Christina Gagnier and Abe Dyk
November 11, 2017, in Philadelphia
Relaxing in the lobby of the Ritz Carlton after night three of the July 2016 Democratic National Convention, Abe saw a woman walking toward him with a tiny issue he thought she'd want to know about.
"Excuse me," he said when Christina got closer. Then he whispered: "You have lipstick on your teeth."
She liked the polite way this stranger had helped her out and also immediately pegged him as an interesting character — her favorite kind. Christina jumped up on the ledge where Abe sat, and conversation flowed.
Abe, who grew up in Washington, was working at the convention, he told her. He's a political consultant and partner at MVAR Media in Alexandria, Va., and a law student at New York University. Christina, who grew up in Chino, Calif., is a partner at San Francisco technology law firm Gagnier Margossian LLP and also teaches law at the University of California. She and a few friends had spontaneously flown to Philadelphia to take part in the excitement, she said.
Three hours later, with everything shutting down around them, Christina gave Abe her card.
The next day, he emailed, offering Christina a pass to the convention's final evening. A few hours after the acceptance speech and balloon drop, she texted, "What are you up to?" He was again at the Ritz, celebrating with a group of convention staff members. She joined him, and again they talked for hours — not just about convention events and politics, but about her family and his, and all in their lives that had led them to share similar political views.
"I don't think I've ever met anybody with so much self-confidence in my life," Christina said. Abe is also "funny and gregarious — I found him really intriguing."
Christina is funny, too, Abe said. "She's also really smart, and just really interesting to talk to. She has a lot of opinions on things."
The next day, she was supposed to be on a plane back to San Francisco, and he on a train to D.C. But Abe told Christina he might stay in Philadelphia another day, and Christina agreed that was a great idea. That night was their first real date — dinner at Amada — and it was wonderful.
Back in their very separate realities, chemistry continued in two-hour phone calls. When Christina traveled to New York for work, Abe invited her to dinner at a friend's house. When Abe had a wedding in Santa Barbara, he flew to L.A. a day early, and the two drove to Santa Barbara together. On the drive back, Abe invited Christina to spend Labor Day with him and his parents in New York.
By then, both were hooked. "She is passionate about doing things for other people. She is so generous and caring," said Abe, who studied political science and history at the University of Pennsylvania, and who lived in Queen Village from 2005 through 2009. "Christina has a sharp wit and this ability to really be hilarious, especially when she's making fun of me."
Christina has always looked for someone who could keep up with her high energy, and that is definitely Abe, she said. "It's a challenge — anyone can appreciate this — to find a life partner, someone who shares your values and goals and will be there for you, with whom you will go on a multi-decade adventure," Christina said. "I just felt like Abe was that person."
Besides, she added, it's good to have someone who is willing to carry suitcases and other heavy things.
They saw each other about every other weekend, on his coast or hers.
In the wee hours after the November 2016 presidential election, Abe, who is now 35, and Christina, now 36, tried to process the results by phone. "Times of instability and surprise lead you to perhaps evaluate things that are in your life," Abe said. "When I thought about what was happening in the country and what the future was going to look like, I couldn't imagine going through it without Christina," he said.
He told her as much. She felt the same way. They decided to elope in Vegas. Later that day, after some sleep, the couple opted against eloping but agreed they definitely should get married.
After spending Christmas Eve with her mom, Kathy, and family in California, Christina flew to D.C. to be with Abe and his family. He asked her to go with him to deliver a bottle of wine to his former roommate — who Abe knew wasn't home. On the stairs leading into the apartment complex, he told Christina he loved her and reminisced about their adventures together so far. He fumbled with his phone, trying to get it to play one of Christina's favorite songs, then gave up and knelt.
"Wait, is this happening now?" Christina asked.
"Yes it is!" Abe said.
A stranger also wanted to know if he was seeing what he thought he was seeing. Assured so, he stayed put, so there was one witness as Christina said yes. They called her mom and Abe's parents, Tim and Sally, to share the news. Their new friend did not follow them to the Monaco hotel, where they celebrated with champagne and strawberries.
In January 2017, the couple were back in Philadelphia to ponder wedding venues and participate in the Women's March. They picked Philadelphia because it's where they met, and since Christina lives in California and Abe on the Acela between D.C. and New York, Philadelphia is neutral territory.
"We are some of the only people who decided to have a destination wedding in what turned out to be 39-degree weather," Christina joked.
Their rehearsal dinner was held at the scene of their first date, Amada, and a welcome reception where they met, the Ritz. "We were able to make it be connected to our story," Abe said.
The ceremony was performed by his father, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Because he isn't a Pennsylvania judge, the couple used a self-uniting license. The ceremony was short and sweet, with traditional vows and short statements the couple wrote for each other. The black-tie reception for 225 was held at the Please Touch Museum, and many guests wearing their finery rode carousel horses. "Everybody was being a kid, and just having a really good time," Christina said.
Abe's sister, Deirdre, is battling leukemia. He donated his bone marrow, and she received a transplant in September. With her immunity suppressed, she was not expected to attend the wedding. But Deirdre was determined. "We were taking photos before the ceremony, and in walks this person wearing a surgical mask and a big furry coat," Abe said. "It took me a second to realize it was my sister."
Christina's father, Chris, died when she was 12. Her best friend, Arnab, walked her down the aisle. Just before go time, Christina realized she was about to take a step many people thought she would never choose to take. "Is it too late to run as a joke?" she asked Arnab. But really, she couldn't wait for it to happen. "Wow," she thought. This is really it."
A bargain: Christina found her dress at San Francisco's Glamour Closet for more than 70 percent off the retail price.
The splurge: During the rehearsal dinner, the couple served the same wine they had on their first date — a 22-year-old Portuguese vintage. Plus, the carousel.
Four days in Cabos San Lucas, Mexico, to be followed by a six-day trip to Fiji this summer.
This romance remains dependent on jet fuel. Abe, who is finishing his last semester at NYU, commutes to California every weekend. He will soon clerk for a Third Circuit judge based in Wilmington. In fall 2019, Abe will officially move to Chino Hills.
Officiant: Timothy Dyk, United States circuit judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
Venue: Please Touch Museum, Philadelphia.
Food: Brulee Catering, Philadelphia.
Music: Scratch Weddings, DJ Cool Out, Philadelphia.
Photography: Love Me Do, Philadelphia.
Flowers: Fabufloras, Philadelphia.
Dress: Glamour Closet, San Francisco.
Hair/Makeup: Aleksandra Ambrozy, Philadelphia.
Groom's attire: Hong Kong Grand Custom Tailors.