Ian Li and Brent Halsey
March 25, 2017, in Philadelphia
The sorority sisters they escorted to a fall 2010 Duke University formal were roommates, so Ian and Brent were seated at the same table. Ian saw potential. "I pursued Brent a little bit," he said. "And he wasn't very interested."
That's not exactly true, Brent said. He's just always liked to get to know someone before dating him. "There was no issue in terms of attraction," he said. "I wanted to take it slowly."
Part of Ian's hurry to get to know this handsome man who listened intently to what everyone had to say was that they had so little time left. The second semester of their senior year would soon start. "I showed him how charming, nice, impressive I could be," Ian said. "I tried very hard."
At first, they spent time together with a group of friends, going to college bars and the like.
"It was when we started hanging out in the daytime -- when we had study dates together, and were talking online -- that I got to know him in a more personal sense," Brent said.
Brent, who is now a third-year med student at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, and Ian, who works in finance for 1315 Capital, a health care growth-equity fund, returned to their families for holiday break. Just before they returned to campus, the two caught up electronically, and Ian tried again: "We should try to see where this goes," he said. "OK, yes," Brent said. "Let's try."
On their first date, Ian, who grew up in Merrick, N.Y., learned that he loved Thai food. "I was not very adventurous in my food choices," he said. "Before our relationship, all he ate was Chipotle," Brent, a native of Richmond, Va., said with a laugh.
By the end of the semester, "we were pretty serious," Brent said.
The men say they are quite different. Ian is a highly social city guy who loves a crowd. "When I have an idea in my head, I'm very direct, and I don't like to dilly-dally." The downside is a need for control. Brent is more Southern gentlemen in temperament and likes to mull things over before making a move. The downside is he sometimes lacks confidence to act.
Together, they balance each other. "He allows me to be the best version of myself. He is always super-supportive, and I love that," said Ian.
"Ian supports me and gives me confidence," said Brent. "And we can be weird with each other, have fun, and go out and be social. We have the full range of positive things."
After graduation, Ian landed a health care consulting job in New York, eventually working for Cap Gemini Consulting. Brent thought he would do post-baccalaureate study in Richmond. Ian persuaded him to go for Columbia University, and he got in. After a couple of years working in an endocrinologist's office in New York, Brent was accepted to Temple's medical school. Ian found his current job, and, in 2014, they moved to Philadelphia. The couple live in Rittenhouse Square.
They love to travel. They've been to Italy, Switzerland, Jordan, and Hong Kong, where Ian's family is from, to name a few places. Ian did all the planning. Then, in late 2015, Brent said that he wanted to visit New Orleans, and that this time, he would plan the whole thing.
On a Saturday, they had brunch in the French Quarter and then went to City Park to take in the pond, the bridges, the sculpture garden, the trees dripping with Spanish moss. They took a break in a gazebo.
"We were just hanging out and chatting, and then he starts being really weird," Ian said. "He said, 'Do you know the reasons why I love you? Let me tell you.' I'm not into public displays of affection, and I said, 'You can tell me later in privacy.' "
Brent hesitated, just for a moment.
"I had to pick the spot in advance, and I wanted a place that would look pretty in pictures," he said. "I did not know there was literally a coffee shop on one end and a playground on the other. It was packed with people."
He told his internal dialogue to hush up, then he stood and delivered his reasons for loving Ian speech-style.
"When I realized he was proposing, I felt like such a jerk," Ian said. "I said yes, and I was so happy. And then I realized a photographer had captured the whole thing."
Mr. I-Don't-Like-PDAs even kissed his new fiancé in public.
The couple, both now 27, took their vows in the Franklin Institute's Fels Planetarium, beneath a projection of a giant moon and the stars as the heavens appeared on the night of their engagement.
Ian's mom, Phyllis, walked him down the aisle for the ceremony officiated by the Rev. Kathleen Spicer. Ian's sister Ina and Brent's twin sister, Ali, were maids of honor. Eight other groomsmaids and eight groomsmen rounded out the wedding party. The sisters and the couple's friend Metty did readings from Maya Angelou, I Corinthians, and Plato.
"I promised that I would always be grateful for his love," Ian said. "I can't believe I got to marry him, and I promised that I would wake up every day striving to be worthy of his love."
"I promised that I would always be there to support him with my love and affection," Brent said. "He's made me step into myself and be more confident. His confidence transferred to me, and I want to do that for him, too."
After cocktails in the brain exhibit, a reception for 260 was held in Franklin Hall. "It was a beautiful space ... with a giant statute of Ben Franklin watching over us," Ian said. "That was really cool."
Brent and his mom, Corell, danced to "You Are My Sunshine," which segued into "Devil in a Blue Dress." Because Corell's also a Duke alum, the guests loved it.
The grooms distributed more than 200 pairs of $2 sunglasses that said "I (Philly LOVE sculpture) Ian and Brent" on them -- a nod to Manhattan nightclub giveaways.
The couple's first dance started slow, with Clean Bandit and Jess Glynne's "Rather Be." "The majority of the time, I was fixated on Brent, but out of the corner of my eye, I could see the wedding party singing along, and people were crying," Ian said. "It was so encouraging and touching to see so much love and support for us." It was one of Brent's favorite moments, too. "Walking out onto the dance floor and having everyone cheering for us -- I am not the type of person to ham it up to the crowd, but being in that situation, and feeling that love from everyone, it made me want to do things that would make them cheer."
A bargain: The groomsmaids' bouquets were single white roses, which were in keeping with the simple elegance the couple were going for.
The splurge: Custom invitations designed by Casa Papel to look like an award show or Fashion Week invite, "something that looks so cool," Brent said, "you'd want to keep it."
A week in St. Lucia in early May -- after Brent's U.S. Medical Licensing Examination.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Ceremony Venue: Fels Planetarium, the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia.
Reception Venue: Franklin Hall, the Franklin Institute.
Food: Frog Commissary, Philadelphia.
Music: Barcelona, EBE Entertainment, Philadelphia.
Photography: Twisted Oaks, Philadelphia.
Videography: CinemaCake, Conshohocken.
Flowers: Beautiful Blooms, Philadelphia.
Brent's attire: Tux by Indochino, shirt by Hugo Boss, cuff links by Gucci, bow tie by Lanvin, shoes by Yves Saint Laurent.
Ian's attire: Same as Brent's, except shoes by Christian Louboutin.