“Hello, my dove,” Terence Lee said as he was introduced to Cecelia Claire Thornton-Alson at the wedding rehearsal dinner for their mutual friends, in October 2017.
His riff on the line “O my dove,” from the “Song of Songs,” was hokey enough to put her at ease before their first run-through of the biblical text, which they had been asked by the marrying couple to read at their nuptials in Baltimore.
As they took turns rehearsing the verses of scripture, teenage-like giggles erupted from the wedding party over their evocative imagery.
“This was more sensual than I thought and anticipated for a biblical reading,” said Ms. Thornton-Alson, who by then had been a bridesmaid eight times and an officiant twice.
She kept her cool thanks to her days in the Bloomers sketch comedy troupe at the University of Pennsylvania, from which she graduated summa cum laude. A Bay Area native, Ms. Thornton-Alson, 36, went on to receive a master’s degree in modern art, critical and curatorial studies from Columbia before eventually resettling in San Francisco.
Mr. Lee, 35, found her to be “gregarious, open, friendly and engaging,” he said, adding that he was captivated by how “stunning” she looked that night in her polka-dot jumpsuit (he later learned that jumpsuits are her signature style of formal wear).
Over dinner, they chatted about her life in San Francisco and how Mr. Lee, who graduated cum laude from Amherst, had recently moved to Chinatown in New York, where he was raised, after completing a master’s degree in public policy at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
While talking to Ms. Thornton-Alson at the rehearsal dinner, he modestly left out one detail — the next day, ahead of their friends’ wedding, he planned to run the Baltimore marathon.
“Whoa,” she recalled thinking when the bride and some others filled her in. “Who is this guy? He’s super nice. Super affable. He’s doing this amazing thing very casually.”
The next morning, Ms. Thornton-Alson cheered Mr. Lee on with his buddies in front of the Four Seasons Hotel, the marathon’s 14-mile mark.
“At 9:32, here comes Terence, very buff and very joyful in a Michigan singlet,” Ms. Thornton-Alson said.
At the wedding that evening, their reading went off without a hitch, or giggle. As the festivities came to a close, he could not simply say goodbye.
“I’m a little infatuated with you,” he told her, “and I’d love to see you again.”
The next morning, at her suggestion, they met for coffee before parting ways. Once each had returned home, they soon started to speak each morning during his 30-minute walk to work.
Three weeks later, in November 2017, he flew to San Francisco, where they had their first kiss at Ocean Beach, one of her favorite spots in the city. Later that weekend, as they looked out on the water and boats from a bench on the tiny Joinery boardwalk in Sausalito, Calif., she recalled that “everything felt right.”
They dated long-distance until January 2020, when he moved cross-country and into the apartment she shared in San Francisco’s Mission District with two roommates and Stevie, her miniature white poodle mix, now 13. That September, Mr. Lee, Ms. Thornton-Alson and her dog, named for the singer Stevie Nicks, moved into a new place, in the Inner Sunset neighborhood.
She now works as a senior interior architect at Ken Fulk, an interior design firm, in San Francisco. He is a policy and financial analyst with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Bay Area’s transportation planning and financing organization.
In September 2021, about four years after they met, he proposed on the Joinery boardwalk in Sausalito with help from some of their friends and family. Before Mr. Lee got down on one knee, a group of loved ones each held a poster board with a line from the “Song of Songs,” and handed Ms. Thornton-Alson a pink tulip, one of her favorite flowers. Her mother then gave her a yellow rose in memory of her Texas-born maternal grandmother, who had died that spring at 101 and had given Mr. Lee her blessing the previous Christmas.
“Our duet blossomed into a relationship,” Ms. Thornton-Alson said.
On Sept. 3, they were married before 175 guests by Cecelia E. Thornton, a maternal aunt of the bride and a Universal Life minister, at the Elizabeth Street Garden in New York.
As a nod to the groom’s Chinese heritage, his sister and a cousin read Chinese proverbs in Cantonese and English at the ceremony, which also featured a reading from the “Song of Songs,” this time by a maternal uncle of the bride and his wife.