A few days before they were supposed to have their first date, in February 2018, a sharp-eyed friend of Andrea Raines’s saw a man walking by the San Francisco bar that the women were waiting to enter. The man looked exactly like the picture Ms. Raines had just shared of her soon-to-be date from his profile on the League dating app.
“I’m a fairly generic-looking man with a beard — there’s nothing distinct about me,” Michael Gehlken said afterward. “I have no clue how Andrea’s friend spotted me walking down that street. But I certainly am grateful.”
Ms. Raines, who was decked out in ‘80s attire, including a tutu, leg warmers and a scrunchie, for a theme party, was mortified when she also recognized him.
“My initial reaction was to duck and run,” she said.
And so she did. She blasted past the bouncer into the bar without showing her identification, and when he came in after her and she explained, he took pity on her.
Her friends, however, persuaded her that this chance almost-encounter with Mr. Gehlken was a not-to-be-missed opportunity, so she sent him a text asking if he had just walked past Maggie McGarry’s, an Irish pub. By that point, he was already in a shared Uber and heading back to Oakland, Calif., where he lived.
He was happy to seize the moment. He asked the driver to drop him off and then called another car. “It was kind of exciting,” he said. “You’re fully intending on meeting someone, so it was something different. First dates can be very monotonous, so to meet someone spur of the moment seemed like a good way to do it.”
Ms. Raines and Mr. Gehlken ended up closing the place down that evening, and, after sharing a hug, she asked if he still wanted to get together for the first date as they’d originally planned.
“And I said absolutely,” said Mr. Gehlken, 32, a staff writer for The Dallas Morning News, covering the Dallas Cowboys.
When they met two days later, Mr. Gehlken quickly found himself entranced by Ms. Raines, also 32 and now an executive communications leader in Plano, Texas, for the American division of Samsung Electronics.
“I was just hanging on every word,” he said. “I was really captivated by her presence and energy.”
Afterward, she had a birthday party to go to, and he walked her there. She impulsively kissed him.
“And he said, ‘I don’t normally kiss on the first date,’” she said. “I was so embarrassed.” Mr. Gehlken said that what he actually said had included a loophole.
“I said, ‘I usually don’t kiss on the first date, but technically this is a first-date-and-a-half,’” he said. “It was a joke that didn’t quite sync up there.”
On their second and a half date, they explored Oakland. For the third, she arrived at his apartment with bags and bags and bags of supplies: all the fixings for pizza — dough, sauce, cheese and every imaginable topping — as well as a DVD player, her five favorite movies, and an entire concession stand’s worth of movie candy.
They were soon in love.
“We would have as much fun going out to a nice restaurant or hearing live music as staying in and playing this card game that his grandparents used to play,” she said. “I could see us into the future.”
On June 20, the couple were married in Washington, in the backyard of the bride’s mother’s house. They self united, as allowed by District of Columbia statute, with 13 people in attendance and as many as 175 watching on a livestream.
“It’s a very challenging time, with the pandemic and in terms of what’s going on culturally, societally, with race relations,” Ms. Raines said. “But I didn’t want to wait to start our life together, and I wanted to bring some joy back into our lives and our families’ lives.”