It isn't the most romantic story, we admit...
In fact, there's many twists and turns on the way leading up to our matrimony, but we'd like to think that's what makes our bond so strong and so unique.
We first met on Tinder in August 2016. Although we shared a few common interests, we matched for two primary reasons:
- Mark ran out of Tinder matches and lowered his age settings on the app from 25 to 21, only to swipe right on a University of Maryland college student a mile and a half away
- Fan's friends displayed his phone on a projection screen and did Group Tinder, swiping right on the bizarre man whose profile pictures were often in costume or clothing so loud it might as well have been a costume.
After a month of not talking, we both realized we missed each other's company and decided to give being friends a shot. At this time, both of our lives began heating up in other ways. Fan suffered a stress-related memory loss incident navigating his senior year of college, while Mark exhausted himself getting back on the dating scene and living the wild life of an unhinged bachelor. In a strange twist of fate, Mark reached out to Fan one night for advice on ending another brief but messy relationship.
That night, we both saw each other in a new light. To Fan, Mark was no longer just a too cool for school party guy but a sensitive and vulnerable person who did his best to put on a smile in spite of so much heartbreak. To Mark, Fan was no longer an aloof hipster college kid with his head in the clouds, but a determined and ambitious man who was learning how to make peace with his imperfections in a world that asks too much. Whatever misalignment we experienced early on dissipated in an instant. Within two weeks' time, we were officially dating in a serious capacity.
This is not to say everything was wine and roses in the earliest days of our relationship, however. With Mark moving into D.C. shortly after we started dating and Fan living either in college group housing or at home with his parents, we had to make a "medium-distance" relationship work for our first year together. Many of our weekends began with Mark standing out in the middle of Monroe Street NW, trying to save Fan a parking spot. It didn't help Mark's room in DC was closet-sized, and that someone was always around at Fan's parents' house. Despite the odds, we persevered and decided to move in together in an apartment in Silver Spring.
Cohabitating was largely a success, even though Fan is a solid Type A personality and Mark is more of an A-. However, the challenges and tests kept coming. Just a few weeks before an international trip we had planned in Belize, Mark broke his ankle falling down some stairs and required two months of bed rest. Shortly after Mark regained the ability to walk, our bathroom ceiling collapsed while Fan was at a convention in Indiana. It wasn't too long after we got settled into our new apartment in a much more structurally sound building that COVID-19 swept through the world, resulting in yet another cancelled international trip (this time to Portugal) and months upon months of having no other regular company but one another.
The pandemic tested everyone's relationships, but we adapted and strengthened ours to face this unprecedented adversity. Surviving as best we could on little outdoor weekend trips to small towns, state parks, and nature refuges within driving distance, we really came to value one another because in that moment we were all each other had. After getting vaccinated, we decided to book a more intrepid vacation to celebrate what we hoped would be the end of our pandemic woes. After two botched overseas trips, we chose a destination that was about as international as we could get without having to properly leave the country: the U.S. Virgin Islands.
While it is true that St. John's pristine, tropical atmosphere is so romantic that it is nicknamed "Love City," neither of us had any intentions of proposing in the USVI. We had always said if one of us was likely to propose to the other, it'd most likely be at Glenstone, the art museum we visited on several of our early dates. However, after recouping in the hotel room in St. Thomas following our departure from St. John, Fan looked over at Mark and without thinking twice asked if we should get married. Having no rings with us (and not being big jewelry-wearers anyway), we simply shook hands on it. After all, what is gay marriage if not the ultimate gentlemen's agreement?
It's been about a year since then, and now we're doing the damn thing! We've been together for five years, overcame countless weird and unexpected obstacles, and now we get to show our love off to approximately 140 of our dearest friends and family. We chose Lakeside Hall at Fort Ritchie as our venue because it's dreamy, a little weather-worn, and steeped in some interesting history. In other words, it's just like our relationship. We hope to see you there celebrating with us!