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A musical connection led this couple to a lifelong love song

Gina Nguyen and Jesse Meyer-Appel celebrated their wedding at the Woodend Sanctuary in Chevy Chase, Md. (Genevieve Leiper)
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Gina Nguyen and Jesse Meyer-Appel can thank D.C.’s own Thievery Corporation for the soundtrack to their love story.

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In the mid-2000s, Gina was working for Eighteenth Street Lounge Music, the D.C. record label founded by Rob Garza and Eric Hilton, the duo behind the electronic music group Thievery Corporation. One of Jesse’s best friends was a friend of the duo’s, so Jesse and Gina would cross paths at Thievery Corporation shows.

“I was so focused on my work that I didn’t pay much attention to Jesse at the time,” Gina says. “No offense, Jesse.”

It wasn’t until 2013, when they were both living in San Francisco, that they really noticed each other. It was at another Thievery Corporation show, where they were reintroduced by a mutual friend. Gina had moved to the Bay Area to work in the burgeoning music tech industry, and Jesse was starting an MBA program at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. (He now owns Uncle Jesse’s Collective, a medical marijuana dispensary.)

“I was feeling a bit lonely and missing home,” says Gina, now in science research communications. “I thought, clearly he’s part of the same friend circle, so we should become best friends.”

It didn’t take much time for things to take off.

“We went from zero to a thousand — go,” Jesse says. “We did as much as humanly possible together in whatever amount of time that we had — music festivals, concerts, you name it.”

Come winter of 2014, they became more than just friends, with their first official date at a steakhouse in San Francisco.

“I ordered the largest seafood tower they had, a super expensive bottle of bubbly, and said, ‘Hey, what’s going on,’ ” Jesse says. “Once we officially started dating, everything fell into place. She mirrors me in this perfect way.”

“I knew I had to give this [relationship] a shot,” Gina says. “I had to go for it, and there are no regrets. I feel exactly the same way today as I did that time we had our first date.”

Music continued to play a big part in Gina and Jesse’s relationship, as they attended concerts across the country — shows at the 9:30 Club in Washington, the Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans, the Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival in Golden Gate Park. And, of course, every Thievery Corporation show. By their count, they’ve easily attended hundreds of concerts together.

Every day, music deepens their bond. They start their mornings by blasting music in their San Francisco apartment, and in the evenings, Jesse, a self-described “metal head,” makes mix tapes for Gina and their friends to stay on the pulse of the music scene, downloading thousands of songs for all to share in Dropbox. Their apartment is decked out with a state-of-the-art sound system, with custom speakers and a subwoofer, ready for any listening session.

“I love discovering and sharing new music with Jesse,” Gina says. “We both have an eclectic taste in music. It’s always been a fun competition between us to find out who’s the next big act or what’s the newest hit.”

So it was no surprise that music was the backdrop for their proposal in 2016. Thievery Corporation was on a national tour to commemorate their 20th anniversary with final shows at the 9:30 Club. Jesse contacted Garza and the tour managers to set up a private time to gather friends and family backstage after the D.C. show.

Gina, seeing that Jesse’s parents were going to be there, knew immediately that something was up.

“I had a feeling we were celebrating something,” she says. “But it didn’t take away from the excitement and positive energy around the evening. It was one of the best nights of our lives aside from our wedding.”

“I’m terrible at keeping secrets,” Jesse adds.

Their May 13 wedding also was overflowing with music. Garza flew in from California to officiate the outdoor ceremony in front of 140 guests at the Woodend Sanctuary & Mansion in Chevy Chase, Md. Gina walked down the aisle with a bouquet of blush roses and succulents with her mother by her side, in honor of Mother’s Day. A string ensemble played a mash-up of “Here Comes the Bride” and Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect.”

After the ceremony, they turned up the speakers for a rowdy reception, where Justin Jay and Friends DJ’d and played a live set.

“There was aggressive dancing,” Jesse says. “We had a full live band, guitarists, singers and drummers — everything.”

Jesse and Gina hope to expand their family, which now includes one cat named Houdini, and go to more shows together.

“I look forward to more adventures,” Gina says, “and growing with Jesse and living life to the fullest with him as my partner.”

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