Ever since they met at Visitas, Isabel Espinosa Moguel ’18 and Christian A. D. Schatz ’18 have walked similar paths.
They’re both music lovers. Espinosa remembers being impressed that Schatz played guitar in a mariachi band during their freshman year. “He knew all of these songs that my parents know,” she recalled. “We would bond over a mix of Mexican folk music and American folk music.”
They’re also linkmates and members of the same Christian fellowship. In fact, their friends often joke that Espinosa and Schatz are analogous versions of one another in their respective blocking groups. “We were always really comfortable around each other,” Espinosa said. “Both kind of goofy and silly, with the same sense of humor.”
Still, neither thought they’d date in college. They barely saw each other during their sophomore year, when Schatz was a member of the varsity crew team. By junior year, though, Schatz had decided that he was ready to shift his priorities and leave the team. “I think it was within a month that I asked her out,” he recalled.
The couple started talking about marriage early on. “We both have a very marriage-oriented idea of dating that’s consistent with our faith, which is really central to our relationship,” Espinosa said. But she wasn’t expecting Schatz’s proposal to come as a surprise. “He’s historically really bad at keeping secrets,” she said. “So I was like, ‘When it comes, I’m totally gonna know. He’ll be a nervous wreck. He’s not gonna be able to do it.’ And he really surprised me.”
The surprise came during a group visit to Walden Pond this spring. Schatz had coordinated ahead of time with their mutual friends. “I knew I wanted our friends to be very present in it,” he said. When Espinosa arrived at the pond, she found a series of hand-painted cards representing different moments in the couple’s relationship. The trail led to a bouquet of flowers, a letter—and Schatz.
“On the way, there were friends coming out of the bushes, people who ‘couldn’t go,’” Espinosa laughed. “It was sweet, but also really funny.”
The couple hasn’t finalized a date for the wedding yet. Both are heading to the United Kingdom next year to enroll in master’s programs—Espinosa in migration studies at the University of Oxford, Schatz in cultural geography at the University of Cambridge—and they’re planning to wed either before heading over, or during the winter break.
Schatz and Espinosa agree that their friend group has been as vital to their relationship as it was to the proposal. “Harvard was super hard, and we honestly could not have done it without our blocking and linking group and Christian fellowship,” Espinosa said. “I think our relationship, and marriage, will be a reflection of that.”
—Staff writer Nathan A. Cummings can be reached at email@example.com.
From day one, W. Connor Roberts ’18 and Maria McLaughlin Roberts ’18 have been getting the numbers to work. Connor, a Statistics concentrator, and Maria, who studied Computer Science, met at the Math Question Center during their first week of classes freshman year, puzzling out problems from Math 1a: “Introduction to Calculus” and ultimately joining the same study group for the class.
Though they survived first-year mathematics, the two would have to contend with other daunting figures before their friendly freshman study partnership became a young marriage this past December.
Take 3,395, for instance. That’s the number of miles separating Connor’s hometown of Toccoa, Ga. and Maria’s in Anchorage, Alaska. Or one in 12, the chances that the two would be put in the same house, where their habit of grabbing breakfast together in the dining hall eventually inspired their first official date in the spring of their sophomore year. For Connor, the most intimidating number might have been a large looming zero—the number of Maria’s former flames that had won her father’s approval.
“A lot of things had to happen to cause someone from Anchorage and someone from Toccoa to converge together at Harvard,” Connor said.
“I’ll just say we’re really lucky to have met each other,” Maria added.
They had a little help along the way. Maria and Connor credit Marlee E. Sabatino ’18, Maria’s freshman year roommate and another member of the Math 1a study group, with introducing them. Connor’s freshman year roommate O. Cole Whetstone ’18 served as confidante and consigliere to both Maria and Connor as they tried to gauge the other’s interest during freshman year.
Still, it wasn’t until sophomore spring that they finally “got sick of being just friends,” Maria said. On March 25 of that year, the pair went to the Harvard Square IHOP, a nod to their tradition of eating breakfast together in Dunster dining hall. Though they went late in the evening, it served as a literal breakfast for Maria, a Catholic, who was fasting for Good Friday. (The couple credit their faith with bringing them together. Maria said Connor, a Southern Baptist, had been raised in the same “church on Sunday, praying with your parents” environment that she was familiar with.)
Once they were dating, the pair found bridging the gulf between Georgia and Alaska relatively easy.
“People from Georgia and Alaska are kind of crazy in the same way,” Connor said. “Her family trudges around in camouflage pants and flies planes and hunts and fishes, and my family fishes and is outside all the time [too].”
