A lot can change in a year. Just ask Ariana Ornelas and Nick Smyth.
The two met last July via the dating app Hinge, which links its users up with friends of friends through Facebook. Immediately, they noticed their similarities and how odd it was that they hadn’t met already. Both had attended Harvard University and then Harvard Law (she graduated in 2007, he in 2009), both were interested in regulatory law and both were living in the same neighborhood in D.C.
However, Ariana was still reeling from her fair share of dating horror stories in New York City, where she lived for six years before moving to Washington in April 2013.
“Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment, but my opinion of dating back then was just like death by option,” Ariana, an associate at Hooper, Lundy & Bookman, says.
“I never thought I missed my opportunity, I still knew I was a self-actualized woman,” she says. “But I got to a point in New York where I thought I had it wrong and thought maybe I’m just not meant to find someone right now.”
Luckily for Nick, she had decided to delve into dating in the District with the hope that the scene wouldn’t be nearly as torturous. After exchanging a few messages, they agreed to meet for the first time at Firefly, a restaurant near Dupont Circle.
“I think with online dating you have all these questions, and the more you do it, the more you realize how quickly you need to find out about the other person,” Nick, an enforcement attorney, says.
“One of the things you’re not supposed to talk about is your exes. And we ended up doing just that but also bonding about our exes and our experiences, and I remember liking that she was a nonconformist and was actually really iconoclastic,” he says.
The two hit it off in a very big way and continued seeing each other. This led to weekend-long trips together, which led to a European vacation in October.
Nick had already been planning to go to Europe for a friend’s wedding, and since Ariana had some vacation days at work, they decided to spend two weeks traveling together. It was a big step for a relatively new couple, but the risk paid off.
The new couple’s families met for the first time that Christmas, when Ariana invited Nick’s family to San Juan, Puerto Rico, for the holiday.
“I think that was the moment I knew there was longevity there,” Ariana says. “One day when we were there, I went up to the room by myself to read and I saw his mom grinning from ear to ear. And I thought, ‘What’s percolating up there?’ But I got a real sense of ‘I accept you.’ There was just so much warmth there.”
“Weeks later, we were talking about it, and his mom had actually asked him if he wanted to marry me immediately preceding that moment,” she says.
They started to talk marriage in January. Nick wanted to surprise her but also wanted to make sure he got her a ring she loved. With some recommendations from Ariana, he ended up enlisting the help of a friend’s father who was a jeweler to make the ring.
He decided to propose to her in Pittsburgh, his home town, later that month.
“We got breakfast in bed and I’m sitting there with sleep in my eyes, shoving bacon into my mouth, and all of a sudden he comes over and plops down on one knee,” Ariana remembers. “It wasn’t like we were made up or anything and it was just the two of us there, so it was really special.”
Nick and Ariana went to the airport later that day, where she had thought they were going to pick up a friend. But when they got there, she saw that Nick had flown her whole family in to celebrate.
On April 12, Ariana Ornelas, 31, and Nick Smyth, 30, married at the Central Park Boathouse in New York City. Surrounded by 200 friends and relatives, the two exchanged vows they wrote themselves, with Nick announcing: “I came here today because, most of all, you make me want to be the man you expect me to be, the man you tell me I can be.”
He also got to include his favorite sports team in the ceremony.
“We incorporated the Puerto Rican wedding tradition of las arras, where the bride and groom exchange gold coins for things like hope, love, dedication, and so one of them had to be dedicated to a Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl,” Nick says with a laugh.
The wedding was set up largely by Ariana’s mother, who promised them it could indeed be fully planned in less than three months. Ariana approves of how they did it, saying, “You don’t have to agonize over table settings for four months. You can just make the decision and move on.”
The idea of meeting someone in July and marrying them the next April may seem daunting to some and much too quick to others. But for Ariana and Nick, it felt natural.
“I was actually snooping around in his drawers the other day, and I found this to-do list,” Ariana said. “It said two things: Get married and have five kids. And I’m so happy that I’ve found a man as mature and resolved. I mean, five is definitely not the right number, but we can compromise.”