News & Politics  |  Weddings

7 of DC’s Favorite Couples Tell Us How They Met

From the Georgetown cafeteria to the Air & Space Museum, these DC meet-cute stories will give you all the feels.

Sarah Gordon and Sheila Fain.

They say it’s tough to meet someone in Washington, but all of these lovebirds did just that. Ranging in relationships of four years to 42, here are seven DC couples whose meet-cute stories are worth the read.

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Norah O’Donnell and Geoff Tracy

Years together: 29
Occupations: She’s an anchor on the CBS Evening News; he’s the founder/owner of Chef Geoff’s Deluxe Hospitality
Where they currently live: DC
How they met: Geoff spotted Norah in line at the New South cafeteria during their first week as freshmen at Georgetown University. “I was with a buddy and we both noticed her,” he says. “We egregiously cut the line and introduced ourselves to Norah and her roommate. It was a bold move. But, hey…almost 30 years later, three kids, and a dog, I stand on my record. Without a doubt the most influential day of my life.”
Norah’s first impression: “We were instantly great friends, but I had no idea he had a crush on me!”
Geoff’s first impression: “I instantly had a great crush on her and I wasn’t going to give up on it. She was the most beautiful person I had ever seen. Still is.”
Their first date: “Not sure about first date,” says Geoff, “but first kiss was October 4, 1991 at 11:53 PM after a lively night at the Dubliner with a great group of friends.”
The proposal: After almost 10 years of dating, Geoff popped the question at French Laundry in Napa Valley. “Geoff surprised me in the restaurant’s outdoor garden after some champagne,” Norah recalls. “Chef Keller sent out 20 courses as a celebration and we both agreed we’d never been happier or ate more food in our life!”


Lonnie G. Bunch III and Maria Marable-Bunch

Years together: 42
Occupations: Lonnie is the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution; Maria Marable-Bunch is the associate director for museum learning and programs at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.
Where they currently live: Shepherd Park
How they met: Forty-two years ago—on January 15, 1979, to be exact—at the Air and Space Museum, Lonnie had recently begun his first job as an educator and historian, and Maria, enrolled in the Museum Education program at GW, was on her first day as an intern. “I had been traveling and upon my return a colleague asked if I had met the new intern,” Lonnie recalls. “I immediately offered to share my wisdom about museums, which was about six months worth of experience, not knowing that she had worked in and studied museums for years. From that casual meeting, one could never have imagined how relationships with Maria and with the Smithsonian would transform my life.”
Lonnie’s first impression: “I was struck by her confidence, knowledge, and, of course, beauty. We had a wonderful conversation about culture and the changing gender roles and she schooled me about museums.”
Maria’s first impression: “Lonnie was polite and I could tell immediately he was very smart. However, there was not much he could tell me about museums. I had already had a budding career in the profession. He tried to impress, and I let him try, as I soaked in his limited wisdom.”
Their first date: Tony Cheng, a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown. “I had thought to ask her to have dinner at my apartment but since the only thing I could cook was quiche Lorraine, I opted for Chinatown.” The two were married the following year.

Sarah Gordon and Sheila Fain

Years together: 13.5
Occupations: The couple are co-founders of the DC-based company Gordy’s Pickle Jar, which carries pickles and other fermented products.
Where they currently live: Northwest DC
How they met: The two were hanging out in the basement champagne room of Napoleon Bistro in Adams Morgan, which is now the Afghan restaurant Lapis. Sarah was having a drink with a friend, and, out of nowhere, Sheila approached her. “Look at that smile,” Sarah remembers Sheila saying to her. “So I just kept smiling.”
Sarah’s first impression: “Who is this woman?”
Sheila’s first impression: “I love her smile.”
Their first date: Eighteenth Street Lounge. “Sheila loves house music, and the legendary Sam ‘The Man’ Burns throws a house party there every Sunday, so I joined her,” says Sarah. “It was the first of many Sundays at the Lounge.”
How they got engaged: The couple, now married with a 14-month-old baby named Henri, were together for eight years before getting engaged. On a trip to Chicago, Sarah proposed in front of St. James Chapel as the couple was walking down Rush Street.

Ali Vitali and Jeremy Diamond

Years together: Almost four
Occupations: Ali is a political reporter for NBC; Jeremy is a White House correspondent at CNN.
Where they currently live: The U Street neighborhood, where they’re “happily co-habitating and only occasionally using our second bedroom as an escape room,” says Jeremy.
How they met: While covering the President on the road, the duo met at a Trump rally in Iowa.
Ali’s first impression: “What’s a nice way to say not favorable? Haha, I thought he was very cute. We’ll leave it at that.”
Jeremy’s first impression: “I thought she was beautiful and spunky, but I’ll admit, I first mainly saw her as someone who would be a tough competitor covering the Trump campaign. Romance came later.”
Their first date: Dating on the campaign trail can be complicated, but the duo hung out alone for the first time when Ali flew from Iowa to New Hampshire after the 2016 caucus. Jeremy was already in New Hampshire, and asked Ali if she wanted to grab breakfast. She was exhausted, but acquiesced. “He picked me up at the Homewood Suites in Manchester, and proceeded to bring me to breakfast…in Massachusetts, 30 minutes away!” (Jeremy clarifies: “To be clear, the diner in question was worth the drive.”) The conversation flowed easily, and somehow managed to not be dictated by politics. “I just loved how simple it was to be with him,” says Ali.
On falling in love: “Falling in love on the campaign trail was mostly about a collection of moments—a knowing glance during a rally, a bout of hysterical laughter shared during a drive to a rally in Las Vegas, or drinks shared at a now-favorite wine bar in Charleston—all pieced together over several months,” says Jeremy. “Ultimately, we fell in love in the strangest way: driving across the country together, from one Trump rally to the next.”

