Many couples in New York meet through OKCupid. Lara Rios and Nicole Guida had a real-life Cupid in the form of Lara’s cousin who emailed her “out-of-the-blue” to see if she wanted to go on a blind date with a high school buddy of his who had just moved to the city. Lara agreed.
“He made us swear to not be in contact with each other,” remembers Lara. “Or to check each other out on Facebook. A true blind date.”
Yet, Nicole, felt compelled to ask around and see what she was getting herself into.
“The only thing I found out about her was that she was a lawyer that went to Yale, and I was like, ‘What am I going to talk to her about?’” says Nicole. “I’m in advertising and a homegrown kid from Miami! I thought the night was going to be a complete disaster.”
Yet, Nicole decided to give the date a go and the cousin gave the women a time, day, and a place — the Bryant Park restaurant where he had an “in” with the bartender. The idea was that the two would sit outside on a lovely spring day and watch the sunset. But, what he didn’t anticipate was that the actual day of the date was an unseasonably cold day in May.
“So I took it from there, jumping immediately into gear and emailed Nicole with three options,” says Lara.
They settled on Xai Xai, a South African wine bar in Hell’s Kitchen.
“It was cold and rainy and a glass of red wine sounded perfect,” says Lara.
Yet, it was Nicole, rather than a glass of Pinot Noir, that warmed the Ivy League litigator’s spirits.
“I remember walking in, seeing her, and thinking she was absolutely stunning,” says Lara.
The two began chatting and realized that they had a lot in common, including a love for travel — Nicole had visited India and Lara was planning a trip to South Africa. Time seemed to stand still, especially when the straightforward Lara decided to make a move.
“A glass or two of wine in, she asked if she could kiss me,” says Nicole. “But she never let me answer. She just kind of leaned over the table and did it anyway.”
The ladies dated casually for the next few months and much of their courtship took place at odd hours of the night due to Lara’s busy work schedule.
“It was fun to wander the city, being new,” remembers Nicole. “We would walk the Brooklyn Bridge or go to the Highline.”
One of their late-night adventures included a trip to the steps of the James Farley Post Office after midnight where the women sat, chatted, and took in the bright lights of Madison Square Garden. It was a spot the women found themselves stumbling upon once again a few months later in the fall, after they decided to take things a bit more seriously. Lara told Nicole that the post office was open all night.
“So we thought it would be sweet to send each other letters because at the time we didn’t live with each other,” says Nicole.
The women went to separate areas and grabbed whatever they could find to write with and mailed each other a letter.
“That was a very special moment for me,” says Nicole. “It was then that I knew I was falling in love.”
Two years later in April of 2012 — after the women had moved to Spanish Harlem together and traveled to Mexico, Montreal, and Thailand as a couple — Nicole and Lara returned to James Farley Post Office. This time, however, it was so Nicole could propose.
“My palms were sweating, my heart was beating fast,” says Nicole. “And I took out the letter she wrote to me and started reading it.”
Nicole asked Lara to marry her and Lara immediately said “yes!”
A month later, Lara counter-proposed to Nicole at Xai Xai, the wine bar where they met and had returned to every year since to celebrate their first date.
They set a wedding for August 2013 and after quickly discovering the Green Building in Gowanus, Brooklyn, the couple decided upon a unique and personalized theme for their big day.
“We both love to travel, and it felt like our venue had gone back in time with its speakeasy room in the back,” says Nicole. “So we decided to blend old Brooklyn and our love for travel.”
They used retro-looking postcards for save-the-dates and table numbers, and for the tables they used postcards of places they had traveled such as Spain, Paris, the Dominican Republic, and even Woodstock, NY. They decorated the space with vintage suitcases the venue had on hand and Nicole rented an antique typewriter and typed a note for guests to read when they entered the building on the day of their wedding.
The women also went back in time by honoring both of their grandparents, who are deceased, with framed photos of them in the venue’s foray.
Both women agreed that they did not want to see one another until the actual ceremony.
“And seeing her for the first time was a really special moment for me,” says Nicole. “I had to hold back tears because I wanted to begin crying right then and there.”
After a very sentimental and romantic ceremony, the wedding kicked into completely a different gear.
“We told our DJ that our goal was that people left hot, sweaty messes,” says Nicole. “And that goal was accomplished.”
Glasses were accidentally shattered, shots were imbibed, and happy guests joyfully chanted the women’s names… and that was just during dinner.
After the raucous reception that included pork buns, mini burgers, Thai spring rolls, and a food truck, the women left for a two-week honeymoon in Bali.
“Which was very awesome,” says Nicole. “We were both off-the-grid and I highly recommend it.”
And what other bits of advice can the newlyweds dispense?
“Planning a wedding sets the tone for how a couple really works together,” says Nicole. “Always remember to take a step back and don’t let the wedding become bigger than you. It teaches you to work together and communicate.”
Take note — those are wise words from a very successful letter writer.
All photos by Sarah Tew Photography.
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