‘It Was Magic From the First Second’
Chelsea White is a whole lot, in the best possible way. She is charming, self-deprecating, engrossing and describes herself on her website as a “host-writer-producer-speaker-comedian-cat enthusiast.” She developed a weekly Instagram live show, “What a Delight! with Chelsea White,” that involved a guest, a sidekick in a mask, and a discussion of weekly events that entranced her. She wanted to share it with whomever is willing to listen.
Tash Neal is a little more conventional, in the most unconventional way. He is a rock ‘n‘ roll musician who grew up in New York in a musical family. His mother was a piano prodigy, and his father played 27 instruments. Both also sang. Mr. Neal started playing guitar as a child and is now a solo artist whose most recent album, “Charge It to the Game,” was released a year ago. He is accomplished, laid-back and the survivor of a horrific car accident.
The two met July 30, 2019, as guests on the “We Don’t Even Know” podcast hosted by mutual acquaintances, Shonali Bhowmik and Christian Felix. The venue was the Red Room, a sort of speakeasy above the Lower East Side bar KGB.
“She walks in and I was just blown away,” Mr. Neal said. “Like you got the air punched out of you — she was breathtaking. She’s gorgeous and cool, and cool hair. Gorgeous in her romper, and no one wears rompers! Mentioned she had chicken tenders saved in her purse. That’s awesome! Also it came up that she was gassy. I said, this is my kind of person.”
Ms. White was similarly stricken. “I immediately thought he was one of the hottest guys I’ve ever seen,” said Ms. White. She had concluded a podcast, “Ghosted Stories,” the previous year — after more than 100 episodes — about the perils of dating.
Her immediate next thought, she said, was “He’s probably a nightmare. And he probably has a girlfriend in every state. I definitely had N.Y.C. dating PTSD, assuming every guy I meet is going to turn out to be garbage.”
They both stayed after the show to chat.
“When she said to me, I think we should keep in touch, she probably didn’t see me exhale in relief, literally,” Mr. Neal said.
He texted the next day, to set up a date.
“I told a couple of my best friends, ‘I met this guy last night and he just texted. Is this a good thing?’ I was like, I don’t know!,” Ms. White said. “My friend did a deep dive on Instagram of him, and decided he was OK.”
A few days after they met, their first date was in Astoria, Queens, where she then lived and where he was having a rehearsal. They met at a bar, Dominie’s, had drinks and pizza, then moved on to a second, unremembered local bar.
“He reeled me in, a lot of things reeled me in,” said Ms. White, who grew up in Clarion, Pa., and moved to New York in 2005 after graduating from Grove City College in Grove City, Pa. “Tash is a special person. He’s just kind and authentic and a special-ness radiates off him.”
Binge more Vows columns here and read all our wedding, relationship and divorce coverage here.
The two discovered a shared passion for true crime and cats. (Ms. White is also the host of the web series “Show Me Your Kitty,” in which she invites herself over to someone’s place to meet their cat and explore its idiosyncrasies.)
At the end of the date, they shared a kiss in front of her apartment.
Mr. Neal, 36, said that he felt butterflies. “I’ll never forget it,” he said.
“I was like, ‘Is this my dream man?” said Ms. White, who is 39 and spends her days as a head writer for “The Drew Barrymore Show.”
Ms. White had a couple more dates to get used to the notion that Mr. Neal, who spent a year and a half at George Washington University studying business (because he didn’t want to be a musician) before he left to continue his musical career, might be exactly what he seemed.
“He kept behaving very appropriately,” Ms. White said.
Then came Labor Day weekend, and a dinner date that turned into a five-day staycation in which the two never ventured more than five blocks from her apartment.
By the end of their date, both were head-over-heels.
“He asked me to go steady,” she said, wonder still in her voice. “Once we made it official, I was like, This is a wrap. This is what it is. This is the beginning of our life.”
Mr. Neal, also, was so taken that he had a musical revelation.
“I couldn’t figure out how I was going to live without her,” he said. “I was like oh no! That’s the thing you’ve been talking about in all those songs! I realized what I was singing about!”
There was a rich history preceding their approaches to this singular dating moment. Ms. White’s was that she had become cynical after years of dating foibles. Mr. Neal’s was that he’d spent years trying to become himself again after a car accident in 2012.
