A Proposal Seven Years in the Making

Mitchell Jay Karp’s marriage proposal to Barry Katz was not a simple affair. There were opera singers, a silver rose and a tremendous amount of planning.

“Here’s the most amazing thing,” Mr. Karp said. “I have the biggest mouth of anyone I know and told absolutely no one about this except my therapist. There are few moments in your life where you think, I was able to execute a vision perfectly. This was one of them.”

The two found each other in January 2015 on Match.com. Mr. Karp was intrigued by Mr. Katz’s profile, which said he sought “a warm, confident, successful man who has a sense of humor and a well-furnished mind.” They chatted a bit online, and then Mr. Karp told Mr. Katz to give him a call, as he was on the way to the airport for a business trip.

He thought it would be a brief conversation. It ended up lasting more than 45 minutes.

“We laughed. We shared politics. We shared an interest in culture and art, and were both willing to share information about our journeys,” Mr. Karp said. “Then I flew to Malaysia.”

The two messaged regularly while Mr. Karp was overseas. When he got home, he learned the flirtation cost him $400 in texting fees. The two, thereafter, switched to email.

Their first date, dinner at Lido, an Italian place in Harlem near where Mr. Karp lived, occurred soon after he returned. They stayed long at the restaurant, then went back to Mr. Karp’s place. The date didn’t end until 4 p.m. the next day.

“There was a very clear physical attraction,” said Mr. Katz, 71, an artist and a former builder of custom homes who graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. “And we had tons to talk about.”

After about a year, the two became exclusive, and Mr. Katz moved into Mr. Karp’s apartment six months after that.

“I wanted somebody who was going to be a true partner in every sense of the word,” said Mr. Karp, 67, who is a principal of VallotKarp, a New York consultancy that specializes in workplace diversity, equity and inclusion. He graduated from Cornell, received a law degree from Rutgers and also has a master’s degree in organization development from American University.

“Prior to the pandemic, we had an active cultural and social life,” Mr. Karp said. “During the pandemic, we were just with each other, and found that we were good company.”

Both men had previous marriages that ended in divorce, so neither was rushing to the altar. Mr. Katz, who has two children from his first marriage, was ready first. Mr. Karp took a little longer.

Opera, which Mr. Katz has always loved, has been critical to several stages of their courtship. Mr. Karp, who admits, “I hated opera,” learned to develop “an appreciation.”

Mr. Katz said he fell in love when, at a Metropolitan Opera performance of “Tristan und Isolde,” Mr. Karp cried.

“I realized he had the capacity to be moved by art, which is very important to me,” Mr. Katz said.

In 2017, Mr. Katz took Mr. Karp to see a production of “Der Rosenkavalier,” in which a young man delivers a silver rose signifying betrothal on behalf of another, and instead falls instantly in love himself.

A duet ensues, as the young woman is similarly smitten.

“It’s one of the most sublime moments in all of opera,” Mr. Katz said.

Mr. Karp quietly took note.

So when Mr. Karp realized he actually was ready to be married again, with the seventh anniversary of their first date approaching, he sent emails to six randomly selected professors at the Mannes School of Music’s voice department and assembled a musical team

He ordered a silver rose online, from Walmart.

He explained to the maître d’ at Lido what he intended.

So on the eve of Valentine's Day, seven years after they had first met, midway through their dinner, when the singers began their performance, Mr. Katz, turned to his partner and said, “Do you know what this is?” Mr. Karp nodded.

As the performance concluded, one of the singers walked over to Mr. Katz and presented him with a silver rose.

“I was dumbfounded,” Mr. Katz said. “I looked over at Mitch and he was at that moment down on one knee by the side of the table.”

The two married Aug. 13 at the Loeb Boathouse in Central Park. Mr. Karp’s sister, Leslie Newman, officiated, having become a Universal Life minister for the occasion. About 120 people, all of whom were asked to test for Covid, were in attendance.

A few years before the couple married, Mr. Katz, while sitting on the couch one night, casually asked Mr. Karp to marry him.

“That’s not how you propose marriage,” Mr. Karp said. “A proposal needs to be a big romantic gesture.”

Seems he followed his own counsel.

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