On a particularly packed night at the District’s Policy Restaurant and Lounge in March 2011, Elizabeth Harris was getting a lot of attention.
She was there with a friend and, according to Paul Gordon, there was a line of men waiting for her to take notice of them.
“It was like every two minutes there was someone coming up to them,” recalls Paul, the energy manager for the architect of the Capitol.
And so Paul, struck with her as well, entered the parade of guys pining for Elizabeth and chatted her up.
“I remember thinking he was handsome and very tall. Like 6-foot-8,” says Elizabeth, who is 5-foot-10. “And I remember thinking that he was the only guy I talked to that night who I wanted to keep on talking to.”
Paul didn’t initially give Elizabeth his number, and toward the end of the night she asked whether they could keep in touch and go out sometime soon. Paul insists that this oversight was because of his lack of confidence, thinking that she wasn’t really interested. He was wrong.
Their first date was a few days later at Rosemary’s Thyme Bistro on 18th Street, and Elizabeth decided to bring her new dog, a vizsla named Cairo. Elizabeth was set on “making [her] own family with a few dogs because dating was torture,” but then Paul came into the picture.
They both thought the first date was a success despite the nagging puppy, but Paul didn’t call her for another date right away. The next time they saw each other was during an awkward grocery store encounter.
“I looked really awful and I was at Harris Teeter with some of my family and a friend, who pointed him out,” says Elizabeth, a development program manager at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. “I sort of couldn’t get away with not saying hello, so I went up to him and asked him why he was here, since I knew this wasn’t his neighborhood store. He actually told me it was because it had better nuts, which is a really weird thing to say to someone.”
He also explained that he was in the process of moving and changing jobs, which was why he hadn’t called. Soon they decided to go on a second date, sans dog. They dined at Perry’s in Adams Morgan. On the way, they were stopped by a group of bagpipers who had a very telling premonition.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever been surrounded by a group of bagpipers, but they’re seriously so loud that you can’t hear yourself think,” Paul says. “So they’re playing this song and ask us if we’re engaged and then basically just say that we’re going to be soon, and then they tell us to kiss, and this is our second date, so again it was like, oh jeez, this is awkward.”
After that date, Elizabeth started telling her co-workers that Paul was the man she was going to marry, and the couple became inseparable. They took day trips to Delaware and Middleburg, Va., and then took longer trips to places such as Thailand.
“I had this really bad reputation of breaking up with people while we were traveling together. I mean, I had seriously broken up with people in Canada, California and Poland, so when I told my family about Thailand, they were like, ‘Ugh, can’t you just dump him in the states?” Elizabeth says with a laugh. “But sure enough, we had a fantastic time and it sort of sealed the deal for me.”
They moved in together in May 2012 and bought a house in Capitol Hill the following October. A proposal would follow, but it would take nearly five months for Paul to pull off his master plan.
It started with a puzzle. In the days leading up to the proposal, Elizabeth started getting a few puzzle pieces a day. The first day, the pieces were all white. The next day, the pieces signified a boarding pass to an undisclosed location. Then, she got pieces showing how long the flight would be. Then, the boarding and arrival times. On the last day, she found out where she and Paul would be jetting off to: Paris.
Elizabeth had a few days to pack and prepare, and then the couple was off. On the day of the proposal, Paul had reservations at Lapérouse, a historic restaurant on the Seine with a reputation as the place well-to-do Parisian couples got engaged in the 18th century; women would scrape their new engagement rings on the restaurant’s mirrors to make sure the diamonds were real. Elizabeth thought that by the end of the meal she’d be engaged, but Paul had something much more intimate in mind.
He had reservations to go up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, but rather than proposing in a crowd of people, he waited until they were back on solid ground and alone.
“We went to a secluded spot, and he asked me to dance and put my phone in his front pocket and played our two songs, ‘Night and Day’ by the Temptations and ‘Lovesong’ by Adele,” Elizabeth says. “It was 11:45 at night and he was shaking because he was so cold, and he basically said, ‘I cant wait any longer,’ and dropped down to one knee.”
He proposed just 15 minutes shy of the third anniversary of their first kiss.
Elizabeth Harris, 28, and Paul Gordon, 27, were married April 4 at the Hay-Adams Hotel with a scenic view of the White House and Washington Monument. With music as a central theme, Elizabeth walked down the aisle to her favorite song, “If Music Be the Food of Love,” sung by an 18-person choir.
“I didn’t see commitment like this happening at my age,” Paul said before the wedding. “The fact that that changed speaks a lot to Elizabeth and how much she surprised me about how much I didn’t know about myself. She’s everything that I didn’t think existed in one person.”
“Paul respects my life and career just as much as I do,” Elizabeth added. “I know that he is always going to be gung-ho about experiencing life to the fullest with me, and I’m so happy that he’s the person I’m walking down the aisle to and that this wedding isn’t a faraway daydream anymore.”