Joseph and Erika (then-Davis) Leonhardt met in Newport, R.I., while training to become military lawyers at Naval Justice School.
Over a year later, their love has spanned multiple coasts, thousands of miles and cross-country moves, leading them to their wedding day on Dec. 9, 2018, at The Venue at 939 Adams.
Erika, a Navy JAG officer, is originally from Reynoldsburg, Ohio, currently stationed in San Diego, Calif., and Joseph, a Marine officer, hails from Bowling Green and is stationed in Quantico, Va.
“Our family church is in Bowling Green, so we really wanted to be married in that church,” Erika said. “And, the Venue at 939 Adams had the atmosphere we were looking for—gorgeous wood floors, brick walls and lighting. The Venue’s staff was incredibly helpful, too, especially since we were planning an out of state wedding.”
Joseph proposed on Aug. 11, 2017, when he surprised his almost-bride-to-be by flying to San Diego, where she was stationed.
“He planned with some of my friends to have me meet them at a restaurant for dinner,” Erika said. “As I walked up to the hostess table to get my table, Joseph came up from behind me and surprised me. He said he was only there for the day for work and had to leave that night. So, I had no idea he was going to propose. I figured he would only do that if he could stay for the entire weekend. I just thought he was there to surprise me for dinner. He asked if we could see the sunset before we had dinner since I had been wanting to see it at Sunset Cliffs. So, we drove over to Sunset Cliffs, and that’s where he not only surprised me by saying he would be staying for the entire weekend but also asked me to spend the rest of my life with him as soon as the sun was setting.”
Even after their engagement, the two were still stationed on opposite coasts, which for them, meant lots of dinner dates over Skype.
“Sometimes we order each other’s favorite food, and other times we cook together,” they said.
When asked if there were any moments early on where they both had an inkling that the other might be “the one,” Joseph noted a special night when Erika traveled overnight to Quantico to see him. She coordinated with his friends and showed up at a diner for lunch to surprise him.
“I realized at that point that this amazing, talented and beautiful woman was the one God chose for me,” he said.
For Erika, she remembers when Joseph surprised her by taking her out to a romantic dinner at the Trump Hotel restaurant in Washington, D.C., when she first visited him after Naval Justice School.
“He remembered that the Old Post Office Tower in D.C. used to be my absolute favorite place to go,” she said. “When he realized the Trump Hotel’s restaurant was in the renovated portion of the Old Post Office, he took me there so I could still be in my favorite spot. It was as though my favorite spot was never gone, but was only renovated and made better since we were able to create new memories there over dinner. After that, I had one of those striking moments where I realized I couldn’t imagine taking on life with anyone else but with Joseph.”
For those in the wedding planning stages, Erika has a few things to remember to make the most of your day.
The people: “Always appreciate everyone who is helping with the wedding planning; they are the ones who will make your day magical.”
The marriage: “Don’t just focus on planning the wedding, which only lasts one day, but remember to focus on planning for the marriage, which lasts a lifetime.”
The details: “As a bride, don’t worry about the small details. The day will truly be a blur with all of the fun an excitement. So, think of the main priority for your big day and focus your effort on accomplishing that—not every tiny wedding detail.”