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‘Be my wife and make me the happiest man on earth’

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BY JE’DON HOLLOWAY-TALLEY

Special to the Birmingham Times

“You Had Me at Hello’’ highlights married couples and the love that binds them. If you would like to be considered for a future “Hello’’ column, or know someone, please send nominations to Barnett Wright bwright@birminghamtimes.com. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.

MAURI AND CLAIRE ROBINSON

Live: Huffman

Married: Nov. 2, 2019

Met: Nov. 2, 2015, at a networking event for the Birmingham Business Alliance (now The Alliance) at Good People Brewery in Birmingham.

“There was a mutual friend that we shared, and I was chopping it up with him when Claire came over and all three of us started conversing. When he walked away, we stayed and kept talking. We discovered we had a lot in common. I asked for her phone number and she gave me her business card. I texted her that night with my information, and the next day I reached out to her and invited her to lunch,” Mauri said.

When Claire saw Mauri, “I thought to myself who is this handsome man?’ And during our conversation I asked him, ‘who are you because I’ve never seen you before’,” recalled Claire. “I was quite smitten with him and intrigued and that’s how we ended up talking for close to an hour. We kinda forgot the event was going on,” Claire laughed.

“Her forwardness was enticing and she was gorgeous, a professional, and I was enamored with her from the first time I saw her,” Mauri said.

First date: The next day, for lunch at Brick and Tin in Mountain Brook. “I invited Claire to lunch, and the restaurant was right next to a cigar lounge that I frequent. In my mind, I was thinking if the lunch doesn’t go well I can just go next door and have a cigar and salvage the rest of the day. Claire was very confident, open, and engaging.” There was something else that helped took them to the next level. “… We talked about [smoking cigars] and she spoke about how she occasionally likes to smoke a cigar as well, and I thought to myself, I’ve heard plenty of women say this to me over the years and don’t know what the heck they’re talking about,” Mauri laughed.  “So I put her to the test. After lunch, we went right next door to that cigar lounge and I was going to tell if she actually knows about [cigars]. I was shocked that she knew all the lingo and the intricacies of smoking a cigar, and I bought her a cigar, but told her that she can’t smoke it until our next date. That’s how I secured the second date.”

“Mauri was really interesting to me. At the time I was a banker and I was used to talking to a lot of people, and they would be boring, but I was very intrigued by what he had to say and wanted to know more about him. That really stood out to me on top of the fact that he was very handsome,” Claire said.

The turn: Dec. 15, 2015. “There was an event on a Friday night for the groundbreaking for the James Rushton Early Learning Center in Woodlawn… We didn’t know each other would be there, and after the event, Claire invited me out for some Chinese food and a movie, and we spent the weekend together,” Mauri said. “We had an amazing time just hanging out and laughing, and we went to the Museum of Art and we were stopped in front of a painting when I asked ‘is it always going to be like this?’ And she said ‘yes’.”

A week later the pair acknowledged something special between them. “We had a connection that neither one of us had ever experienced with another person, and we said ‘let’s do this, let’s just be me and you,’” Mauri said.

“Mauri really swept me off my feet, he was someone that I never thought that I would find,” Claire said.

The proposal: Nov. 12, 2016, during a baby shower for Claire who was pregnant with their first child. “We had played games and opened up gifts, and it got towards the end and I was thanking everyone for coming and giving acknowledgments and while I was speaking I had the baby shower coordinator distract Claire by giving her a mocktail [which contains no alcohol] so that we could do a toast. And while [Claire] was turned around I got down on one knee, and when she turned back there I was. I told her that we were building a family and that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her and asked her if she would do me the honor of being my wife and make me the happiest man on earth,” Mauri said.

“I was absolutely shocked,” Claire said. “I was almost brought to tears which is a huge thing because I’m not a very emotional person, and I said ‘yes’ without hesitation.”

The wedding: Four years to the day they met, Mauri and Claire were wed at the Canary Gallery in downtown Birmingham, officiated by Minister Calvin Littlejohn. Claire wore a beaded ivory dress, and Mauri wore a midnight blue three-piece tuxedo.

Most memorable for the groom was reality setting in during his walk to the wedding venue. “I walked from our hotel, the Elyton, over to Canary Gallery to smoke a cigar and get ready. And I was standing outside across the street from Canary Gallery, and it hit me that I was about to get married,” Mauri said. “I had actually delayed starting our wedding because I got cold feet. It was not because I did not want to marry Claire, I was nervous about whether I was good enough to marry Claire. And so, my dad came over and spoke some very poignant words, he said ‘that feeling that you have, that little bit of fear, keep that, and that way you’ll always make her your top priority’”.

Most memorable moment for the bride was the delay in her entrance. “When I arrived at the gallery they kept me in the car for a while, for maybe 15-20 minutes, and I didn’t realize it was because Mauri wasn’t in there yet,” Claire laughed. “When I finally got out of the car they were playing the entrance music and everyone was starring at me, and I got a little nervous. My best friend Greg escorted me down the aisle because my father passed away some years ago… I said to Greg ‘I’m nervous, tell me something funny’, and he looked at me with a blank stare. So I said just took a deep breath and got myself together, asked him to hand me my bouquet, and we walked down the aisle,” Claire said.

Words of wisdom: “We are intentional about surrounding ourselves with like-minded, married couples. We are a part of a marriage small group that meets once a month, and weekly we speak with our accountability couple, they’re our marriage mentors. They’ve been married 40 years, and we talk with them every Thursday to discuss life, family and marriage, and any issues that we have. We’re transparent with them,” Mauri said. “If something comes up, we share it with them and they impart their wisdom on us and give us tools for a healthy Christian marriage. Be sure God is in your marriage, forgive often, and give grace.”

“When you’re married, both of you are two imperfect people, so it’s important to realize that both of you are growing and changing and working towards becoming better people together. That’s why it’s important to give the other person grace,” Claire said.

Happily ever after: The Robinson’s have two children; daughter, Morgan, 4, and son, Micah, 7 months.

Claire, 40, is a Nassau, Bahamas native, by way of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. By the age of 10, she and her family relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, where she graduated from Columbia High School in Decatur, GA. She attended the University of Alabama where she earned a bachelor of science degree in finance and the University of Alabama School of Law where she obtained her Juris Doctorate. Claire is Assistant Vice President/Project Manager in Human Resources at PNC Bank, in downtown, Birmingham. She is also a member of the Junior League of Birmingham, a Junior board member with the YWCA, The Young Professionals Educational Counsel of I3 Academy, and a charter member of the Sunset Rotary Club [an international service organization committed to humanitarian causes].

Mauri, 35, is a Bessemer native, and Shades Valley High School grad. He attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA, where he earned a bachelor of science degree in marketing and finance. He is currently in pursuit of his MBA [Master of Business Administration] from Louisiana State University [online]. Mauri is a contractor relations manager at Montgomery Transport, a member of Omega Psi Phi Inc., chairman of The Young Professionals Educational Counsel of I3 Academy, President of the Jr. Board of Hands On United, and a charter member of the Sunset Rotary Club.