Maria was also unconcerned about how her father, himself a Harvard grad who works in finance, would react to Connor, even though he had disapproved of many of her former dates. (Connor was on the board of the Harvard Financial Analysts Club.)
“I knew Connor wouldn’t be too intimidated by him,” Maria said. “I just felt like they were similar people so they’d get along really well.”
The couple got engaged in the Spring of 2017, on a trip to the North End that emulated their second date. Their marriage in December in Sea Island, Ga. featured several Harvard classmates—Kevin S. Xie ’18 and Mark R. Whittaker ’18 were among Connor’s groomsmen and Sabatino and Elena M. Breer ’18 were bridesmaids.
Since their marriage, the couple have been living in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood. Connor, who graduated a semester early, has been working while Maria finishes her studies. After graduation, the two will move to New York, where Connor will start a job in private equity and Maria will work in software engineering. Eventually they hope to settle down in Georgia and raise a family.
“Looking back on it, it’s like ‘yeah, it is kind of crazy that we got married in college,’ and yes, it is young, and yes, it is an exception to the rule,” Connor said. “But also you wouldn’t make that exception to the rule unless it felt perfectly natural and you knew that’s what you wanted to do.”
—Staff writer C. Ramsey Fahs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Julia T. Thomas ’17 remembers the moment she first laid eyes on Benjamin N. Iuliano ’18. The scene was their middle school’s cafeteria.
“It’s not exactly the most romantic locale, but I remember looking at him and liking him immediately,” Thomas said. “I think I’ve had a crush on him since I was 11 years old, give or take.”
In the fall of 2009, the Sudbury, Mass. natives’ freshman year of high school, the two went to their school’s first football game. Iuliano, who had had a crush on Thomas for a while, “figured it was pretty much now or never” and asked her out on a date.
She told him she’d think about it.
“I said yes pretty quickly [after that],” Thomas said. “It was more that I just didn’t think he liked me, and so I was shocked.”
“I was prepared for a yes or a no, I wasn’t prepared for a maybe,” Iuliano joked.
Despite the halting start, the pair went on their first date about a week later, watching Ricky Gervais’ “The Invention of Lying” at the Framingham AMC.
Though the movie itself was “not that memorable,” Iuliano distinctly remembers agonizing over whether or not to hold Thomas’ hand.
“I was way too nervous to do it until like right at the end,” Iuliano said.
Eight years after that first date, Iuliano brought Thomas back to their high school’s football field. This time, Iuliano asked Thomas a much bigger question: Would she marry him?
“I said yes this time. I didn’t give him a maybe,” Thomas quipped.
The intervening eight years between that first football field question and the last saw the couple move from Sudbury to Cambridge, growing up together along the way.
For the first years of their relationship, the two lived out a charmingly high school romance, frequenting the Framingham AMC movie theater, spending time at local points of interest like the Grist Mill in Sudbury, and attending their high school prom together. Thomas often went to Iuliano’s wrestling matches, including a nerve-racking overtime win against their rival school’s team.
“He was really quite good, but it stressed me out to no end watching him,” Thomas said.
The two both got into Harvard, though Iuliano took a gap year before matriculating. Thomas hosted him for Visitas during his gap year, making Iuliano perhaps the only Visitas attendee to propose to his host.
At Harvard, the couple stopped going on movie dates so frequently, preferring to explore Boston’s North End (the restaurant Cantina Italiana was their special spot) or simply keep each other company around campus.
“We just really enjoyed being around each other constantly. It was nice being able to eat dinner together a lot...that more casual stuff was nice,” Thomas said.
The two had talked about marriage for some time, so Thomas had some indication of what was coming when Iuliano suggested they recreate pictures from their early relationship on a day out in Sudbury last December. They revisited the Framingham AMC, the Grist Mill, and other local spots. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate.
“It started hailing, pretty much. It was like ice, rain, and snow, and it was just miserable and cold but we still went out anyway,” Iuliano said.
“We had so much fun. It was awful, but it was so much fun,” Thomas added.
The hail finally abated for the final stop, the football field where Iuliano popped the question. The engagement ring was made from a pair of his grandmother’s earrings repurposed into a matching set of engagement rings for Iuliano and his brother. (Iuliano’s brother also married his high school sweetheart.)
“I was blown away that day. It was like an out of body experience, it was so wonderful,” Thomas remembered.
