In the summer of 2011, one of Kevin Shields’s coworkers at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. came up to him with a picture on her phone of a girl with straight brown hair and a big, bright smile.
“Do you think she’s cute?” she asked.
“Yeah, I guess so. Why?” he replied, tentatively.
“Good, because you’re going on a date with her,” she said.
The co-worker told him that the girl’s name was Claire Loria. She worked in a different department in the Ritz’s Pentagon City office, and Kevin was persuaded to ask her on a blind date.
On Claire’s end, all she had been told about Kevin from trusted inside sources was that he was charming and had a nice voice on the phone. So when Kevin did eventually text her and invite her out for drinks later that week, she thought there wouldn’t be much harm in saying yes.
They decided to meet at the Clarendon Metro station and walk to Whitlow’s on Wilson Bar and Grill for rooftop drinks. Sure, Claire was 45 minutes late. Sure, Kevin was comedically underdressed. Sure, it was 95 degrees that day, but the couple ended up avoiding the pitfalls typical with blind dates.
“We came into that date on the agreement that this was the most awkward experience of our lives so far,” Claire says with a laugh. “And then we just bonded. We talked about our families and Harry Potter and our careers and didn’t have gaps in the conversation and basically didn’t want to leave one another.”
That happened again a few days later, when the two went to the lounge Co Co. Sala. Even after hours together, they still didn’t want to leave and ended up circling the same few blocks in Penn Quarter talking about their career aspirations and whatever else came to mind.
With things going as smoothly as they were, they thought going to Charleston, S.C., for the weekend was a good date idea.
“We had known each other for two weeks. It was 10 hours in the car down, and then the weekend, and then a 10-hour car ride back,” Kevin says. “And never did I ever think that I had to behave, that I was on a date or on a fact-finding mission. It just felt so natural.”
They went to the beach, a minor league baseball game and an Irish pub. The success of that weekend led both of them to believe that they had found a best friend.
“We got home from that weekend trip, and I still didn’t want to go home,” Claire says.
In their time as a couple, both Claire and Kevin have had their share of unwanted distance. Claire was sent to St. Thomas for a few weeks for work. Kevin moved around Maryland and then Virginia before eventually moving to Arlington to be closer to Claire in McLean.
“It was all about planning for us back then,” Kevin says. “It was about time and making sure that we could come over with a movie or meet downtown, and that’s when we really learned about communication and truthfulness because it was so obvious how dedicated we were to one another in terms of respect.”
About a year into their relationship, they started openly talking about marriage. Kevin started shopping around for rings and sending pictures to Claire to judge.
“He had been sending me pictures for about a month and a half, and one day he was like, ‘I have it!’ ” Claire says. “So I obviously loved it and I knew he had this ring, but it was really about finding a nice place to propose that I was going to let him decide on.”
In January 2013, they had a flight booked to Las Vegas so Claire could meet most of Kevin’s family for the first time, and he began thinking that could be the best place to propose.
“I knew the city really well, so I felt comfortable,” Kevin says. “I hid the ring in a sock in my suitcase, and on our second day I said, ‘We’re on vacation, let’s dress up, look good and go out.’ ”
They dined at Wolfgang Puck’s Italian restaurant Aria and then headed down to the Bellagio fountains, which Claire was desperate to see.
Kevin found an intimate balcony overlooking the fountains and waited for what seemed like an eternity for people to clear out so he and Claire were the only ones around.
“Meanwhile, I’m just thinking that this is awesome,” Claire says. “I had forgotten about the ring entirely, and so when I turned around and saw him on one knee, I was actually surprised and I barely let him get out all of his words before I said yes.”
On Feb. 22, Claire Loria, 27, and Kevin Shields, 26, wed at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in front of about 100 guests, with a reception at Saint Francis Hall. The marriage signified not only the joining of two people, but the joining of two families and friend groups, many of whom met for the first time at the wedding.
“What we want is there to be a huge sense of family,” Kevin said before the wedding. “I see Claire’s family all the time, but mine is so spread out that them finally meeting all of Claire’s side and her friends is the best way to celebrate us.”
The marriage also signifies a new chapter in their relationship, in which they’ll finally be living in the same home.
“What I’m really looking forward to is not saying good night every night and heading back home,” Claire said. “We’ve always wanted to just be around one another, and after all these years we finally can.”
“It’s also a sense of stability, and for me that’s really important. It’s to know that no matter what, we’ll always be there,” Kevin added. “When Claire comes home, I’ll be there. When I come home, she’ll be here. It’s about being one and not worrying about this coordination. I’m just really excited to both grocery shop, and when we say we’re going home, we both go home to the same place.”