When Jeffrey Kaye first met Annagrace O'Dea in the fall of 2001, he didn't think he would stand a chance with her.
"She's gorgeous and smart," he says of Annagrace. "I've always been shy around new people."
Jeffrey, 32, is in arts management for the Oregon Ballet Theatre. Annagrace, a 24-year-old assistant manager for cosmetics at Nordstrom, mistook Jeffrey's initial shyness for the cold shoulder.
"I tried to make eye contact," Annagrace recalls of their first meeting, a lunch with mutual friends at the eastside Daily Cafe. "He ignored me."
Later that day, once the two started talking, they found they had a hard time stopping the conversation.
As the relationship began last year, the couple continued talking for hours on end--about their political views, about philosophy, about their love of cooking and food.
They also spoke about loss. When Jeffrey was in the sixth grade, his father died suddenly of a heart attack. Annagrace's father died of AIDS just after she graduated from high school.
"It was amazing what kind of ground we covered," says Jeffrey, 32. "Within the first couple of months, it was like, 'Is there more to know?'"
Three months into the relationship, they learned of a profound connection. Jeffrey mentioned that he'd taken pipe-organ lessons when he was younger. He'd spent time on the Lewis & Clark campus working on one of the college's organs. When he happened upon a photo of Annagrace's father, who had repaired pipe organs for a living, Jeffrey recognized the man.
"It was mind-boggling," Annagrace says. "What are the chances? I took it as a confirmation that I was onto something."
In April, Jeffrey and Annagrace visited Bethany Lake, a nature park in suburban Portland behind Jeffrey's childhood home. It was the same place where, when he was 6, Jeffrey nearly drowned when he fell through the ice. It was where he mourned his father's death. It was where he'd take his grandparents for long walks.
As he and Annagrace strolled through the park, they sat on one of the benches. Jeffrey said he had a question to ask: He wanted permission to fall in love with her. She said yes.
A year later, the couple returned to the same spot and Jeffrey asked Annagrace another question: This time, he wanted to marry her. Once again, Annagrace obliged.
Soon, many of the couple's marathon conversations turned to wedding plans. They wanted a fall ceremony. Friends had already volunteered property in Vancouver, Wash. Annagrace knew she wanted calla lilies in her bouquet.
After the engagement was official, plans for the wedding turned into a monumental production. The couple drew detailed schematics of the site in Vancouver. Jeffrey enlisted the help of a co-worker, an OBT production manager, to orchestrate the event--from the arrival of guests to the bride's walk down the aisle. Ceremony volunteers wore walkie-talkie headsets.
But for all the grandiose plans, the couple accented the day with personal touches. Instead of a caterer, Annagrace's relatives cooked a Southern-styled barbecue. A tower of cupcakes replaced a multitiered wedding cake. Rather than a single wedding officiant, the couple chose a married couple--pastors at their Northeast Portland church--to preside over the ceremony.
After her walk down the aisle, Annagrace took a moment to reflect on the couple's past as she gazed at 150 guests, all those friends and relatives, yet neither of the couple's fathers were there.
"As we were standing there, it was evident to me that we have experienced tragedy," Annagrace remembers. "And yet I was looking at everyone there, realizing how lucky we are."