- Met: February 2002
- Engaged: April 19, 2003
- Projected Wedding Date: June 26, 2004
Some women you want to hate. They’re too beautiful, too intelligent, too poised. They carry themselves with a confidence and aplomb far beyond their twenty-something years. Then you meet them, and they’re really nice. Too nice to hate.
Leslie Smith is one of these women. Perched in a pint-sized chair in her kindergarten classroom, stockinged knees together, Ms. Smith looks like every kindergartner’s dream of a teacher. Snow White dark hair, enormous blue eyes, radiant smile, and she speaks with the sort of kind and modest authority that young children find enchanting. Seated beside her, Lieutenant Scott Weinpel looks more than a little enchanted himself. “I first met Leslie at the University of Dallas,” Lt. Weinpel reveals. “My younger brother was in her class. I graduated from Annapolis in 2000 and then went to flight school in Oklahoma. I went down to Dallas to visit my little brother, and I saw Leslie.”
Lt. Weinpel went back to Oklahoma. Ms. Smith graduated and moved to San Diego. Lt. Weinpel’s younger brother moved to San Diego, too. When the lucky lieutenant found himself stationed in America’s Finest City in October 2000, his brother told him, “You know, Leslie lives here.”
The couple’s first encounters were group dates: Ms. Smith and her sisters and friends, Lt. Weinpel and his brothers and friends. “I was always intimidated by Leslie,” Lt. Weinpel admits. “I didn’t think I had a chance.”
Ms. Smith arches her eyebrow and smiles. “I had an interest in Scott from the very beginning. I remembered him from his visit to University of Dallas. He was charming and cute.”
On top of all her other attributes, Ms. Smith is athletic, too. She plays recreational soccer. After her fourth group date with Lt. Weinpel, she invited him to one of her soccer games. “Are you asking me out on a date?” he asked her with more than a hint of sarcasm. He went to her game. Afterward, they went to Surfside Sushi in Pacific Beach.
“I’m not interested in guys all that often,” Ms. Smith admits. By the time they went out on their first one-on-one date, she already knew she liked him. She even told him.
A month later, Lt. Weinpel knew Ms. Smith was the girl for him. “From then on, it was just a matter of how am I going to finance the ring?” The lieutenant, who flies AH-1 Whiskey Super Cobra helicopters for the Marines, knew he was being deployed to the Southern Pacific in the spring. As the couple grew closer, they spoke in hypotheticals about their future. “I would say, ‘What if there were a person who was going to leave?’ ” Lt. Weinpel explains.
“And I would say, ‘I think the other person would be disappointed if she weren’t engaged be- fore the person left,’ ” Ms. Smith reveals.
For Easter week 2003, Lt. Weinpel and Ms. Smith planned a trip to San Antonio to visit his family. The Thursday before they left, the honorable lieutenant spoke to Ms. Smith’s father about his intentions. “Her dad said that he liked us together and that he liked the progress we had made as a couple,” Lt. Weinpel says. He showed the ring to Ms. Smith’s dad and the rest of her family.
In San Antonio, Lt. Weinpel introduced Ms. Smith to a Southwest- ern Easter tradition. “They’re confetti eggs called cascarones,” Lt. Weinpel explains. “On Easter, you smash them over people’s eggs. I planned to have the ring inside one and give it to Leslie.”
On the night of the Easter vigil, the lieutenant, Ms. Smith, and a group of family and friends drove to downtown San Antonio to join the crowds surrounding San Fernando Cathedral. “After we parked, I tried to smash an egg over Leslie’s head,” Lt. Weinpel says. “But she sprinted away.”
“I broke my shoe,” Ms. Smith continues the story and laughs. “When Scott kneeled down to help me, the egg with the ring broke in his pocket.”
So much for the plan. “I would never have caught her anyway. She runs too fast,” the lieutenant confesses.
The couple walked around downtown San Antonio, alongside the River Walk, and ended up at the Cathedral. They went inside and prayed on either side of the altar. Afterward, they went back out to the square and sat down by a fountain. “Scott told me he was glad I came to meet his family. He said he had a gift for me. I thought, ‘This is a nice little recap of our relationship.’ Then he got down on one knee. My jaw dropped, and I was staring. He said, ‘Will you be my wife?’ I said, ‘Yes,’ but I had no voice.”
After Lt. Weinpel squeezed the ring onto Ms. Smith finger, which was swollen from the heat, the couple went back into the Cathedral. “We prayed together,” Ms. Smith says. “The priest was just closing up. As we walked out, we told him, and he said, ‘Let me be the first to bless you.’”
The next morning, Ms. Smith found a container of jewelry cleaner in her Easter basket courtesy of Lt. Weinpel’s mother. She has since used it to polish her enormous round-cut solitaire set in a hybrid Cathedral-Tiffany platinum setting.
Ms. Smith and Lt. Weinpel are planning a traditional Catholic wedding for about 200 people at St. Mary Magdalene in Bay Park this June. Ms. Smith attended the School of the Madeleine from kindergarten through eighth grade. Their reception will be at another family favorite: Tom Ham’s Lighthouse. “We’re planning on lots of family and lots of Marines,” Ms. Smith says and laughs.
Soon after the wedding, Lt. Weinpel will head off with his squadron for the Middle East. Ms. Smith will teach and wait and pray a lot.