Inspiring stories of how 6 couples found love.
1. He Gave Her His Art
George Aye, designer, 32, and Sara Aye, design consultant, 29, Chicago, Ill.
He: It took about two months to plan my marriage proposal to Sara, my girlfriend of three-and-a-half years. We're both designers, and I wanted it to be something that would slowly reveal the words Will you marry me? When a coworker put me in touch with the owner of an art gallery, I decided to stage a fake art show.
First I created it all with 3-D software. Then I made the letters for Will you marry me? out of foam core, using a laser cutter. I broke them into even smaller shapes, so there were about 60 pieces in all, and I stuck each one on its own piece of aluminum siding. The idea was to have the pieces at different heights, arranged seemingly randomly around the room. But if Sara stood in just one place, she could read my question.
I set up a video camera where Sara would be standing to make sure the letters lined up right; it took a full 40-hour workweek to arrange them. It was a nightmare! I really sweated. About a week before, I sent an e-mail to Sara and all our friends, saying, "There's an artist, Serge Gandaora, who's having a show on Friday called My Early Muir Owl." I played with words: Serge Gandaora was an anagram of "George and Sara," while My Early Muir Owl was a jumble of "Will you marry me?" The studio owner even enlisted an actor friend to play Serge during the show.
The day of the proposal, I texted a few friends, "This is a big day. I hope I don't screw up." I just wanted Sara to know how much I loved her.
She: At the gallery, after I'd chatted with people for a few minutes, George walked over and said, "My friend can introduce us to Serge." Serge said his artwork was "all about the intersection of text and space." I was thinking, I don't see any text. But just to be polite, I said, "Oh, wow, that's great!" Then Serge said, "If you look through these frames, you'll see the world differently."
Well, I saw these frames-like little rectangles-placed all around the room. I looked through one, but I just saw white pieces. Then George steered me toward a pair of frames, one at eye level and the other a couple of feet off the ground. The lower one was a vehicle for him to get on one knee! I looked through the frame, and after a second, I saw the word you. It was magical, appearing as if out of nowhere. I moved my head one degree and suddenly the whole thing just came together: Will you marry me?
The room had gone silent. Everybody was looking at me. I turned and saw George on one knee and I started to freak out. He was holding a ring, looking at me like, Well ...?
And I said, "Of course I'll marry you!"
It was amazing. I was crying, and I kind of fell against the wall. I remember thinking that he didn't have to work so hard to persuade me. I would have said yes anyway!
2. They Spoke a Romance Language
Heather Pucheu, property clerk, 31, and Fabrice Pucheu, artist, 34, Spokane, Wash.
She: In my high school French class, there was a pen pal requirement. The matchups were completely random. When Fabrice and I started writing to each other, I told him about school, and he told me about his life in Léon, France, as a landscape artist. For the next eight years, we shared our lives on paper. We were able to be really honest and say things many people probably wouldn't say to each other-there were no appearances to keep up. Each letter brought us closer than we'd been before, but I never expected anything but friendship. During these years, I dated, got married, got divorced, and dated a bit more. I continued writing to Fabrice.
Then 9/11 happened. It made me understand how short life is and that it could be taken away at any second. Fabrice and I really bared our souls after that, although I think we didn't realize how much our relationship was changing.
When Fabrice came to visit in September 2002, I went to pick him up at the airport, saw him, and fell in love at first sight. I know it sounds hokey, but you never think it will happen until it happens to you. I just knew I was going to marry him. I was so happy to finally meet the person I had gotten to know so well as a friend-we had all of that groundwork laid already.
It was an easy transition to romance. I spoke a little French, and Fabrice spoke some English. We went on long walks and started this wonderful new chapter in our lives.
Now Fabrice is the cook in our family; I haven't had to cook a single meal since we got married. His quiche Lorraine and paella are my favorites.
To this day, I still have all of Fabrice's letters.
He: It was wonderful finally meeting Heather after knowing her long distance for so long. I just knew she was the one. After I got my visa and put all the paperwork behind me, she and I settled in Spokane together.
