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A newcomer to Washington steps into a sports bar…

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On his first weekend in Washington, Tyler Austin Cherry decided to go alone to Nellie’s Sports Bar on the U Street Corridor. As an up-and-coming senior at the University of California, Los Angeles in June 2014, Cherry spent the summer doing an internship at the Center for American Progress in Washington, but didn’t know anyone else in the city. did not.

He spent the first half of the night chatting with other patrons at the bar when he suddenly felt his attention turn to the man who had just walked through the door, Jakob Michael Stronko.

Having grown up in the area, Mr. Stronko was at a bar with a few friends and quickly recognized Mr. Cherry as well.

“I was immediately drawn to him in a way that I had never experienced before,” Stronko said of Cherry. He bought Mr. Cherry a drink and the two spent the night singing and chatting with Mr. Stronko’s friends to his TLC’s “No Scrubs.”

Mr. Cherry “immediately got the stamp of approval,” said Mr. Stronko, 31. “My friend was like, ‘Oh, you should know this guy better.'”

The next day they gathered for crepes and visited the bookstore. Within a few weeks, they were spending almost every day together.

Cherry, 29, said, “I quickly realized there was something much more serious going on.”

When it came time for Mr. Cherry to return to UCLA in his final year of college, they decided to stay together and have a long-distance relationship. We visited each other once.

Dating someone on the other side of the country wasn’t easy, but “I felt like we had accomplished something. We felt stronger because of the distance.” ‘,” said Stronko.

In June 2015, Mr. Cherry returned to Washington and the couple picked up where they left off. Within a year they moved in together and spent the next few years supporting each other as they explored their identities and navigated the early stages of their careers. Mr. Cherry currently works as a press secretary and senior spokesperson for the U.S. Department of the Interior in Washington. Mr. Stronko is his specialist in international programs for the Department of the Navy in Washington.

In early 2021, Stronko asked Cherry’s grandmother if he could propose with her necklace, and she was happy to give it to him. In April 2021, during a camping trip with her friends at Herd’s Laver Creek State Park in Morgan County, Georgia, Stronko took Cherry to a nearby lake, where Mr. Cherry proposed her marriage to

“Community, family and friendship are central to who we are and how we live,” Cherry said. Having Stronko propose on a trip with friends, in jewelry that belonged to Cherry’s grandmother, “was very fitting for the kind of life we ​​want to keep living,” he said. said.

The couple married on October 1 in front of about 100 guests at a friend’s house in Washington. Ms. Harland was authorized by the District of Columbia to officiate the marriage and did so as a private person, not in her public office.

In the days leading up to their wedding, the couple and their friends decorated their home with nearly 400 disco balls and hung up love letters they wrote to each other early in their relationship.

Given that no one really knew when they started dating, Stronko said, “The people we met along the way and the relationship we navigated together reaffirmed us.” It just brought us closer together.