"When you're talking about getting married, you're living in two worlds," Jamie Potts, a senior in Lowell House, says. "That's what an engagement is--it's going public. Until you go public, you can't talk about it with others."
"We had friends who would ask, 'How are you,' in a nice plural sense; it was very probing," says Andrew Wolfe, a senior from Leverett House. Andrew and Jamie will be married on June 25 in Cleveland, where Jamie's family lives in a closely-knit Slavinian community.
"It means nothing to say. 'Well, we're going to get married,' unless you say, 'We're engaged.' Otherwise you're just playing around," Andrew says. "It makes it easier for our friends to deal with us. It makes our position clearer."
"There was a lot of tension, but the engagement ended it," Jamie agrees. "I'm glad we didn't wait longer."
The couple had originally planned to wait until Thanks giving of their junior year to get engaged; they met as freshman in Thayer North and started dating seriously that spring.
By December of their sophomore year, "we had a mutual understanding," Andrew recalls. But after Christmas, they stayed away from each other for about two weeks.
"It's hardest on the brink," Jamie says. "As you approach that, all your crises, all your considerations, begin hitting you at once. You have to start thinking about those things at once." They were engaged on January 31.
While Andrew and Jamie say they generally share similar views, they note that the reasons often vary. The issue of religious practice (both are Roman Catholics) provides a good example, Jamie says.
"I believe in obedience to higher ideals; I don't believe in monogrammed gods," she says.
"I take the teachings of the church very seriously," Andrew explains.
As a result, Jamie says. "We're both virgins. For Andrew, chastity is for obedience. For me, chastity is for purity. They're consistent, but the theme is different."
"I can feel as many urges as I want, but I consider otherwordly things to be more important.." Andrew says, "I don't intend to say, 'Yes, I value the Church,' and then break one of its least disputable rules."
For similar reasons, they never considered living together. Jamie says, "Marriage is a sacrimental grace, and if you're living together, you don't have that grace."
"In a way, living together would be a step backward." Andrew adds. "You're saying, 'Okay, we have a way out.'"
Jamie's responses 1 Sibley (Sibley): 2 Authority-manger (Not meeting my own standards), 3 Masterpiece Theater (Nova). 4 Air Force Pilot (Solon), 5 Tunisia (Tunisia).
Andrew's responses: 1. Pretnar (Pretnar); 2. Being rejected by a group (Morally intolerant); 3. Guiding Light (no favorite show); 4. To be Aristotle (great author), 5 Greece (lstanbul) Total 3 correct.
For many freshmen couples, the first romance lasts as long as Freshman Week.
But for Conrad Olson and Cheryl Barrell, who are both seniors now, first romance has turned into a lifetime commitment.
"We were both living in Hollis," Conrad says, "and we started going out in November. From there we blocked together and both moved into North House."
"The only time we've really been separated for a long period," Conrad continues, "was during our first two summers apart. But in the summer of our junior year, her parents moved to my hometown--San Diego--and we both end up working on the same campus at the same university and in the same building, at the University of California."
"We've talked about practically every topic," Cheryl, a native of Chicago, says, "and we do most things together."
"But, we never talked about marriage," Cheryl says. "It was something that was always in the back of our minds but we never needed to say anything about it."
In fact the couple, who will be married on August 6, agree on "just about every subject," she says. "You'd have to look pretty hard to find something that we disagree on."
They agree that they will live in a warm climate, most likely in California, and they both want to teach at the college level. They've both done research in psychology, even though Conrad in majoring in English. "English isn't a very marketable skill," he says.
They agree that they will "expect to raise I good number of children," as Cheryl says, "but we also want to take it as it comes. We'll see how many we can afford."
"We'll both put in equal time," Conrad agrees. "It wouldn't be fair to have her raise 19 children while I go about my business."
Although Conrad is Catholic and Cheryl is Protestant, they "will probably raise the children as Protestants," Conrad says. "Also Cheryl's father is a Protestant minister, so he will first walk her down the aisle and then he will switch his position and marry us."
"We've been together for a long time," Conrad says, "and marriage seems to be the natural progression in our relationship. But there was no question since our freshman year that I'd marry her."
Cheryl's responses: 1. No answer (Williams): 2. Too critical (orderliness); 3 Bugs Bunny (old movies); 4. English professor (take a vacation); 5 Germany (Germany).
Conrad's responses: 1. Middleton (Middleton); 2 Shyness (shyness); 3 Old movies (old movies); 4. No answer (make a successful wedding); 5. England (England); Total; 5 correct.
Even though they had hinted a lot about the possibility, Martha was "incapable of making this decision," when John finally proposed to her in February.