I am still painting landscapes. When people tell me my artwork is beautiful, I do not question why. I know the reason: My wife inspires me.
3. They Gave Love a Whirl
Shelia Wilson, Air Force chaplain, 56, and Tony Carter, Army veteran, 52, southern New Mexico
She: As a busy professional, I really didn't have time to meet men. I was in my 50s and had never married.
I'm a chaplain and an officer in the United States military, so I wanted to make sure the man was the same rank as I was. I wanted him to be comfortable with me. I wanted someone to walk with me, not in front of me or behind me.
Out of nowhere, I found a website called faithmate.com. In August 2007, I put my profile on it. Tony and I started to look at each other online, and we began chatting. He had been in the service, including a four-year stint in field artillery. He was retired, which was a relief; if he'd still been on active duty, we would have had to stop immediately because of my rank. Later that month, Tony came to my church to hear me preach. What better place to meet someone than in a chapel?
After that, we had lunch and met again a few more times. Then we went to the Maryland State Fair together. We stopped at a booth where a rabbi was counseling couples, and the rabbi said to us, "How long have you two been married?" We looked at him like he was crazy.
Later we got on the carousel. As we were going around and around and up and down, Tony looked over at me and said, "Ms. Wilson?"
I said, "Yes, Mr. Carter?"
He said, "Will you marry me?"
I said, "Oh, sure, is this how our life is going to be? Going around in circles, going up and down all the time?" Then I said, "Yes."
I already had my wedding dress. I had bought it four years earlier. I just knew it was the dress I would be married in.
He: I wanted to ask Shelia to marry me, and the rabbi helped me get my nerve up. After Shelia said yes, she and I walked around the fairgrounds, smiling the whole time.
On the way home, we picked our wedding date. I didn't want to wait until spring, and she didn't want to get married in the cold weather. So we compromised on October 27. The church was filled.
I told Shelia, "It's a little late in life for us. We're both in our 50s." But I was so impressed with her. She talks more than I do, but deep down, she's really an introvert like me.
One thing she did tell me: "You were well worth the wait."
4. They Tried it Twice
Jane Kallir, gallery co-owner, 54, and Gary Cosimini, software developer, 58, New York, N.Y.
She: We were college sweethearts while I was a student at Brown University and Gary was at the Rhode Island School of Design. We met while working on a literary arts journal; I was the editor, and Gary was the art director. After I graduated, we moved in together in Manhattan in the fall of 1976-New York was the place for us. And in 1985, to celebrate our tenth anniversary of being together as a couple, we got married.
But exactly ten years after that, things began to fall apart. I think we'd gotten into a rut. We weren't communicating very well. And Gary was the one who had the full-blown midlife crisis—he quit his job, left me, and bought a boat. When he moved out of our apartment, he wrote me a note that said, "I'll always love you, but right now I just can't live with you."
That was hard. I think when a marriage fails, it's usually the fault of both parties. I can look back now and say this was an important learning process for us, but at the time, it was awful.
After we divorced, we kept in touch. We had dinner together occasionally. He bought a house; I bought an apartment. I was dating; he was dating. I met some interesting guys, but no one could hold a candle to Gary. Aside from being intelligent, funny, and kind, Gary has such a special way of looking at things. Then, when his father passed away, in November 2000, I really wanted to be there for him. I drove up to Massachusetts in the snow, with a terrible cold, and I think it was at that moment that we realized we were still a couple and had always been. We wanted to be together. We'd shared so much over the years, like rings on a tree. We had such a bond.
We've just gotten married for the second time, this past November. The second wedding means so much! We don't just love each other—we love each other more than ever.
He: I sent Jane a topiary teddy bear for Valentine's Day some years back. I didn't attach a note. It was my way of reestablishing contact with her at a time when she was angry with me. I thought a nice, funny, wordless gesture might do the trick. She got the message. It was a resurrection of our past: I'd given her another teddy bear a long time ago. She still has it.
