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Whirlwind Love

Journey to Ireland, marriage, and parenthood

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Robin and Mark Renucci

Robin and Mark Renucci are happy to be home in Houston after enjoying a pandemic-delayed wedding and a whirlwind adventure in Ireland. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

The past couple of years have felt like whirlwinds for most of us, but there aren’t many for whom the whiplash has been as strong (in a good way) as it’s been for Robin and Mark Renucci.

Robin Wagner and Mark Renucci started off a worldwide romance as sweethearts who met at a bar in Houston.

Robin remembers the night they met in 2016: “We ended up hanging out and talking most of the night.” Explaining how she fell for Mark, she says he rolled up a sleeve and shared a tattoo with her: “It was an actual tattoo of a dog paw of his dog who passed away from cancer.” She kind of swooned. “Tattoos aren’t my mom’s favorite thing, and they aren’t necessarily my cup of tea, but it was so meaningful and sweet.”

The couple’s first trip together had been to Fredericksburg in January of 2017. “We kept talking about wanting to go again, but my work was crazy and his work was crazy,” she says. “Finally, he booked a weekend in April [2019] and was like, ‘This is the one weekend we can do it.’ I was supposed to give an AP exam that weekend – I was a counselor at St. Thomas, and spring is finals, AP exams, helping kids with final steps of where they’re going to college. But we went.”

Robin Renucci, Mark Renucci

TAKE ME TO THE COURTHOUSE Robin Wagner and Mark Renucci in Dublin, awaiting their flight to the States and their courthouse wedding in July 2020.

That was a good decision on Robin’s part. It was on that second trip to Fredericksburg that Mark proposed. “He said we needed to talk, which is not usually the best thing,” Robin says. “So I’m thinking he’s brought me to Fredericksburg to make telling me he doesn’t want to be with me easier on me, but then he starts talking about how I’m smarter than he is and I probably knew the next step before he did, and I’m like, ‘We’re getting a puppy?’ and he’s like, ‘No, we’re not getting a puppy. Eventually yes, but not today.’ And then he got down on one knee!” That’s when Robin and Mark started dreaming about weddings.

But white dresses and Brides magazines fell by the wayside when JP Morgan asked Mark to move to Dublin to set up a financial technology team there. At first, Robin says, she and Mark “joked about how crazy that would be to just uproot and move to Dublin. We both have a strong sense of adventure, but we didn’t expect it to be something to really consider.” Robin loved her job as a counselor at St. Thomas High School, and both she and Mark loved their lives in Houston.

But Mark was born in Scotland and has family there and in the UK. (He moved with his family to Virginia when he was a baby, and to Austin when he was in middle school. His parents are still in Austin.) Living abroad wasn’t a totally foreign idea. Slowly, the reality of what could be a grand adventure sunk in. “What an incredible opportunity to see the world,” Robin says. “Weekending in Paris, St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin, and eating paella in Spain all seemed like quite the draw!”

Robin Renucci, Mark Renucci

Robin and Mark Renucci enjoyed a “minimoon” around the Ring of Kerry in Ireland.

Robin’s mom, Cathy Wagner, a retired BeautiControl executive, wasn’t so sure. “I was shocked,” she says, adding that she and Robin are very close. “I can remember saying, ‘Nooooo, I can’t believe it!’”

That didn’t stop Robin and Mark: in the fall of 2019, they made the move. And started planning a Houston wedding from Dublin.

“That girl knows what she wants,” Cathy says. “We communicated practically every day, and if she knows what she wants, I just say, “Fine.’ She had it all planned out.”

Robin says that’s due to help from her mom. “I never could have planned a wedding from an ocean away without her support,” Robin says of her mother. “I relied on her for all ‘boots on the ground’ information. I had visions of a downtown wedding overlooking the skyline with bright stars and twinkling lights. It had all begun to take shape.” The wedding would be May 16, 2020, at the Petroleum Club.

Meantime, Robin and Mark took advantage of their new expat status, exploring Ireland, London, Edinburgh, Brussels, and the Canary Islands, all before their first Christmas abroad. “We could fly around Europe in the same amount of time it takes to drive from Houston to the Hill Country,” Robin says.

Robin Renucci, Mark Renucci

Robin and Mark at their wedding celebration in 2021, outside at the Houston Arboretum.

Then 2020 happened, and havoc ensued. Although wedding invitations had been mailed, it became clear that a May 2020 wedding would be impossible due to the pandemic. “The week before St. Patrick’s Day, Mark realized things were getting serious,” Robin says. “The pubs closed.”