Virginia Arrisueño and Kelly Towles

Years together: 19
Occupations: Virginia is the creative director and owner of local store Steadfast Supply; Kelly is a muralist and painter.
Where they currently live: DC
How they met: In 1998, Virginia spied Kelly going into his art studio one day while they were students at the University of Maryland, but she initially thought he was too cool for her. They didn’t hit it off as friends until Kelly was the teaching assistant in her Intro to Sculpture class. A few years later, they officially started dating in 2001. “Kelly will say that he made the first move…lie,” says Virginia.
Virginia’s first impression: “I thought that he was very cute.”
Kelly’s first impression: “That she was way out of my league.”
Their first date: The couple drove into the city to go to the Diner in Adams Morgan, and dated for ten years before getting engaged. They now have an 8-year-old son and a dog.

Tom Noll and Jose Alberto Uclés 

Years together: 14
Occupations: Tom is a children’s book author, sculptor, and artist; Jose, who goes by Alberto, is a public affairs specialist at the US Department of Transportation/NHTSA and Commissioner in the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities.
Where they currently live: Bloomingdale
How they met: At a mutual friends’ summer garden soiree in upper Wisconsin Avenue on July 19, 2006—the event was a birthday party that doubled as a fundraiser for the Washington Ballet. The two connected, they say, over their shared love of the arts, culture, fashion, and being involved.
Alberto’s first impression: “I saw Tom first when I walked in as he stands at 6’5″ and was well-dressed and groomed. He seemed shy, but with a wonderful smile and warm demeanor when I introduced myself. We hit it off and talked for quite a while.”
Tom’s first impression: “Alberto seemed to know about everyone there and seemed friendly, but I thought he seemed forward and too sure about himself. Funny, as that is what I later found attractive. We chatted for a while even though we kept getting interrupted by friends of his.”
Their first date: The morning after the party. “I found Tom so very interesting,” Alberto says. “I wanted to know more about him, so I invited him to brunch at Beacon Bar & Grill, and then for a walk through the National Gallery of Art sculpture garden and ice rink.” When he got home, Tom called Alberto to thank him for the date and invited him to dinner the following Wednesday at Prime Rib.
The proposal: Two-and-a-half years later at the opening night of the New Ziegfeld’s Drag Club, Alberto popped the question. “With iconic drag personality Ella Fitzgerald making the intros, I surprised Tom, ring in-hand, in front of friends and tons of strangers. The place went wild clapping and the DJ played Beyoncé’s ‘Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)’ as every danced and we got bubbly.”
The wedding: “On August 19, 2013, we had our courthouse wedding followed by a small reception of 25 close friends at Oya restaurant,” recalls Tom. The following December, they had a “blessing ceremony” at their home garden, tented, with more than 100 friends to celebrate.

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Sara Azani and Arash Shirazi 

Years together: Six
Occupations: She’s an entrepreneur and social media expert (@sara.azani); he’s the CEO and music agent of the Bullitt Agency
Where they live: Potomac
How they met: Sara and Arash met at the Hotel Renaissance at a rooftop party hosted by Brand Guild. Sara’s friend thought Arash’s friend was cute and wanted to go chat with them. Sara says she was “so over the dating scene and meeting new people, but agreed to wing-woman” her friend. Arash was immediately smitten—his interest was even more piqued when Sara told him she was Persian and he learned they shared the same cultural background. After five minutes of chatting he asked her out for kabobs, which caught Sara off guard. “I said, ‘What makes you think I like kabobs? Just because I’m Persian?’ It was quite the comical exchange,” she says. (“I explained that our Persian lineage mandated that we eat kabobs with family at least once a week, and she would inevitably go to a dinner that served kabobs in the subsequent week,” Arash adds.) Kabobs aside, they exchanged numbers and Arash contacted her the next day to set up a date.
Sara’s first impression: “I thought he was arrogant and charming. He seemed a little too confident for my liking, but I [also] saw something in him that I liked.”
Arash’s first impression: “Stunning and smart. I knew she had a line of guys at her door. She worked at the Pentagon at the time, so I was a little intimidated.”
Their first date: Sara had a policy of never doing dinner for first dates, and agreed instead to meet at a wine bar in Bethesda. Arash was 30 minutes late, but must have pulled it together because after just seven months of dating, Arash proposed at the Lincoln Memorial (with the help of TAA PR and event planner Andre Wells), and Sara said yes.

This interviews have been edited and condensed. 

Mimi Montgomery Washingtonian
Home & Features Editor

Mimi Montgomery joined Washingtonian in 2018. She’s written for The Washington Post, Garden & Gun, Outside Magazine, Washington City Paper, DCist, and PoPVille. Originally from North Carolina, she now lives in Del Ray.

Amy Moeller
Fashion & Weddings Editor

Amy leads Washingtonian Weddings and writes Style Setters for Washingtonian. Prior to joining Washingtonian in March 2016, she was the editor of Capitol File magazine in DC and before that, editor of What’s Up? Weddings in Annapolis.