VUMC newlyweds celebrate love and fitness
For Michael and Sarah Palevo, love blossomed amid the exercise equipment at Vanderbilt's Dayani CenterFebruary 11, 2019
Michael and Sarah Palevo are celebrating their first Valentine’s Day as husband and wife after their marriage in November. The two met while working at Vanderbilt’s Dayani Center. Photo by Susan Urmy
Michael Palevo, an exercise physiologist at the Vanderbilt Dayani Center for Health and Wellness, did not know when Sarah Perrotto walked into the Dayani Center to shadow for a potential job as a registered nurse with the cardiac and pulmonary team, she would turn out to be the love of his life.
“I remember the day Sarah came to shadow like it was yesterday, even down to the blue-ish green scrubs she was wearing. She was smart, beautiful and also shared the same love for health and fitness,” Michael said. “We didn’t talk too much that first day, but she left a lasting impression on me. I was excited when she started working at Dayani a few months later.”
It would be a year of friendship and another year of dating before Perrotto, 29, and Palevo, 28, tied the knot at a beautiful wedding with family, friends and Italian flair on Nov. 3, 2018.
“We had so much in common: our love for fitness and staying in shape, our love of God, the importance of family and all the little things you can’t write down. Her joy for life, her smile and her magnetic personality just drew me to her.”
Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s newlyweds have a classic love story centered around their love of fitness and helping people heal and attain health.
“I never imagined I’d find the love of my life at work and definitely wasn’t looking for it,” Sarah said. “At first, I told him I would never date a co-worker, but he quickly changed my mind on that.”
Michael agreed work wasn’t where he was looking for a wife, but it was a blessing.
“I too never imagined I would find my wife at work,” he said. “I definitely had some reservations about dating a co-worker at first, but I knew that we had something special after our first date.”
It may be important at this point to note that the two worked in different sections of Dayani and there has never been a reporting relationship between the two.
The two first crossed paths in January 2017, when Sarah shadowed for her job and began working at the Dayani Center.
“Michael’s patients loved him. He was kind, knowledgeable and helpful. He was such a great guy,” she said. “He was really into fitness and I was too. We had a lot in common.”
They remained just friends for several months, spending time with mutual friends and co-workers outside of work.
“It was easy and things flowed naturally, because we knew each other for a year before and had built that solid friendship. I appreciated his initiative to make me dinner on our first date. He’s a great cook.”
“There were a few times when I almost got up the nerve to ask her out, but didn’t want it to be awkward if she said no,” Michael said, “One night, I decided to invite her and some co-workers to my sister’s going away party. Luckily, she said yes.”
A few nights later, Michael officially asked Sarah on their first date for homemade chicken parmigiana.
“After the first date, all the pieces seemed to come together. It was easy and things flowed naturally, because we knew each other for a year before and had built that solid friendship. I appreciated his initiative to make me dinner on our first date. He’s a great cook,” Sarah said.
“It was her overall personality that drew me to her,” Michael said. “We had so much in common: our love for fitness and staying in shape, our love of God, the importance of family and all the little things you can’t write down. Her joy for life, her smile and her magnetic personality just drew me to her.”
A family affair
Michael planned his proposal to coordinate with an adventure triathlon Sarah was participating in. The triathlon was in Chattanooga, and his sister Jennifer was moving there for an internship. Having family present was important to Michael. And he was kind of sneaky about it.
“My family came down to act like they were helping Jennifer move, but they would be there for the proposal,” he said.
The evening after Sarah participated in the triathlon, Michael said he wanted to take her out for dinner and a walk in downtown Chattanooga.
“I was so tired and sunburnt,” she said. “Michael kept insisting on going out that night. I initially had a feeling he would propose that weekend but after some travel troubles with family members and schedule changes, I wasn’t sure.”
Michael put the ring, which had been Sarah’s grandmother’s, in his back pocket and started walking across the bridge.
“It was 100 degrees that day,” he said. “I tried to dress up nice without sweating through a million clothes. I had the ring in my back pocket so she couldn’t see the ring box. I was praying not to drop the ring out of the box into the river.”
Michael’s mother asked if she could take a photo of the couple on the pedestrian bridge. Instead she was using FaceTime to stream video of the big moment to Sarah’s parents.
The couple started to pose for a “picture,” when Michael instead kneeled and took Sarah’s hand. His hands were shaking, and his heart was pounding.
“I told her I loved her more than anything in the world and that she was my everything,” he said. “Then I asked her if she would spend the rest of her life with me. She started crying; I started crying; my mom and sisters started crying. People on the bridge were clapping. It was beautiful and perfect.”
Their wedding was held at the East Ivy Mansion in East Nashville. They turned the nuptials into a fun family staycation, with about 30 friends and family members staying in the mansion for four days including a four-hour long dance party in the garden the night of the wedding.
They served chicken parmigiana as their main course, recalling the meal Michael cooked from his family’s recipe on their first date. Family and friends added personal touches to the wedding to make it special, including making the wedding cake, doing Sarah’s hair and makeup and arranging the flowers.
“The first time I saw her [that day] was when she walked down the aisle,” Michael said. “I’ve never seen her look more beautiful. It was surreal and brought me to tears.”
The newlyweds went to Italy for two weeks for their honeymoon.
“Everything fell into place — from when we first started dating to when I first told her I loved her, to booking our wedding venue. We’ve never had to struggle to fit pieces into our life,” Michael said.
The couple resides in Nashville with their rescue golden retriever, Rainey.
“Married life has been fabulous,” Sarah said. “Our relationship has continued to grow stronger each day. It’s so fun to work together and support each other though all things.”