After graduation, Iuliano will join Thomas in Wisconsin, where he will be working for a video game company and she is completing a Ph.D. in Sociology. The two plan to get married in Memorial Church.
—Staff writer C. Ramsey Fahs can be reached at email@example.com.
When Hassaan Shahawy ’16 proposed to Iman A. Masmoudi ’18, he shared a lesson his uncle once taught him. When deciding whether or not to marry someone, his uncle had advised, picture yourself starting a family then dying young, leaving your children in your partner’s hands. “Do you feel full certainty that that other person, without you being there, will raise your kids in the way that you want them to be raised?” Masmoudi said. “Will they be able to pass on all the character traits and values that you hold dear?” For both Masmoudi and Shahawy, the answer was an enthusiastic yes.
The two were friends first. They met at a froyo-centric Freshman Welcome event organized by the Harvard Islamic Society in the fall of 2014, and quickly developed an easy camaraderie. Then, in late February, Masmoudi took the plunge. “We were having conversation and I asked him, ‘That’s cool. How do you feel about me?’” she recalled. Shahawy struggled to respond at first, but “a week later, he had a whole speech about how he was sure he wanted to marry me.”
Shahawy more formally proposed in the fall of 2016, about two years after they first met. Masmoudi said yes.
Yet that fall marked more than one big change for the couple: Shahawy, a Rhodes Scholar, moved to the United Kingdom to begin a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies at the University of Oxford, while Masmoudi continued to work toward her undergraduate degree at Harvard. They manage the distance by watching virtually-synced movies together and Skyping regularly.
In a sense, the two are already married: They made their religious commitments and signed the legal documents at a very small ceremony last December. But they’re not done marrying yet. Masmoudi will travel to Tunisia to celebrate with her extended family and some of Shahawy’s Egyptian cousins in August, and the two will host a wedding in Los Angeles in September.
Post-nuptials, Shahawy will complete his Ph.D. and Masmoudi will divide her time between the U.K. and Tunisia as she works with a rural women’s cooperative that aims to create jobs for Tunisian craftswomen. They will set up a home together and try to cohabitate at least part of the time. In general, they are optimistic.
Yet Masmoudi has one lingering concern about the match. “He can’t tell the difference between real and fake flowers,” she said. “He just has no way of telling. One time, he brought me a rose and he was like ‘I’m so sorry. I thought it was real from a distance, but it’s actually a fake rose. I’m really sorry.’ Then I touched it and I was like, ‘This is a real rose. What’s wrong with you?’”
—Staff writer Laura E. Hatt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The first time Bassel C. Ghaddar tried to become Facebook friends with Sarah D. Mokh ’18, in the fall of 2015, she turned him down. They belonged to the same Boston-area Muslim group chat, but Ghaddar wasn’t an active member at the time and Mokh didn’t recognize his name. In fact, when they met at a group dinner a week later, she called him out for the random request, asking, “Do you typically add girls you don’t know on Facebook?” The words came out harsh. Both figured the relationship was over before it began.
Yet their paths continued to cross, thanks to the group chat, and they began to talk more and more. Mokh was a Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations concentrator with a focus on Islamic societies; Ghaddar, then a recent graduate of Tufts University, asked her for a reading list. They met up to discuss a particularly tough readings at Mount Auburn Cemetery. As Mokh recalled, “We ended up having such a good time that we never ended up discussing it. We walked through the cemetery for maybe four or five hours. I ended up skipping my section that afternoon.”
Propelled by a shared enthusiasm for the outdoors and each other, they began to organize frequent hiking dates. “We really love to set out early morning, spend the day on the mountain, have lunch at the summit, and then trek down,” Mokh said. The White Mountains, in New Hampshire, host some of their favorite peaks.
Before long, the two began to discuss the possibility of marriage. “There was never a formal proposal,” Mokh said. “We’re both Muslim and we’re both pretty traditional. Within the first few months, by the time we had the conversation that we were interested in each other and wanted to make things ‘serious,’ we both had the understanding that if it worked out it would eventually culminate in marriage.”
Still, there were a few early roadblocks. Their families worried that they might be too young for marriage, and wedding logistics were complicated by time-consuming and uncertain medical and graduate school applications. Happily, their families eventually came around, and admissions committees smiled on the match: Ghaddar began a MD/Ph.D. program at Rutgers University and Princeton University last fall, and Mokh will soon begin a master’s program in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University, just a commute away.
Mokh and Ghaddar will wed in Boston this July.
—Staff writer Laura E. Hatt can be reached at email@example.com.