He nearly died when a drag racer broadsided his taxi at Broadway and Bleecker in downtown New York. He had to be extracted from the cab with the Jaws of Life, and was immediately subjected to a craniectomy, in which half his skull was removed to relieve critical pressure on his brain. He was then sent into a medically induced coma. Doctors warned his family that his future looked bleak. Friends and family stopped in at the hospital to pay their last respects.
About a week later, when he emerged from the coma, his father handed him a guitar and he vividly recalls playing familiar chords: D, A, G.
“Maybe a little E in there,” he said. “I played guitar before I could walk again.”
There were years of follow-up surgeries and rehabilitation, but by the time Mr. Neal and Ms. White met, he’d moved beyond the accident and was completely focused on his career. (But, he added, he’ll never be done coping with the accident’s fallout. “It’s one of those things you just live with for the rest of your life,” he said.)
Sean Neal, Mr. Neal’s older brother, said Ms. White transformed his brother’s life.
The younger Neal had been on a perpetual tour after his injury, and, the older Neal observed, “You could tell he wasn’t happy.”
“Since meeting Chelsea, it’s a like a weight was lifted and he seems genuinely happy,” he said.
A friend and colleague of Ms. White’s, Cristina Kinon, said that she sees a similar change in her friend.
“She gets to be her full self with him and he is just delighted by it, and by her, and vice versa,” Ms. Kinon said.
Mr. Neal proposed in March 2021. The couple moved into a place in Harlem, near his family, in 2020, just before the coronavirus pandemic settled in, and they grew more together in a situation that drove many new couples apart.
He contacted Ms. White’s parents in the fall of 2020 to obtain their blessing (“He didn’t call for permission because I am not property,” Ms. White explained), and then commenced building an engagement ring that incorporated stones offered by her grandparents on both sides.
On March 24, 2021, he had a cousin invite Ms. White out for a get-to-know-the-neighborhood-subterfuge drink, and then brought into their apartment, in anticipation of her return, balloons spelling out “Marry me?” He expected her to return at the moment he was to begin his regular weekly Covid streaming performance, Quick Quarantine Qoncerts.
But two of the balloons — the “me” — deflated unexpectedly, so he was left with just “Marry?” Heroic intervention from his brother and niece, Layla, saved the day, and when Ms. White returned from her evening out, Mr. Neal made his pitch.
“He pulled it off,” Ms. White said.
The two were married July 30 at the Bordone LIC, an events space in Long Island City, Queens. Ms. Bhowmik, their inadvertent matchmaker, became a Universal Life minister so that she might officiate. (She was also an early confidante of Ms. White, and encouraged her to consider that Mr. Neal might actually be different than the average date. “It was magic from the first second, I think,” she said. “That’s what I saw.”)
Ms. White wore what she called a “custom pantsuit dress situation,” designed by Rebecca Shoneveld, which featured an overskirt that she removed after the ceremony. Mr. Neal wore a Hugo Boss suit and black Salvatore Ferragamo loafers with a silver-and-gold ornament.
Music, of course, was central to their celebration. As they share a passion for the ’90s — music and culture both — that’s what they naturally went with for their wedding.
For him, the wedding was also a chance to celebrate that he had cheated death. Among the 140 guests were many of the same people who came to pay their last respects when he was in the hospital.
“It was beautiful that they were there on my worst day,” he said. “And also on the best day of my life.”
On This Day
When July 30, 2022
Where The Bordone LIC, Long Island City, Queens
Traditions The bride’s heritage is Slovak on her mother’s side, and so incorporated in the wedding was a Southern and Eastern European wedding tradition known as the apron dance, or bridal polka. Guests tossed dollars into an apron worn by the maid of honor, and in return they took a spin on the dance floor with the bride followed by a shot of spirits. At the conclusion of the polka, the celebrants formed a tight knot around the bride, and the groom fought his way through the crowd to reclaim his bride.
More Traditions In Western Pennsylvania, where the bride is from, no wedding is complete without a table of cookies baked by friends and family, a tradition that evolved from the community’s wish to moderate the expense of the wedding feast. “It was amazing,” said the officiant, Shonali Bhowmik, of the cookie table. “I feel like there were a 1,000 cookies — so many types! And you get a baggie to take them home.”
Table Themes Each guest table at the reception was associated with a ’90s album or musician, including Nsync, whose member, Chris Kirkpatrick, is from the bride’s hometown, Clarion, Pa. Trivia challenges were also included, designed to encourage conversation.