Robin and Mark reluctantly mailed “change-the-dates,” and everything was rescheduled for two months later, in July. But the original May 16 date didn’t go unnoticed. “Mark arranged a surprise Zoom with our families, wedding party, and a few friends,” Robin says. “He also had dinner delivered from a favorite Dublin restaurant.”

As July neared, Robin says, “It was not a matter of if we could have the wedding, but should we?” Their answer: no, they shouldn’t. “It was absolutely crushing, a constant limbo of hurry up and wait.”

“That’s when they decided to go to the courthouse and get married,” Cathy says.

“We kept our airline tickets for the July wedding and booked a time slot at the [Houston] courthouse to get a marriage license,” Robin says. “We could both go inside to get the license, but only one of us could bring it back in after we got married. So I called our longtime friend Joey Massey, who I knew was ordained, and he met us in the courthouse parking lot.

“The courthouse staff cheered and pronounced it the fastest turnaround of any wedding!”

Robin Renucci, Mark Renucci, Jon Wagner, Cathy Wagner

Robin and Mark finally celebrate with her parents, Jon and Cathy Wagner, at their 2021 wedding celebration.

Robin’s parents hosted a surprise drive-by champagne celebration in their front yard, with all the wedding party driving by. “It was finally a little bit of wedding cheer amidst all of the delays,” Robin says.

The couple returned to Ireland as happy newlyweds, with Mark continuing to lament the still-closed pubs.

Finally, in 2021, Robin and Mark planned a wedding celebration outside at the Houston Arboretum. They remarried in front of family and friends (and livestreamed it all for Mark’s UK family who still couldn’t travel to the US because of Covid). “Even though we had been legally married for a year at this point, something felt unfinished until we could share it with our nearest and dearest.”

The day-after brunch brought a new level of celebration and excitement. Mark calls it “the surprise sequel to the Wagnucci (Wagner and Renucci) celebration.” They announced that Robin was pregnant with a baby boy. “I was adamant that the focus of this long-awaited wedding would be just about the wedding,” Robin says. “None in attendance were any the wiser, thanks to a skillful tailor and discreet bartenders with non-alcoholic wine!”

Baby Maverick was born in Dublin in October 2021. “He is a very expressive master babbler,” Robin said on the phone from Ireland, baby Maverick giggling in the background.

Maverick, Mark, and Robin Renucci

BACK HOME Baby Maverick, Mark, and Robin Renucci are happy to be home in Houston. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

To the great pleasure of Robin’s parents Cathy and Jon, an attorney, the threesome uprooted once again and made the move home to Houston in October 2022.

“We were eager to introduce Maverick to Tex-Mex, barbecue, and our great city,” Robin says, reminiscing about the wild ride of the past couple of years. “The baby’s been wonderful through the move, an absolute champ, maybe partly because he traveled everywhere with us when we were overseas.”

Since returning home, the Renuccis have lived in two apartments, one corporate. “How strange is it for Maverick that he hasn’t had a stable place since we left Dublin?” Robin wonders. “But it’s too early for him to make memories. We’re just not positive where we want to live yet. We haven’t had to consider school districts before! So we’re giving ourselves a little bit of a buffer to figure it out.”

Meanwhile, the benefits of having family close by are not lost on Robin and Mark. “My mom probably sees [Maverick] two to four days a week, and my dad once or twice a week,” Robin says. “They’re absolutely adorable grandparents. They have a playpen in the middle of their living room, and they’re always on the floor and playing. If I’ve got a lot of work or even a haircut, I can bring him to my mom. But I didn’t want to move back just for the help. I wanted the day-to-day interaction, which is super sweet to see. Having that be part of his life is beautiful.

“In Dublin, we just didn’t have the same network. Now we are not only coming back to our friends, but we’re coming back to friends who know how to be parents. They know the good days to go to the Children’s Museum, where’s the best park. It’s a very different life than when we left Houston and were going to concerts and comedy shows all the time. Now it all centers around the little guy.”

In her third year of pursuing her doctorate in higher education administration and working fulltime as a graduate assistant in her department at St. Cloud State University, Robin is a busy working mom. Mark is back at work too, and only missing the Irish pubs a little bit. “There’s just nothing quite like that here, people just wanting to sit and chat with you,” Robin says.

Still, Robin and Mark are excited to be planting roots. “The stores have held all of our registry gifts for us since we got married during the pandemic,” she says. “That’ll be really neat to get all of our wedding gifts and settle down a little bit, make a more permanent home.”

It’s been quite a journey, but Robin wouldn’t change a thing. “If we hadn’t been through every single crazy step, we wouldn’t be where we are.” Which is a very happy place.

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