didn’t start dating right away, so it’s kind of funny that we have those looking back,” Lauren said.

Lauren and Blake stayed in touch and became good friends over the next five years, often meeting one another for drinks and casual hang outs. Friends would frequently ask if they were dating.

“We met up after that and our friends were like, ‘Are you guys dating?’ and we’re like ‘No.’ And then eventually we’re like, ‘OK, yeah,’” Lauren said.

They marked the beginning of their romantic relationship with Valentine’s Day 2016, as this was the first they spent together.

“We never really had a formal talk that we were dating. This is why I think our friends were kind of like, ‘What’s happening?’” Lauren said. “… We just had so much history of being friends [that] it was very natural to go into a relationship from there; it wasn’t weird.”

The relationship continued moving forward and in early 2019, Lauren moved in with Blake shortly after he bought a townhouse in Alexandria near Fairlington.

The couple then got engaged at the Barrel Oak Winery & Brewery in February 2020, with Blake proposing to Lauren there as a surprise. Lauren described how, when she arrived with friends, she sensed something was “off.”

She recalled them location-hopping before arriving at Barrel Oak; Blake explained that the first location where he originally planned to propose didn’t quite work out, as the room the venue put them in was not picturesque or perfect for a proposal.

“When we got out of the car, [my friends] go, ‘Come over here and take a picture.’ I was like, Why is everyone acting like this? This is so weird. And then he proposed in the parking lot, but overlooking this pretty view. I was so confused, I thought he fell on the hill,” Lauren said.

Their engagement took place just one month before the COVID-19 pandemic took the world by storm in March. Lauren and Blake echoed the feelings of confusion and shock prevalent at that time and said they decided to wait and see how things would play out, as they originally had their wedding scheduled for October 2020.

“Pretty quickly we [realized] we would not be able to move as quickly as we wanted to,” Blake said.

By the summer of 2020, the couple realized the pandemic wouldn’t be ending anytime soon, so they decided to delay their festivities to Oct. 16, 2021. Despite this delay, Blake said time flew by.

“The flow of time was so strange during COVID anyway, that despite the fact that it was a year longer than we expected. In retrospect, it still seemed pretty quick. There was always something to do and the days went [by] fast,” Blake said.

The couple wanted their wedding to have a casual, fun vibe where everyone could sit and talk, rather than something grandiose. Lauren described it as a dinner party with her friends and family. After looking at a few venues – both in the area and a little ways away – they ultimately settled on the Lee-Fendall House in Old Town, which the couple credited for being flexible and accommodating even with the delay.

The couple exchanged their vows under a clear-top tent at the House. Fortunately for them, they were prepared in that regard: Lauren and Blake recalled the hectic nature the morning of as dark clouds drew in over the venue and eventually unleashed a rainstorm during their ceremony.

Their day-of coordinator – which the couple recommended having – improvised and purchased plastic wrap to zip tie to the sides of the tent to stop the “monsoon” from soaking their guests.

“It was really atmospheric. It’s not what I would have designed, obviously, but it was very cool,” Lauren said. “Everyone was taking pictures of the tent because all the rain was coming down and the lights.”

Two days after the wedding, the couple traveled to Barcelona and Seville in Spain for their 10-day honeymoon, where they intended to relax and see where the days took them. They chose Spain because neither had traveled there before, and felt that Spain was both romantic and interesting.

Lauren, an interior designer, and Blake, an urban planner, said their backgrounds in design helped enhance their sightseeing experiences.

“We did some [Antoni] Gaudi and some architectural sightseeing and that was pretty life-changing,” Blake said. “I’ve never seen light come through windows that way.”

Blake said the trip was a mixture of sightseeing and relaxation. The couple spent their time enjoying the local culture, especially coming out of the pandemic. They described this time as being so electric as COVID-19 restrictions were being lifted following the quarantine period.

“We definitely stayed on top of some architectural attractions and walking tours, but we also just ate and drank,” Blake said. “We were married and sat still a little bit and putzed around. Definitely a couple nights where we stayed out late with the locals and just walked to bars.”

The couple has continued traveling internationally, with a trip to the United Kingdom in 2022, as well as France and Belgium in 2023. Blake and Lauren are staying put for now though, as they’re expecting their first child, a daughter, in August. The process of choosing a name for her has begun.

“We’re staying local now. No big vacations planned this summer,” Blake said.

“When we found out we were having a girl, we went to [Pippin Toy Co.] and picked out our first little girl thing,” Lauren said.

Blake and Lauren highlighted the importance of being pragmatic and leading with respect as keys to a successful marriage. Blake said putting his thoughts down on paper during an argument or important conversation was a significant lesson for him.

“A long time ago my dad told me, ‘Writing is thinking,’” Blake said. “We’ve had our fights here and there, but it becomes a point in the relationship where it’s like, ‘What are we fighting for?’ … At the end of the day, you’re fighting for the relationship, you’re not fighting for yourself anymore, and I think putting that in writing and taking a step back sometimes … has helped us get through some tough moments. And things that could’ve been fights, end up being just a conversation at the end of the day.”

And as the couple approaches parenthood, they’re already thinking of ways to continue “dating” one another through the hectic years of raising children.

“It sounds sort of cliche. [We want to keep] doing the things we like together. … It’s not selfish, that really keeps your unit together. It’s not like going out to candlelit dinners, but maybe for us, it’s picking through a weird thrift store,” Lauren said.