Julie and I have been together for 25 years and married for more than 20, and I’ll ‘fess up to being an incurable romantic. My favorite movie is the Princess Bride. And I’ll say that my biggest life regret is not marrying her sooner, although she’ll point out that it took us that long to be ready for each other and everything happens for a reason.
Accordingly, I greatly enjoyed my chats with seven married beach volleyball couples about their love stories.
This is the second of two stories where I interviewed Kerri Walsh Jennings and Casey Jennings (married 14 years), Billy and Janelle Allen (11 years), Phil and Jennifer Dalhausser (eight years), Chaim Schalk and Lane Carico (four years), Piotr and Kaya Marciniak (two years), Travis and Delaney Mewhirter (three months), and Bill and Kelley (Larsen) Kolinske (two months).
They shared with us their personal proposal stories, their wedding stories, and their ability or inability to play coed volleyball together. Our first story on how they met, fell in love, and the use of the “L” word is here.
How they proposed
Two of our couples asked the question while on hikes.
For Travis and Delaney, Yosemite was a natural choice, since it is the couple’s favorite place. Travis’ first choice was to propose at Yosemite Falls, but he remembers that the waterfall wasn’t running at that time.
“We hiked to Yosemite Falls, and the waterfall wasn’t running, which was a bit of a problem, because I wanted to propose with a waterfall. So we continued to Yosemite Point, which is half a mile higher.
He wanted to document the proposal, so Travis set up his camera and sprinted to Delaney.
“I was pretending to fiddle around with my camera, and I grabbed the ring from my bag. So I had 10 seconds on the camera’s self-timer, and I ran over all these rocks, hopped over, and had a buzzer-beating proposal. I dropped down to one knee and proposed, and then she just started crying, and it took her a minute to say yes, but she did, and they were good tears.”
Delaney had a pretty good idea that Travis would propose during that trip.
“I was completely surprised, which is quite an accomplishment on Travis’ part, because I had every expectation that he was going to propose in Yosemite. I kind of had a feeling, and the closer we got to that trip, I felt more and more sure.
“There were a couple of locations that were more prominent in our relationship from our previous trips up there. On our whole hike up to Yosemite Point, I’m thinking, ‘Where would he do it, where would he do it? Here? No. There? No.”
Delaney said she was overcome with emotion.
“Having had the thought come to mind, and thinking it was so silly, so far from my mind when he actually asked, in that moment, I was surprised. And even being prepared for it, I was so surprised by how overwhelming the excitement and joy was. The tears came out of nowhere.”
Chaim also proposed to Lane on a hike.
“I love hiking, and we enjoy going outdoors with my dogs,” Lane said. “We went on a hike to Palos Verde, and he surprised me, and it was really sweet. He brought a little picnic in his backpack, and he set up his phone there, so we caught it on video, too.”
Chaim remembers that the proposal almost didn’t come off that day.
“It was the best engagement ever. I actually had to twist her arm to go hiking that day. I had planned it out, and was all in, and she said, ‘I don’t really know if I want to go hiking.’ I told her, ‘I think it will be really fun, let’s go for a hike.’ It took a little arm-twisting, but it was totally worth it.”
Billy’s proposal plan was complicated by some untimely Southern California rain, forcing him to convince Janelle to go for a walk.
“We went on a date to the Italian restaurant C & O Trattoria, where we had our first date,” Janelle said. “After dinner it was raining-drizzling and he tried to talk me into going for a walk. I sensed he was up to something but I was resisting going on the walk. I gave in and he ended up proposing on a bridge in the Venice canals.”
Phil proposed to Jennifer while on a vacation up to central California, visiting Hearst Castle, Big Sur, and Monterey. Phil pulled off the road to propose with the Pacific Ocean in the background.
But there was more to pulling off the road than just getting engaged.
“The reason we pulled off the road is because she had to throw up,” Phil said. “The previous week, I played an exhibition in Mexico and we both had Montezuma’s revenge.”
The ring is a story in itself.
“The diamond on my ring is actually a trophy he won in Russia,” Jennifer said. “One year the organizers gave Todd and Phil a one-carat diamond.”
