The romance of Wroxton College

Ryan Costello proposed to Diana Costa during a romantic picnic on the lawns of Fairleigh Dickinson University's Wroxton College. Here, the two show off her ring just after the big moment. (Photos courtesy of Ryan and Diana Costello)

By Kenna Caprio

There’s a certain romantic allure to sharing a picnic on the lawns of Wroxton College, and to the entire estate itself.

“As Henry James observed: ‘And what shall I say of the colour of Wroxton Abbey, which we visited last in order, and which in the thickening twilight as we approached its great ivy-muffled face, made an ineffaceable impression on my fancy?’” quotes Wroxton College Dean Nicholas Baldwin.

Together, the lush grounds and Jacobean architecture of Fairleigh Dickinson University’s British campus form a stunning backdrop for students studying abroad.

“The grounds at the college are beautiful. There is a rose garden that blooms all summer. There are two lakes, a small waterfall and lawns for picnicking on,” says Ryan Costello, whose family owned the White Horse Inn, a local pub in Wroxton.

Costello and his wife, College at Florham alumna Diana (BA ’05, MAT ’06), have quite the personal romantic history at Wroxton.

The couple met in 2004 while Costello worked at White Horse and Diana (then Costa) studied abroad. They quickly formed a friendship that would be buoyed by online contact for several years. But in 2010, things changed.

“He was very supportive during a tough period in my life. He gave 110% when he was an ocean away,” says Diana. “I fell in love with how he was generous, kind and thoughtful when he really didn’t need to be.”

On the way home from visiting extended family in Portugal, Diana passed through the United Kingdom with the intent of visiting her old friend.

“I picked her up from the airport. We hadn’t seen each other for so long, and right there in the arrival lounge at Heathrow Airport, it was clear things were going to be a little different,” recalls Ryan.

Suddenly, their long-time friendship rapidly morphed into a romance.

“We didn’t really date as such. It just happened and because of our history, we already knew so much about each other. We skipped the “getting-to-know-you” stage and it became serious immediately,” he says. “By summer 2011, she had fully emigrated,” says Ryan.

Eventually, Ryan planned an extra-special surprise for Diana on the picturesque Wroxton green.

“During a picnic, I pulled out a gift for Diana. The photo book, complete with narration, told the story our relationship. We read it together and two pages from the end there was no photo, but the words: ‘One day during a picnic at the place they first met, Ryan proposed to Diana.’”

Diana says she felt confused when she first read the proposal page. She remembers saying, “No, he didn’t!” But then, of course, Ryan did.

The ring, which Ryan designed himself, features a diamond that’s flanked on each side by the couples’ birthstones. “Inside the ring in Portuguese I had engraved: ‘Two friends, one heart.’ We stuck a photograph of the moment on that page of the book later,” he says.

The Costellos partake in a traditional Buddhist ceremony during their wedding in Thailand.

The travel-lovers said, “I do,” abroad in December 2012.

“We both like to travel, and given that our relationship hadn’t exactly been a normal one, we wanted the wedding to be different also. We got married on the Island of Koh Samui in Thailand,” says Ryan.

The couple wore traditional Thai garments and took part in a Buddhist ceremony as monks blessed them. The two followed that rite with Christian vows and ring exchange.

“The garden we were married in was decorated with white roses and purple orchids. We finished the day by releasing a Chinese lantern on the beach and eating by candlelight right there by the ocean,” he says. “We took our first dance on the sands.”

The Costellos have settled in Banbury, a small town near Wroxton, with their chocolate spaniel Milka and a new arrival set to debut in May. After returning from a second honeymoon in Rome earlier in January, Diana had her 20-week ultrasound where the two learned that they are expecting a baby boy.

“Quite simply, Wroxton is a beautiful, rather magical place in a very romantic setting — the Abbey itself and the estate gardens and grounds,” says Baldwin. 

FDU's Wroxton College consists of a fully modernized 17th century Jacobean mansion that was once the home of Lord North, England's Prime Minister during the American Revolution. Located in the heart of England, Wroxton's campus is just minutes away from Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon. Since FDU opened its British campus in 1965, Wroxton has served as an overseas study site for students from more than 250 colleges and universities nationwide. 

Feature Story from the FDU Newsroom

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