On their third date, she wore a wedding dress

by Louise Rafkin, San Francisco Chronicle

As a principal dancer for the Martha Graham Dance Company, Heidi Stoeckley, 28, originally from Lansing, Mich., traveled the world. Her home? A storage space. Her friends? Other dancers. Romance? There was little time for that.

But in 2005, when, in Madrid, a performance was suddenly canceled, she quickly jumped a plane to Michigan to be the surprise at a cousin's wedding. What she didn't realize was that Chris Nogoy, a groomsman in from San Francisco, would be the real surprise.

The two met briefly late in the evening in one of those situations where someone shouts out "Hey, who are you?" and a group interview ensues. It was discovered that Chris, 32, an architect, had grown up an hour away from Heidi in Troy. Thirty minutes later, with Chris' e-mail address in hand, Heidi announced to her mom, seated nearby, "I'm going to marry that man." Her mom's response? "I agree."

Chris knew it too. "My work was done," he says with an incredibly bright smile.

But Heidi was off to South America, where, post performances, she would find an Internet cafe and exchange missives with a man whose appearance she could barely recall. The two bonded over art, craft and the meaning of expression. They "got" each other.

A month later Heidi was back in New York for their first phone call. A U.S. tour took her to Michigan, where both families turned out for her performance. Chris flew in, too. The two had seen each other only that single time. But just before Heidi took center stage, they had their first moment alone. Before a kiss, Chris said what was already known: "I love you."

Heidi performed exquisitely, and after the adoring families had finally dispersed, the two retreated to her hotel room, where Chris had deposited gifts. A ring box contained - not a ring - but a tiny figure of a baby ("for our innocence") and a ninja ("for wisdom and adventure"). Yet strung up in a large white box on threads of silk was an heirloom ring dating back 200 years to Chris' relatives in the Philippines. "Are you asking me to marry you?" Heidi asked. They both said, "Yes."

The very next day, Heidi was off again. But while away, Heidi's mom planned a Michigan Christmas engagement party at which the two surprised everyone by marrying. (Heidi wore a Diane von Furstenberg dress the designer gave her at a Martha Graham benefit.) A whirlwind year, during which the dance company went bankrupt, and the two married again, in the Philippines, led Heidi to graduate school in business.

This past spring, after graduation, the two moved back to Chris' beloved San Francisco. "We married the third time we met," says Heidi, still amazed at the turn of events.
"And we're still flying in love," says Chris.


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