"So I called everyone I knew. My phone bill was incredible," she recalls. "I had been keeping it under wraps until then. I called my sister, my mother and said. 'Here are my options.' They all said. 'Go for it.' I was very happy after that. It was unanimous."
Martha Nimbly, a sophomore living in South House, and John Beck, a senior in North House, plan a June 21 wedding in their hometown of Provo. Utah They are both practicing Mormons.
"We both wanted to marry another Mormon." John says. "There are 20 undergraduates here who are Motmons--five of them are women. You can't help but rate the five."
Martha agrees that "all the Mormon men are kind of thinking in those terms. The men approach me in a completely different way now. Now, I'm a good buddy and they tell me about their girlfriends. Before they never told me a thing."
"Most of the men have been on missions." John explains." The next step in life is getting married."
John's mission took him to Singapore, and next year he'll be returning there on a Rotary Scholarship to study sociology. So that she could go with him. Martha has switched her major from psychology to East Asian Studies. They both plan to earn PhD's. John hopes to teach in a public high school someday and Martha, after completing her studies at Harvard, would like to teach in a college.
About 700 people are expected at their wedding reception, following a service for 50 to 60 practicing Mormons. But John jokes that over spring break, they almost eloped". See before marriage has been ruled out by Mormon teachings and that makes us want to move up our wedding date a little," he says.
In Provo, John and Martha had many mutual high school friends, but they weren't sweethearts. John had another serious girlfriend at that time, and Martha says she thought they were both "terrible people."
"He was student body president in high school." Martha says, and she was student body president of another high school. My closest friend was his close mutual friend, and I would hear all these things about them."
"This year (at Harvard) we started talking, and we had conversations where we would just agree totally for seven hours." Martha says. "I had never agreed with someone on so many things before."
While they consider themselves "staunch doctrinal Mormons," Martha and John say they do not abide by the male-dominated culture that has grown up around Mormon teachings. "I wouldn't mind spending half or all my time at home," John says.
Martha responses 1 No answer (Ellison). 2. Rules (too practical). 3. Johnny Carson (Johnny Carson) 4. Solve juvenile delinquency (high school teacher). 5. Singapore (Singapore) John's responses 1. Draper (Draper) 2. Spoons (perfectionism) 3 M'A'S'H (any wildlife documentary) 4 College professor (artist); 5. Yugoslavia (Yugoslavia) Total 4 correct.
Vincent Vann, who is of Cuban ancestry and grew up in New Jersey, says his children will be bilingual. "I am going to raise them speaking Spanish and English."
Anna Wang, who is of Chinese ancestry and was raised in Ohio, says her children will learn Chinese along with English.
The Leverett House seniors, who will be married this summer, agree that their mixed backgrounds have made them an "interesting match." "It has not caused us any trouble in our relationship," Vincent says.
But, they don't seem to agree on much else. Vincent "We will definitely have two children," Anna: "Three children for sure."
Vincent: "I want to live where it's warm and where there's plenty of sunshine and nice weather." Anna "I want to live in the Northeast, preferably Boston."
Vincent: "When we met at Leverett House a year ago, it was love at first sight." "Not for me," says Anna.
Whether it was love at first sight or not, the pair got to know each other in Math 21 A. Vincent says. "Math 21B," according to Anna.
Most importantly, the couple concurs that they will be married soon after graduation, which is approximately one year since Vincent proposed. "Last summer after I thought about it for a while. I decided to call her up and ask her," he says. "She was silent on her end of the phone for about 10 minutes I thought she was dead. The next thing I said was, 'Anna are you alive?'"
After the marriage Vincent hopes to study medicine "Eventually, I plan to be a rich doctor with a yacht in the backyard." Anna say that he also wants to own a condo in the Florida Keys. She plans to study neurobiology.
At the moment, however, neither are sure where they will attend graduate school, and they are trying to decide whether to hold the marriage ceremony in a church or in Leverett House.
Despite their statements, they claim that they have very few strong differences. "Actually," says Anna. "we are a lot luckier than most people in that we were able to find another person."
Anna's responses: 1. No answer (Unutia); 2. Uncleanlinese (Neatness); 3. No favorite show (Quincy); 4. Own a Florida condominium (Retire in South); 5. Spain (Acapulco).
Vincent's responses: 1. No answer (Lin); 2. Too neat (waiting); 3. Saturday Night Live (No favorite show); 4. To share in my medical profession (none); 5. Talwan (Talwan). Total: 3 correct.
After screening about three dozen soon-to-be-married Harvard couples. Crimson reporters Christopher J. Georges and Andrew C. Korn selected four of them for this article.