Photo by Christopher Santoro

Party Animals

A Silver Spring couple got married at a zoo and included quirky references to their favorite sci-fi TV show

By Leigh McDonald

Photo by Christopher Santoro

The couple: James Runco and Madeline Tomchick grew up in towns that are about 15 miles apart in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. James, 36, moved to the Washington, D.C., area in 2011 to help found the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He is still with the bureau today, as a quality assurance manager. Madeline, 32, came to the D.C. area in 2007 to attend American University. She manages partner relationships at information technology company AIS in Reston, Virginia. The couple lives in Silver Spring.

How they met: James noticed Madeline one morning on his way to work. “I was standing there on the Silver Spring Metro platform and I saw this beautiful woman,” James says. He approached her and tried to make conversation, but says Madeline “was almost oblivious to my presence.” When he complimented her necklace, Madeline replied that it was from home-shopping network QVC, where she used to work. “That clicked for me because QVC is in West Chester, Pennsylvania, not far from where I grew up,” James says. The pair continued to talk during the commute, sharing stories about their hometowns. “I fell in love with her in 10 minutes,” James says. He asked Madeline for her number, and texted her that day to ask her out.

Photo by Christopher Santoro

The first date: James and Madeline spent a morning at the Silver Spring farmers market, perusing stalls and getting to know each other. James was already smitten, and Madeline quickly warmed up to the idea of dating. “The more conversation we had, I thought, ‘This guy’s kinda cool,’ ” she says. Then James walked Madeline back to her downtown Silver Spring apartment, where they shared a kiss. That’s when Madeline really started to fall. “I went up to my apartment and sat with my cats and was like, ‘whoa,’ ” she says.

The proposal: After two years of dating, James planned to ask Madeline to marry him on a trip to Pennsylvania. He decided to propose during a QVC studio tour and made special arrangements with the staff. “I had done this tour a billion times,” Madeline says. When the tour veered off its usual path, and into an empty studio, Madeline knew something was up. “She was like, ‘This is weird. We normally don’t come here,’ ” James says. He got down on one knee and popped the question. Madeline said yes, and they continued their tour to a studio where a live show was being broadcast. Host Jennifer Coffey, a former colleague, saw Madeline across the studio holding up her hand with the engagement ring. She pulled Madeline up on set to congratulate her. “The QVC audience knew we were engaged before our friends and family did,” Madeline says.