Wedding Spotlight: Monesha Madison and Jonathan Lever

With some compromise, Monesha Madison and Jonathan Lever made their part-time relationship a full-time priority.
By Ellen McCarthy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 9, 2009

Monesha Madison and Jonathan Lever might not have made it. Had the University of Maryland alumni not worked quite so hard to pull their relationship across long distances, multiple career changes and too many teary-eyed goodbyes to count, they could've shared the fate of most college sweethearts: They could've become a memory. A little less effort or a bit more youthful wavering and the two might never have come to the leafy courtyard of the Meridian House, where on July 25 -- six years after that first late-night flirtation -- they wed.

It started as these things often do: He was around. In the spring of 2003, Madison returned from a Semester at Sea to find that her friends had acquired a new pal. But Madison and Lever were little more than acquaintances until the following September, when Lever decided to plant himself next to Madison, who was sitting with a friend at a bar.

"I actually thought he liked my friend," Madison remembers.

In truth, Lever had developed a crush during the previous semester, so "it was a point of mine to hang out with her that night and see how it goes," he says. And once Madison's friend drifted to another table, it started going well.

Classes were canceled the next day because of Hurricane Isabel, so they hung out again. And again the day after that. He kissed her sometime in that first rain-soaked week, but neither remembers exactly when. Or at exactly what point they decided to become a couple.

"It was college," Madison explains. "It was a lot of hanging out with friends and in group situations."

Two months into their relationship, Lever asked her out on a proper date. Once they were seated at a nice table in a nearly empty 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant in College Park, the two looked at each other -- and had nothing to say. "I was trying," recalls Lever, who is normally an affable guy with plenty of jokes. "But it was just weird. I was a fish out of water."

He compensated by telling the story of a friend who was about to break up with his girlfriend.

"I was like, 'Are you trying to give me a hint?' " Madison remembers thinking. "There were these awkward pauses and then he kept talking about his friend breaking up and I was like, 'Uhhhhhh, this is going to be bad.' "

They made it through the dinner, and subsequent meals went more smoothly, but when May 2004 rolled around and Lever graduated with plans to spend the summer in Ocean City, they decided to take a break.

"It was more a hiatus," says Lever, now 28. That fall he moved to Baltimore, where his parents live, and started working as an entry-level radio producer and a waiter. Whenever he could, he shot down to College Park to see Madison, who had one more year of school. Their casual rhythm was shaken the next summer when Madison, an ambitious broadcast major, was offered an on-air position with a television station in Savannah, Ga.

"But it was pretty clear once I got down there that it was not what I wanted to be doing," says Madison, also 28. And something else became clear: "I didn't want to be that far away from him."

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