We're the same people today, but we have a new agreement on how we live and work together and how we help each other. I still have my house on Long Island, and I travel a lot for work. Jane runs an art gallery in Manhattan. So we each have our space.
The big lesson for me is the depth and nature of our feelings. We've been through difficult patches, but we've found each other again.
5. Missed Connection.
Dan Kottke, architect 31, and Erin Kottke, marketing manager, 26, Minneapolis, Minn.
He: Late at night sometimes, I'd take online personality tests or browse through the "missed connections" on Craigslist, an online community. People would post things like "I saw you on the number 7 bus," and I’d think, That would be amazing if they actually got together. One night I saw a note from a woman named Erin that read, "Matt and Dan, the architects." My friend Matt and I are architects, and we'd met this woman, Erin, a few nights earlier at an indie rock concert. I looked over at my cat, who was perched beside me on the couch, and said, "I think she means me."
Erin and I had talked for a few minutes. We liked the same kind of music, and I thought she was really cute and had a vibrant personality. But once the concert started, we got separated in the crowd and I lost her. I remember thinking, Who knows where that would have gone. I wrote back and said, "We should hang out." There was another concert in the area in a couple of days, so I asked her to meet some of my friends and me there. Turns out Erin and I lived only three blocks from each other.
It was a matter of a few weeks of getting to know each other before we decided to make a go of things. It moved fast.
She: I'd always thought of architects as having gray hair and wearing black mock-turtlenecks. So when Dan said he was an architect, I thought he was lying. But once we started talking, I knew it was the beginning of something. After I lost him at the concert, I posted a message on Craigslist that said, "Please email me." Since it was a romantic and idealistic thing to do, I was shocked when Dan replied in just a couple days. Then I felt nervous: I didn't want to be "the girl from the Internet." But we really hit it off. I told my parents, "This feels right." Six months later, we got married in a 15-person wedding at a friend's house. Our son, Linus, was born the next year, on Mother's Day 2008.
6. He Had Her Back.
Sarah Peterson, actress, 60, and Dr. Sherwin B. Nuland, physician and author, 78, Milford, Conn.
She: I was working as an actress with the American Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, Connecticut, when I developed a painful carbuncle on my backside. I had to go to the emergency room after the show we were doing. The doctors performed minor surgery and referred me to a local practice for a follow-up.
The day of my appointment, I was feeling crummy. I was so sick from the infection that was coursing through my body, I wasn't even embarrassed by that point. All I could think was that I wanted to feel better. And I was lying on the exam table on my stomach, with a drape over me, when in walked this very handsome man.
The doctor and I started talking. As sick as I was, I thought, Oh, he's cute. And he has blue eyes. I had to keep going back to his office so that he could change the dressing on this boil and check its progress. Our relationship went from there.
To think that at first, I felt this wonderful man would be a good match for an older friend of mine!
He: While Sarah was lying in the exam room, she asked me about the Hippocratic oath that was hanging on the wall. She had taken classical Greek in college, she said, and she wondered about the translation. I thought, This is an unusual patient.
During the next visit, our conversation was even more interesting. I wasn't accustomed to complex discussions about literature, art, and science while I was working on a patient.
A few weeks later, I went with my two children to see Sarah's group perform Romeo and Juliet. Another night, I met Sarah after the show. We ended up talking through the night, until 8:30 the next morning.
But the truly transforming moment was when Sarah invited me to her home for dinner. It was a really lovely evening. When the time came for me to leave, I leaned over, kissed this beautiful woman on the forehead, and went to let myself out the door. But as I tried to make a smooth and dignified exit, the doorknob came off in my hand.
It was like a bad movie! No longer was I the avuncular, benevolent doctor—I was a human being. All the seriousness between us drained away, and I realized that I was falling very deeply and sincerely in love with Sarah.
When both my children insisted I marry her, I knew I couldn't live the rest of my life without her. We have been married for more than 30 years.