She landed in the District during the 2010 “Snowpocalypse.” Her first few weeks in the District were a blur of job interviews, navigating her new city and trying to make plans for her fast-approaching birthday. As luck would have it, a friend from Las Vegas was hosting a birthday party for one of his roommates, Ben Luong, on her birthday and invited her over to celebrate. (Ben’s and Cydney’s birthdays are three days apart.)
Halfway through the party, she made her way to the DJ booth to request Boyz II Men’s 1994 smash hit “I’ll Make Love To You.” “Get out of here,” Ben teased, trying to shoo her away. “I’m in the middle of a tight set.” She was persistent, refusing to leave until she heard the R&B classic. It was her birthday, too, after all.
The two flirted into the night. “I thought she was sassy, really funny, and I knew we could definitely be friends,” says Ben, an IT portfolio management consultant for the Defense Department. “It was hard to keep up with her wit. I was really intimidated.”
Soon after, Ben asked his housemate for Cydney’s Gchat contact information and invited her over to watch the wrestling show WWE Raw, sweetening the invite with Klondike bars and a six-pack of beer. Neither was a big wrestling fan, but it set a silly and relaxed atmosphere that brought the two closer as friends.
“It was a very organic, patient process,” Ben says. Although she sabotaged the first few gatherings by inviting his roommates to join them, as the Monday get-togethers progressed over the next few months she found herself gradually giving in to Ben’s charm and sticking around later and later.
“I remember calling my friends and telling them, ‘Oh my gosh. I met this boy,’ and just being so giddy about it. I was hopefully cautious,” she recalls.
For Cydney, the initial spark was always there, but the attraction grew deeper as she got to know Ben, his priorities and his values during their late-night chats. She especially loved how family-focused he was.
“I remember being really excited about Ben’s family because they sounded like my family,” she says. “Our families are so similar, and you might not expect that.” Cydney has Roman Catholic Italian roots, and Ben’s family is Chinese. “We both have enormous families that are very family-oriented, we both have kind, quiet moms who just keep everything running in a very gentle way . . . and we both like noodles.”
They shared their first one-on-one date in July at Bon Chon Chicken, a Korean fried chicken joint in Annandale. Soon, they were spending all their time together, exploring the area, rooting for the Washington Wizards and planning trips to visit each other’s families.
“We never take each other for granted, not for a second,” Ben says. “I think that’s the most important thing.”
He knew very early on that she was “the one” and was transparent with his intentions. “Ben would just walk around telling everyone, ‘I’m with the girl I’m going to marry,’ ” Cydney says.
“Maybe it was a bit bold to proclaim it, but the comfort level and shared values were there,” he says. “Looking at her, I just felt like in a way I was looking at my own face. My own spirit.”
Cydney felt similarly and eagerly looked toward the future. “Once we decided to date, it was as if we jumped six months ahead into the relationship with the depth of it,” she says.
Her favorite qualities about Ben are his thoughtfulness and his sense of humor. For example, he asked her father, a businessman, for his blessing by presenting an extensive PowerPoint presentation full of serious and silly slides alongside a five-year plan, which included buying a house and having children.
Then came the proposal. Cydney does not like surprises, so Ben, being the nice guy he is, decided to plan an elaborate week-long prank. He enlisted a friend to e-mail everyone with fake news that he was having an arranged marriage, inviting everyone to an engagement party to meet his “future bride.” Ben made sure to tell everyone close to Cydney, including her coworkers, to keep his secret for a week.
Eventually, the party date arrived, and Ben insisted the pair stop at his old house on the way to the festivities to visit some friends who wanted to sell some old camera equipment. This was also a ruse, as Ben knew Cydney was in the market for a new camera. As Cydney glanced at the equipment, he sneakily stepped away to grab the ring box and cue the Boyz II Men track. He proposed in the exact spot where the two first met.
After, they went to meet their friend’s “new fiance,” and Cydney discovered it was actually their surprise engagement party.
“He got me twice!” Cydney says.
Ben, 30, married Cydney, 27, in front of 130 friends and family at the Key Bridge Marriott in Arlington County on Feb. 15 — almost four years to the day they first met at Ben’s birthday party. They plan to have a traditional Chinese tea ceremony with Ben’s extended family in Los Angeles and a European honeymoon later this year.
“I don’t think it was ever spoken, but I am sure my parents or my family maybe would have liked if I brought home a nice Chinese girl,” Ben said days before the wedding. “The great thing is her being from Canton, Ohio; I kind of found the loophole because we are Cantonese.”
“My dad just loves to announce, ‘My son has a Canton-ese [wife]!’” he jokes.