Phil had the diamond appraised before he repurposed it for the engagement ring
“I had it checked out, because Russia, we weren’t sure it was legit. But it was legit, it was actually a pretty good cut. The quality was actually pretty good.”
Jennifer acknowledges that she should have worked Phil for more bling.
“He did a good job. He got the ring made, using that diamond. I was a sucker. I should have said to make me some earrings and then buy me a ring. Still, it’s pretty cool to have a trophy diamond for a trophy wife,” Jennifer said with a laugh.
Unconventionally, Piotr proposed to Kaya on the morning of their wedding April 29, 2016, in Stuart, Florida. At that point the couple were fully committed in a long-term relationship and planned to marry later in Poland (they also married in Poland in 2018).
However, while applying for green cards for both, they found that it would be advantageous to be married, so they expedited an American wedding with the full intent of hosting a wedding in Poland later that would be more meaningful to them with their families in attendance.
“We knew that we were going to get married at some point, but the first wedding wasn’t 100% realistic,’ Piotr said. “On the wedding day, I planned everything, and when we woke up, I was going to propose for real. So in our minds, the first wedding was originally very unofficial, but I made it official in a very short period of time. That was a huge surprise for Kaya.”
Indeed, Kaya was surprised.
“I didn’t expect a wedding ring before our first wedding, we were just doing this to get the paperwork, and go forwards towards our green-card process. When he woke up in the morning, he gave me the engagement ring, and I was super-surprised, I knew that we wouldn’t be married in Poland for another two years, and he was ready and prepared, and it was a big surprise for me.”
By contrast, Bill and Kelley’s proposal was a very public affair on stadium court at AVP Chicago in 2019.
“I wanted to do it at Chicago AVP, because that’s her favorite tournament,” Bill said. “A lot of her family from both sides meets at that tournament. And I’m from the Milwaukee area.
“I thought it would a good time to ask, because my brothers and sisters, and Mom and Dad would be there to witness it. I planned it all out so I could ask her at the Chicago AVP, but with the Chicago setup we were playing at different sites.
“The AVP worked with me. It was all planned out, I was going to play my game, and I should have time to go over and ask Kelley after her match.
“But of course I end up going to three, I lose the match, and I still try to get over there, and Kelly won in probably 30 minutes.”
But with the help of the AVP, they were able to reschedule Bill’s next match onto stadium court.
“So we had to go to Plan B, and I ended up playing the McKibbin brothers on stadium court in the afternoon, and then I worked it out so Kelley would be in the stands with her family in the VIP section, and we acted like Eric (Beranek) had to go to the bathroom.
“So announcer Mark Schuermann had to bring Kelley down to warm up with me, and I asked her then. It all worked out.”
Just about everybody knew of the plan at that point except Kelley.
“I was very surprised. I thought he might ask some time soon, but I would never guess that he would ask at a tournament,” Kelley said. “He’s someone that’s very focused and doesn’t want any distractions when he’s competing.
“I remember that I was getting a smoothie before going to his match, which started at 3:45, and it was 3:30, and I get phone calls and texts from my dad and some of my family members: ‘Are you coming to Billy’s game?’
“And they kept texting, ‘Are you going to be there?’ And I replied, ‘Yeah, I’ll be there when it starts.’
“Looking back now, I don’t realize how I didn’t know that that was going to happen. I definitely thought that it was coming soon, but I was surprised that he asked in Chicago, at a tournament, right before one of his matches.
“That threw me off. But it was very special having both of our families there, and it was a great way to ask.”
Perhaps the most extravagant proposal was Casey’s, who proposed to Kerri following the AVP Hawai’i event in 2004. Casey and Kerri were whisked away via helicopter to Lee Legrande’s father’s private property in Molokai.
“We were going prawn hunting at a creek nearby,” Kerri recalled. “Casey positioned me on this rock and said, ‘Babe, sit here, I’m going to go upstream and herd all the prawns to you.’ He comes swimming up in his snorkel and mask, takes his mask off, and I see in his hand something shiny.
“And I don’t know if my eyes are this good, or if I’m making things up, but I saw the shiny thing was a gold band with ‘Six feet of sunshine’ engraved, and he asked me to be his wife, and it was such a shock to me. I was so naïve and oblivious and would never expect that, so I was blown away and really excited and nervous. I remember being so floored, and so excited, and all in.”
