When Vanessa Schutz and Neal McDonald met in the spring of 2011, they were both ready to get the ball rolling on their relationship—quite literally. Vanessa had signed up for a season of DC Bocce on Capitol Hill, and Neal was one of the black-shirted aides. After a few post-bocce hangouts, the pair agreed a first date was in order. Things may not have gone as smoothly as possible—Neal took Vanessa to Matchbox for pizza, which she’d already eaten earlier that day for lunch, followed by bowling, which she’s avoided since the time in college she was hit in the face with a bowling ball. But they decided to give it another go, and for the next three years, the two were inseparable.
On January 25, 2014, when Neal asked Vanessa (now an online account executive at Washingtonian) to stroll along the banks of the Potomac River because he had “never seen a frozen river before,” she may have had her suspicions of what was to come next. Still, that didn’t do anything to diminish her emotion when Neal knelt down in front of her and asked her to be his for the rest of time. The couple captured their Washington love story with photographer Thomas Van Veen of Documentary Associates at some of their favorite spots along the National Mall, celebrating the city that provided the backdrop to their romance.
Vanessa and Neal are set to wed at the Whittemore House on February 14, 2015.