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Making Wedding Plans Before the First Date

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Making Wedding Plans Before the First Date

Melissa Jeanne D’Andrea had already envisioned a future with Karissa Heleene Sullivan before they met. “I picked out our wedding hashtag before our first date,” Ms. D’Andrea said. It was a play on both their names: #issawedding.

On Oct. 4, 2021, the two matched on Her, a dating app for people who identify as lesbian, bisexual, nonbinary or queer. They texted and spoke on the phone every day leading up to their first date.

At the time, Ms. Sullivan lived in Nyack, N.Y., and Ms. D’Andrea in the South Bronx. Ms. D’Andrea suggested that they meet at The Grille, a restaurant which is now Farm, at Hotel Nyack.

They met on Oct. 8, 2021, and “the chemistry between us was palpable,” Ms. D’Andrea said. They discovered that they had a lot in common. They are both avid readers of the same types of books — “For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood … and the Rest of Y’all Too” by Christopher Emdin and “Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools” by Monique W. Morris, for instance — and care deeply about causes like educational reform, racial justice and L.G.B.T.Q. rights.

They also root for N.F.L. teams from states where they have never lived. Ms. Sullivan is a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, while Ms. D’Andrea likes the New Orleans Saints.

The next day, Ms. D’Andrea texted Ms. Sullivan about a Saints and Eagles game in Philadelphia on Nov. 21 and suggested they go. Ms. Sullivan texted back, “I think I’m in love,” and immediately purchased tickets for the game, even though it was more than six weeks away.

Three days later, Ms. Sullivan invited Ms. D’Andrea to hear her speak on a panel for National Coming Out Day, and afterward the two went to Pickwick Bookshop in Nyack together. From that point onward, they “were talking on the phone and texting every day,” Ms. D’Andrea said.

Ms. D’Andrea began spending most of her time at Ms. Sullivan’s place in Nyack. “Being around each other felt like being at home,” Ms. D’Andrea said, but “there was no real conversation about exclusivity.”

Then, on Nov. 18, Ms. Sullivan made their relationship official in her own way.

“Karissa sent me a photo of herself in a suit getting ready for work and said, ‘You have the sexiest girlfriend ever,’” Ms. D’Andrea said. “I played it cool, though, and didn’t say anything.”

After four months, Ms. Sullivan purchased an engagement ring. “I had plans of setting up a whole event in the spring or summer,” Ms. Sullivan said. “I told people I was planning on doing it, but I didn’t tell anyone I had the ring.”

One day, on March 3, 2022, Ms. D’Andrea was teasing Ms. Sullivan about when she might propose. Little did she know, she was in for a surprise. “Melissa was egging me on and I was like, ‘You know what? I have something for you in my backpack,’” Ms. Sullivan said.

“We were both on the same page,” Ms. D’Andrea said, “but I definitely didn’t think it was happening in March.” She joked that Ms. Sullivan “was proposing to spite me.”

“Her face was in so much shock, and it was the exact ring that she told me she had wanted,” Ms. Sullivan said. “Her face was like, ‘I can’t believe this.’ She was happy and pissed off. She was like, ‘I didn’t get my nails done!’”

“This is a very typical lesbian story,” Ms. D’Andrea said. “But it was out of character for us. We didn’t even officially live together.” That is, until June 1, 2022, when the two moved into an apartment in Nyack, where they now live.

Ms. D’Andrea, 37, grew up in Brooklyn. She is the first woman and lesbian executive director of PFLAG NYC, the founding chapter of the nation’s largest organization dedicated to supporting L.G.B.T.Q. people and allies.

She received a bachelor’s degree in human services from the State University of New York Empire State College. She is working part-time on a virtual master’s in business administration at Thomas Edison State University in Trenton, N.J.

[Click here to binge read this week’s featured couples.]

Ms. Sullivan, 34, who was raised in Rockland County, N.Y, is an assistant principal in the East Ramapo Central School district and serves on the advisory board for Black, Indigenous and people of color at the Phyllis B. Frank Pride Center of Rockland County. She was the inaugural grand marshal for the 2023 Rockland County Pride Parade.

She received a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and physical education from Brooklyn College, a master’s in adolescent special education from Hunter College and a master’s in education leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University. She is pursuing her doctorate in education leadership from Columbia.

The two were wed before 100 guests on July 29 at Hotel Nyack, where they had their first date. Ms. D’Andrea’s former pastor, the Rev. Tabatha Holley, who was ordained by the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, officiated.

The ceremony, where the couple jumped the broom, included readings from “The Little Prince” and a poem by Rudy Francisco, a slam poet. “So many people said it was the most beautiful and intentional wedding ceremony they ever attended,” Ms. D’Andrea said. “People said, ‘This wedding is how I want the world to be.’”

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