Casey recalled that and more.
“I said, You know, it’s about that time, will you marry me?’ And she said, ‘Did you ask my Dad?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I did, and he said no.’ And I remember her saying, ‘Yes, yes. I’m sorry, I will, yes, yes.’
“I don’t know if there’s any father out there that truly says yes. I hope I’m as cautious with my daughter as Tim was. Everything’s great, it’s something we can laugh about and look back on.”
Kerri noted that they had a lot of obstacles in their early days.
“A lot of people in the volleyball world didn’t want us together, in my camp. We fought for our love a lot. A love that you have to fight for makes you stronger. We’re proud of it.
“Casey and my family all adore each other now, so it’s a happy ending. Happy endings are always worth it.”
Any good wedding stories?
Phil and Jennifer changed plans to take the plunge in Maui. Literally.
“We were going to get married in Santa Barbara,” Phil said, “and then I just said, ‘Let’s just get married in Hawai’i with our closest friends and family’, and she said, ‘OK’, and I said, ‘Are you sure?’ We had so much fun there, a week with our friends, and a week by ourselves on our honeymoon.
“Honestly, we saved so much money doing it that way, and we had so much more fun.”
Their wedding was at the Sheraton Maui in Kaanapali Bay.
“It was so cool,” remembered Jennifer, “because only 35 people came, but it’s the people that really wanted to be there. It was tough, because when we were planning our wedding in Santa Barbara, it was out of control. If we invite this person, then we have to invite every person. We just wanted to have a week of fun instead of one night.”
The bay featured Black Rock, one of the last lava flows on the island, and legend has it that this was the place where their spirits went to jump off and join their ancestors. There was a drop of perhaps 20 feet.
Both Phil and Jennifer took the plunge, as well as Phil’s volleyball partner Nick Lucena, who did front and back flips.
Casey and Kerri were married in La Quinta.
“Our wedding was like an AVP event.” Kerri said. “Geeter did the wedding party introductions, DJ Roueche was the DJ, Karchie, Whitty, Rachel (Wacholder-Scott) was a bridesmaid, Misty was a bridesmaid. It was beautiful.”
Casey’s fondest memory:
“I remember we had the entire wedding party in our suite. Mike Lambert was on the guitar, and everyone from the wedding party was in our room singing songs until 4 in the morning.”
Kaya’s and Piotr’s second wedding in Wielun, Poland, was a huge affair. Which anniversary do they celebrate?
Both, of course.
Their second, traditional Polish-style wedding was quite different from their informal U.S. wedding, Piotr said.
“We had a nice group of friends from the U.S. who got to experience a Polish-style wedding. They’re super-extra-long. We started at 4 p.m. on Saturday and finished at 9 a.m. on Sunday.”
The wedding entertainer also performed at the FIVB Fort Lauderdale tournament that year.
“A few months before, we went to the FIVB in Fort Lauderdale, and we met the guy who was hired to sing at the player’s party, his name was Rufus, and he lives in Germany,” Kaya said. “When we started talking at the party, he said, ‘I would love to come to your wedding. I’ll be in Poland for the next few months.’ ”
Billy and Janelle remember their wedding fondly, including starting a crowd-jumping trend.
“I danced more than I have in my entire lifetime,” Billy said. “Dan Madden (Danny Kinda) got a black eye when my brother kicked him in the face dancing. We started a trend of crowd jumping, where we catch people jumping off the stage. We’ve done it at all our friends’ weddings since and have only dropped one bridesmaid.”
Janelle felt badly that she had to cut off her father’s speech, which was simply too long.
“I had to cut my dad off during his speech. He was 10 minutes in and had only reached my junior high years. He later gave me a copy of his speech and it was eight pages long!”
Delaney and Travis married in Big Bear in the midst of the snow season this past February. Snow can wreak logistical havoc, making it difficult for family and friends to get up and down the mountain.
There was a storm in the forecast for their wedding day.
“It felt like a blessing on our wedding day that there was not a storm. We got married on Saturday, and it didn’t snow until Monday,” Delaney said.
