Vows: From Reality Show to Reality: A Bachelor Finds Love

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Vows

By LOIS SMITH BRADY

In December 2010, Ames Brown was traveling home from Uzbekistan when he got a call from “The Bachelorette,” the reality TV show. Would he like to become one of the 25 bachelors who vie for the heart of a bachelorette, episode after episode, as she gradually and sometimes ruthlessly winnows them down?

The timing of the call was good. “I had no love life,” said Mr. Brown, a graduate of Yale who also has two master’s degrees from Columbia, one in business and one in strategic communications. Although Mr. Brown is so classically handsome he could be a model for a Ken doll, he did not excel at dating or flirting.

“Shall we say, it’s not his style to be a playboy,” said Avik Roy, a friend from Yale. “He’s a bit shy and traditional and gentlemanly.”

Friends were shocked when he agreed to be on the show. “People think, ‘Wow, reality television is just one train wreck after another,’” said Mr. Brown, now 36 and the chief investment officer at Capital Counsel, an asset management firm in Manhattan. “I decided it was a risk worth taking and a great way to grow as a person.”

He appeared in Season 7, shown May through July in 2011. He survived for several episodes but was eventually rejected by Ashley Hebert, the bachelorette that season. He returned to New York City for his 15 minutes of fame, and embarrassment.

“People would come up to me on the subway and say: ‘I can’t believe you wore red pants. No wonder she got rid of you,’” he said. “Or, ‘You know, you really shouldn’t cut your hair so short because that would hide your big forehead.’”

As an escape, he signed up for a three-week National Outdoor Leadership School sailing expedition in Mexico in October 2012. “You just hold your head high and go sailing and hope the ocean has the answer,” he said.

Allison Palm, now 26, also signed up for the trip. She had just graduated from Brown and wanted to do something out of the ordinary and out of her comfort zone. “I was a supernerd in high school,” she said. “I was this very strict engineer in college. I knew I was going to be an engineer in my career. I thought, ‘I’m so one-dimensional.’”

When Ms. Palm met Mr. Brown, she thought he seemed overly formal, with his unwrinkled clothes and impeccable manners. “He was so perfect,” she said. “I thought, ‘Come on, we’re just sailing!’”

She soon changed her mind about him. “He was so enthusiastic about all the hard things we were doing, like getting in the cold water to do safety drills,” she said. At one point, a tropical storm forced the group to camp out for days on a cactus-covered island. “He was telling stories and laughing,” Ms. Palm said. “He is such a blast, so much fun.”

The group traveled in a flotilla, four people to each sailboat, and he always maneuvered to be on her boat. “We were definitely the two most nerdy people on the trip,” he said. “She may even take the cake in this regard. When she was the navigator, my God, copious documentation of all aspects of the trip.”

Each sensed they may become a couple one day, yet neither was in a rush. “We absolutely loved spending time together and wanted to see how this would unfold,” he said. “There was no need to apply pressure or cadence.”

After the trip ended, she returned to her hometown, Fayetteville, N.Y., and he went to his apartment in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, where a river raft hung from the ceiling and the bookshelves were filled with Lonely Planet travel guides. Mr. Brown somehow manages to sustain a career in finance and regularly take off on long, meticulously planned, off-the-grid adventures.

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Over the next few years, he and Ms. Palm went on many together. Weeks after the sailing trip ended, they climbed Mount Miyanoura in Japan. Back in New York, they explored the East River by raft (“Ames paddling, me terrified,” Ms. Palm said); discovered they both love to spend whole days coding on the computer; and had their first kiss in Washington Square Park.

Months later, they went snow camping in the Dolomites in Italy. They rarely discussed their relationship (and still don’t talk about it much). “It wasn’t something we had to say,” she said. “We just had a feeling: ‘This is working. This is great.’”

Friends say her particular amalgam of qualities match his. “She’s supersmart, hyperanalytical, diligent and highly adventurous at the same time,” Mr. Roy said. “It’s hard to find those qualities simultaneously.”

In 2013, still yearning for a more creative path, Ms. Palm enrolled in Alma, a culinary school in Italy. “I wondered if Ames and I would climb mountains together again or if living an ocean apart would end a beautiful story,” she said. They left their relationship open-ended. Maybe they would be a couple when she got back, maybe not.

As part of the program, she worked in the kitchen at Il Marin restaurant in Genoa. One day, while peeling shrimp there, she was shocked to spot Mr. Brown sitting alone in the dining room. “The flood of adrenaline was so intense,” she said. She was so nervous that she ran into the walk-in refrigerator to calm down. “Ames really understands the art of surprise,” she said.

He said: “I didn’t like the idea of Skyping or texting, and she felt the same way, so we didn’t do any of that. We wrote some letters, but I thought the most romantic message would be myself.”

Back in New York in the fall of 2014, she began a graduate program in operations research at Columbia and moved into Mr. Brown’s apartment. Living together was far easier than their other adventures; it didn’t feel like an adjustment at all. “The only difference was we had to share a closet,” she said.

On Christmas morning 2015, he surprised her once again, this time while she was visiting her family in Fayetteville. Tipped off by Ms. Palm’s father, Bram Palm, Mr. Brown learned she would be picking up a prescription at the Rite Aid in nearby Syracuse. He stood by the prescription counter, waiting for her.

“The first thing I said was, ‘What are you doing here?’” she said. “He said, “I’m here to propose to you.’”

His proposal reflected their philosophy about traveling, and life in general. “One part of our relationship is this idea that there is beauty in unexpected places,” she said. “Really special things don’t have to happen on top of mountains. They can happen in a pharmacy.”

Also, really special things don’t have to cost a lot. “I didn’t want the expensive proposal on a faraway island,” he said.

On July 30, they were married at the Church of the Heavenly Rest on the Upper East Side, in a 10 a.m. ceremony officiated by the Rev. Matthew Heyd, an Episcopal priest. “We loved the idea of an old-fashioned morning wedding,” Ms. Palm said.

Mr. Brown wore gray slacks and a double-breasted navy blazer, while Ms. Palm chose a Dolce & Gabbana three-quarter-length flowery dress. If she had stood in a lineup with her bridesmaids, a stranger may not have been able to pick her out as the bride. “She was pretty dead set on not getting a typical wedding dress,” said Katie Leaird, a bridesmaid. “It’s not her, it’s not fun.”

Halfway through the reception at the James Burden Mansion nearby, the couple disappeared to change into their going-away outfits, another old-fashioned tradition. They reappeared wearing hiking clothes, boots, backpacks and scarves that were voluminous enough to double as towels or blankets if necessary. After waving goodbye to their 211 guests, they headed out to the airport and took off for their honeymoon: a month of trekking in Nepal.

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