On Love: ‘I am glad I took this chance’


Wedding of Amanda Swenson and Blake Turner at the Whittmore House, 1526 New Hampshire Ave, NW, Washington, DC, June 1, 2013. They're an opposites-attract couple. She's a classic type A who works as a lobbyist by day, wedding planner/baker by night. He's a laid back artist/bartender. The couple poses at Dupont Circle after the ceremony. (Evy Mages/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)
June 21, 2013

Amanda Swenson had been told she needed to meet the “cute bartender with a beard.”

The problem was finding the time. She was working two jobs — she had just been hired as a senior political affairs manager at Pfizer pharmaceutical company and was managing her own event planning business. A self-described “super-organized, type-A” personality, the former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee director of events had little time to spare.

Luckily, her friend Janice Quill and her husband, Colin, surreptitiously planned for the pair to meet in January 2010, at Clyde’s in Georgetown. Amanda, then 27, was celebrating her new job at brunch with a group of girlfriends when Colin introduced her to his co-worker and longtime friend, Blake Turner.

Seeing his unshaven appearance, she made the connection. The rumors were spot on — he was cute. Really cute.

Blake, then 25, had a similar reaction. “She is a stone cold fox,” he remembers thinking. However, undergraduate art classes at George Mason University five days a week and late-night bar shifts at Clyde’s made it nearly impossible for him to date, let alone pursue a serious relationship.

“Finding a wife was the last thing on my mind,” Blake says.

Despite their busy schedules, both agreed to join mutual friends for drinks at Bread Soda, a billiards bar in Glover Park, later that night they first met. Over rounds of darts, Amanda and Blake quickly noticed they had a lot in common, particularly with respect to politics and art.

“We went in without an agenda or expectations,” Amanda recalls. “I remember thinking that — it wasn’t any offense to bartenders — but I never saw myself dating one. But I soon realized there was so much more to him once you got past the surface. . . . It was like, whoa, I am glad I took this chance.”

Colin, noticing their chemistry that night, sent a text message to Blake: “Kiss her, you fool!” Blake was no fool. He kissed her.

After days of flirty texting and happy hours with friends, the two set up their first one-on-one date. The plan was supposed to be dinner at Guapo’s Restaurant in Bethesda followed by a movie. But Blake was more focused on a soccer match on TV than talking to his date.

Frustrated by his inattention, Amanda suggested they end their night early and skip the movie. “Do you just want to go home?” she recalls saying curtly. “Because you’re really not here or into this.” Blake agreed to call it a night and they left on a cordial but awkward note.

Once he got home, he recognized how big of a mistake he had made. “I realized at that point it was shape up or ship out,” he says. She was too important to let her slip away. “I better get serious.”

Soon thereafter, he sent her an apology with a promise to make it up to her by taking her on a romantic, intimate date at Cafe Bonaparte in Georgetown. Surprised by his initiative, she decided to give him another chance.

That date was a success. Dinner segued into hours of talking, and soon they were making plans to spend their limited time together. Although she is detail-oriented and he is more carefree, they both share views on what is “most important — our values, ideals and dreams,” Amanda says.

Their biggest challenge was overcoming hectic schedules and finding time for each other. Outside of work, Amanda also now has roles as an indoor cycling instructor at Fitness First in Arlington and as a pastry chef’s apprentice at Arlington’s Northside Social shop. Blake, until his graduation in May, was attending classes, creating projects with his school’s Floating Lab Collective art group and continuing to bartend up to 40 hours a week.

“We do a lot of impromptu dates,” Amanda says. “It’s been a saving grace,” Blake adds. “We have so many things going on, but at the same time we are able to make time for and support each other.”

Before, Blake thought being in a relationship would distract him from his education, but with Amanda by his side, his goals seemed clearer and more achievable than ever before. As he began the grueling process of applying to graduate school, she helped him stick to a strict timeline and assisted him in preparing his applications.

“She put things in focus for me,” he noted.

Her unwavering support through it all made it clear to him she was The One. “I thought, ‘What better person than Amanda to go through that experience with me? Who would support me more?’ ” he recalls.

His hard work paid off — he received a full ride, master of fine arts scholarship from Ohio State University and will be attending in the fall.

For Amanda’s 30th birthday, he whisked her away for a romantic weekend at a bed and breakfast in Virginia wine country. The gesture surprised Amanda — typically she was the planner. Excited, she announced the impending trip on Facebook, and immediately, engagement suspicions arose.

Although Amanda hoped and thought they would one day marry, she had put it out of her mind believing that, if it was going to happen, it would most likely be after he finished with college.

But to her surprise, as they shared a bottle of wine and watched the sunset, he asked her to spend the rest of her life with him. He described the proposal as “romantic, somewhat practical and definitely spontaneous.”

After a 14-month engagement, they married June 1 before 155 friends and relatives at the Whittemore House near Dupont Circle.

“I know it’s kind of a cheesy thing to say, but seeing her come down the aisle took my breath away,” says Blake, now 28.

The two, who live in Arlington, still laugh about the circumstances that brought them together.

“I joke with my friends, ‘Remember that guy I was just hanging out with?’ They respond, ‘Oh, you mean the one you married?’ ”

“You just never know what’s going to come along,” Amanda said after the wedding. “I truly married my best friend.”

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