We had clear skies, beautiful pictures, and everyone was able to make it up and down the mountain safely. It felt like an answer to our prayers to start our relationship that has been founded on faith.”
Bill and Kelley were fortunate to get their wedding in at all before the coronavirus quarantine shut everything down. Their wedding was March 7 at the Portofino Hotel in Redondo Beach, coincidentally in the same room that the AVP holds its media day.
Post-wedding, Bill had planned to play in the three-star FIVB Coolangatta event, but landed in Australia only to learn that it was canceled. He returned to California in time for the lock-down orders on March 20.
Despite losing much of their volleyball season and unable to honeymoon, the couple have gone from being single to constant 24/7 companionship.
“It’s a quarantine honeymoon,” Kelley joked.
“We pretty much got married and went straight into quarantine for seven weeks,” Bill said. “She’s been able to spend plenty of time with me.”
Can you play coed volleyball together?
Casey and Kerri, for example, won the 2009 Moonlight Mixed title.
“We’re undefeated.” Kerri said. “It’s so cool playing with Casey, because you realize how much space he takes up on the court. It’s almost an insecure feeling because you’re like, ‘Oh my god, that guy is so powerful, he’s so accountable, I need to keep up my side. It’s also really liberating and it’s really fun.
“Playing one on one is harder, and playing in the backyard is harder. Official games are easier.”
When they won that Moonlight Mixed title in near darkness, “I didn’t know how to put Casey up on two, so we just played normal volleyball. I couldn’t figure out how to play that game but it was really fun.”
Billy and Janelle are the reigning champions of the Moonlight Mixed and won the U.S. Open of Beach Volleyball coed event in 2007. That win solidified their relationship, Billy said.
“We officially started dating after we won the U.S. Open of Beach Volleyball. It was a great day playing together, and I always wondered if we’d have kept dating if we’d gotten a third. We still play in the Moonlight Mixed in San Diego every year and are the defending champions.”
Janelle is realistic about playing coed with Billy.
“We’ve played in quite a few coed tourneys and luckily for me, Billy is an amazing partner. A little sensitive but still amazing. He tries to set me too much and I usually yell at him to hit on 2 more. It’s important to know going into a coed tournament that it’ll test your relationship. I’d suggest a conversation beforehand to discuss the goal of the tourney. Is it to have fun, get better, get exercise, bond as a couple, or win it all? Coed rarely pays the big bucks, so it’s not worth berating your partner all day.”
Billy added: “For Janelle, the goal is always to win. Ha. But winning definitely helps. I never understood how couples argued and got into fights playing with each other because Janelle was so easy to play with. Then we got pushed at a tournament and the tension came. That’s when I realized it’s easy to be nice to each other when you’re winning.”
Piotr and Kaya are far too competitive to play together. They played once, with disastrous results, said Piotr.
“We have played coed once in our life, and that was the last time. We will never play again, it’s not healthy, and I don’t recommend that anyone else try.”
“We are super-competitive, and first of all, we don’t like to do volleyball for fun. We are super-serious. When we have to mix volleyball and fun, it doesn’t go very well, because we’re both very competitive, and last time, I think we argued the whole time.
“I don’t even think we finished the tournament, I think we quit half-way to save our marriage.”
“We didn’t talk after the tournament for a couple of days,” Piotr said. “There was a lot of damage.”
The Dalhaussers have learned how to play together, Jennifer said.
“We can. We can now. I’ve learned how to lose. When we were dating, I used to ruin it, I would lose to Phil and get mad.”
“We would play one-on-one half court on a women’s court,” Phil said. “Three touches, and I couldn’t jump. I wasn’t trying to let her win, and she would get so mad, and she would be pouting around the whole day.
“One day, I asked her, ‘Do you actually expect to beat me?’ This was in 2010, where Todd and I had one of the best years ever.”
Jennifer, who said she thought she could, realized he had a point.
“And he said, ‘Honey, the best players in the world have trouble beating me, and you think you can just beat me.’
“And I just started laughing. It was an ‘Aha’ moment for me. I had to check my competitiveness at the door. Now we play for fun and cardio.
“But I don’t think Phil is ready to play volleyball for fun yet.”