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On Love: ‘I think we caught each other off guard’

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Although both are first-generation Iranian Americans, neither Darya Arman nor Ali Niroo ever set out to date another Persian. But in 2008, when Niroo spotted Arman in a party photo in DC magazine, it was her name that caught his eye.

“Of course, she was beautiful,” he said, “but when I recognized that her name was Persian, I had to know who she was.”

Niroo’s next step was to friend her on Facebook. She accepted, and the digital flirting began. Arman perused photos of Niroo in his James Madison University football uniform, and Niroo was drawn to Arman’s fun, carefree spirit.

“This is embarrassing, but I would poke him from time to time,” said Arman, referring to an interaction on the social media site. “I think we both did a lot of Facebook stalking. He has the greatest smile.”

Niroo’s sister, Azi, often tried to set the two up, but nothing materialized. As part-owner of a telecommunications company, Niroo was usually tied up with work while Arman, then 23 and applying to graduate school, described herself as a “social butterfly.”

Finally, in July 2009, the two spotted each other at the Liaison Hotel and Niroo went over to say hello.

“When we met, I remember telling him that I had heard he was bad news,” Arman recalled. “I knew he dated around a lot, and I had my guard up about the possibility that he was that guy.”

But her attempt at playing hard to get failed. The pair exchanged numbers and saw each other two days later for drinks. The next night, they went to a movie. And the night after that, they went to dinner.

“The funny thing was that everyone I knew happened to be out of town that week,” she said, “so nobody was there to stop me from looking so desperate! I was so available.”

For Niroo’s birthday the next week, Arman planned a special evening at BLT Steak, one of his favorite restaurants. There, they shared stories about their childhoods (she’s from Potomac, he’s from Bethesda), their families and past relationships, and they found that they were more alike than they had anticipated.

“Ali will say exactly what’s on his mind; he doesn’t have a filter,” Arman said. “And I don’t either. We’re straight-shooters. But in the beginning, I think we caught each other off guard. There were a few intense moments.”

That intensity made Niroo nervous. Being single allowed him to focus on his career without many distractions, but with Arman, things were different.

“She doesn’t take things lying down,” he said. “You can’t walk all over her and, eventually, I came to appreciate that. Sometimes you need a girl to come into your life and put her foot down. She made me focus less on myself and more on the relationship and showed me how to respect her.”

By autumn, the two were exclusive. When Arman had her tonsils taken out, Niroo came to take care of her and met her family. The introductions felt “exactly right,” she said, partly because of the fact that Niroo was Persian.

“The ethnicity thing has proved to be more important than either of us expected,” he said. “It has been a special thing for us to share. It’s made a lot of things very easy.”

The following winter, Arman heard whispers that Niroo was gearing up to propose over the holidays. But Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s went by without a ring. She was puzzled but never worried; she had found the ring in a closet one afternoon while Niroo was at the gym.

“In Farsi, she’s what we call ‘foozool,’ which means that she knows what’s going on,” he said. “You can’t play mental gymnastics with her because she’ll win.”

The week after New Year’s Eve, the couple flew to Aspen to spend time with Niroo’s relatives. On the last day of the trip, at the top of one of the area’s tallest mountains, Niroo proposed.

“We’re not super romantic, so I had wanted the proposal to be special,” Arman, now 26, explained. “It was perfect.”

During the gondola ride back down to the lodge, they called their friends and family with the news. When they got to the bottom, Niroo’s family was waiting with bottles of champagne.

They decided to marry the following July, but when family tensions about costs, guests and venues ran high, the pair drummed up a second version of their dream wedding — one they would pay for themselves.

“Once we took control of our wedding, it was a blast,” says Niroo, now 34. “Ultimately, we had to make it about us.”

On July 7, 200 family members and friends joined the couple at the Bethesda Country Club for a traditional Persian wedding ceremony. They wed in front of a Sofrehye Aghd, an elaborate spread of ornaments symbolizing their bond: There were eggs to represent fertility, candelabras to represent energy and a “mirror of faith.”

Once they were pronounced husband and wife, Arman and Niroo dipped their fingers in honey to symbolize starting the marriage with sweetness and love.

“We’re truly best friends,” Niroo said. “I think people throw that phrase around a lot and I’m not sure they really mean it, but we’re a team. I want her with me everywhere and always.”

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