About two years ago, Rachel Minkoff was checking out JDate.com when she spotted Eric Neuschaefer. “There was something about him,” says Rachel, who paid for a subscription to the online dating site so she could get in touch with Eric. A few e-mails and phone calls later, they had planned their first date. He showed up at her house with a container of olives from the Italian Store in Arlington because he remembered her saying how much she loved them. After a fun night out at Aroma in Cleveland Park, Eric, 30, dropped Rachel, 28, off at home. “I was beyond nervous and tried so hard to sneak in a kiss,” says Eric, a government contractor. “Out of nowhere, she struck first by taking the first move and kissed me goodnight. I had an ear-to-ear smile the rest of the night.”
About a month into dating, the pair decided to call in sick to work and head to the National Zoo for the day. “I think that’s where we really fell in love,” says Rachel, a recruiter for an information-technology firm. “The zookeepers were out, the weather was unseasonably warm, and we got to be all cute and lovey in public because everyone we knew was at work. We had such a great day, and that has turned into our spot.”
A year and a half later, Eric was ready to propose, and he knew the zoo had to be part of the plan. So he invited Rachel out on a date. They started out at the Palm for dinner—not because they regularly dine at upscale restaurants but because every time they’d walk by the Palm, Rachel would tease Eric that he never took her anywhere like that. After their fancy dinner, the two headed to the zoo. They walked for a while past all the different animal habitats before he stopped at the lion-and-tiger den. Rachel remembers: “I turn around and Eric’s on one knee and says, ‘Baby, will you marry me?’ Eric says I yelled at him, ‘What are you doing?’ But I say there’s no way I screamed that. Of course I said yes!”
When: May 24, 2009.
Where: Marriott Crystal City.
Colors: Vibrant shades of blue, green, and yellow.
Cake flavors: To be determined. Says Rachel: “This is by far the most exciting part of the planning for Eric. Sometimes I joke that this is the real reason he proposed—for a cake tasting!”
Ceremony: Traditional Jewish ceremony. “Eric can’t wait to break the glass,” Rachel says.
Music: The band Jukebox.
Honeymoon: Playa del Carmen in Mexico.
First impression: “She’s absolutely beautiful, with the most amazing smile I’ve ever seen,” Eric says. Says Rachel: “I couldn’t catch my breath. He was so tall and handsome. I just couldn’t believe how good-looking he was, and he had a special sweetness about him. I think it was love at first sight.”
Silliest fight: “Anything wedding-related,” Eric says. Rachel remembers their first fight about three months into dating—it was about playing a game at a friend’s house: “There were close to 15 people there, and I’d never met any of them. Apparently, Eric had played on a team before that ‘dominated,’ and he wanted to stay on that team, which put me with total strangers. I remember sitting there fuming, thinking I need to win this game. And I did! Afterward, I was so mad that he wasn’t on my team. Obviously, we made up within minutes.”
Most romantic gesture: “Just the way he looks at me,” Rachel says. “It makes me feel special and perfect, and I just can’t get enough of it!”
One thing others would be surprised to know about Eric: “He’s a total mama’s boy,” Rachel says. “He and his mom have a great relationship.”
One thing others would be surprised to know about Rachel: She loves a good action movie, Eric says.
Favorite date spot: Spices in Cleveland Park.
Sweetest nickname: Rachel is “Baby” or “Love.” Eric is “Gorgeous.”
When they knew they were meant to be: The day at the zoo, Rachel and Eric agree. “It was a done deal that day, and we both knew it,” she says. “We still have the throw-away camera from that day, and we haven’t developed it. Now I think I may wait a few years to do so. What a fun surprise!”
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