Love came quickly for Ed Poe and Kate Debelack.
The two met on the Web via Nerve Personals; at their first in-person meeting, they were as comfortable as they’d been online and talked until the bar closed. Three days later, Debelack, an actress, invited Poe to see one of her plays. He understood its subversive humor, got along with her friends and, having grown up in theater and trained as an opera singer, knew how her world and schedule operated.
They saw each other almost every day and were a couple by the end of the month. But that was in 2003; it would take nine years for them to make it down the aisle. It seemed that whenever one was ready to say “I do,” the other was happy with things just as they were.
When Debelack’s best friend, Clare Johnson, met Poe, she didn’t even think to give Debelack feedback on her new guy — she’d forgotten he was new. “They just kind of fit, and they just worked,” Johnson recalls. “It was like he’d been here forever.”
At the time, Poe was 33 and Debelack was 29. The two discovered they share a quick wit and developed an immediate rapport that thrived on banter and gentle teasing. They both loved old movies, good cocktails and the arts. “We’re very simpatico. We play off each other well,” says Debelack, who received critical acclaim playing the lead role in Studio Theater’s 2006 production of the Neil LaBute play “Fat Pig.”
“She appreciated my sense of humor, which was worth a lot,” Poe says. “And she had a good, confident, independent streak. I wasn’t looking for someone who wanted a husband. I was looking for someone who was independent and capable of making a life so we can be together as equals.”
Both privately thought they’d found the love of their lives, although the thought was sometimes jarring when they considered how fast the relationship progressed. “It was, ‘This can’t be right — this is working too well,’ ” Debelack says.
After three happy years together, as they were planning to move in together, Poe felt ready to tie the knot. When he raised the issue with Debelack, she was taken aback.
“Even though I was ready for a serious relationship, I wasn’t necessarily thinking I was going to get married anytime soon,” she says.
Poe was disappointed but eager to continue to enjoy their life together, so the subject was dropped. They made the Passenger, a bar near the Convention Center that attracts cocktail connoisseurs, their favorite haunt and routinely watched “The Thin Man” and “The Philadelphia Story” during nights at home.
Despite an unsentimental facade, the two take very good care of each other, Johnson says. If Debelack comes home from a particularly long day of teaching acting, “Ed knows that he should just have a cocktail ready and not talk to her for an hour.”
And when she crawls home from 12-hour rehearsals and wants to go straight to bed, he nudges her to drink a glass of water so she won’t wake up dehydrated.
Almost three years ago, Debelack started to feel herself coming around to the idea of marriage. “He was the person I could see myself with,” she says.
But when she mentioned to Poe that her grandmother’s ring was in her jewelry box and that he should feel free to use it to propose, it was his turn to be surprised. In his mind, they were already committed. “I wondered what changed,” he says.
After shifting his expectations, he began to plan a proposal. More than once, he stopped short of pulling the ring out of his pocket because the moment didn’t seem right.
But in February 2011, he invited her along on a work trip to New York, where they had taken their first trip together. He made reservations at Artisanal, the same restaurant they’d eaten at years ago. Debelack noticed the ring was missing from her jewelry box and squeezed in a trip to the nail salon just in case. Between courses at the restaurant, he asked her to marry him.
They began planning for a wedding, but Debelack’s father’s health was failing. When he died, they decided to postpone it a year.
On Oct. 14, the two married at the Phoenix Park Hotel near Union Station. A mutual friend officiated the ceremony, and the two mixed a cocktail to mark their union. They combined rum, sugar and lemon — stirred, not shaken — and then they each took a swig and passed it on to their friends.
After a cocktail reception at the hotel, the couple and their friends retreated to the Passenger, where there was another wedding of sorts. There were bridesmaids in neon dresses, flower bouquets and toasts that declared the pair “married in the eyes of the bar,” Debelack says.
Like a good cocktail, Johnson says, their relationship is about balance. “He grounds her, and she keeps him from getting too nerdy and dorky. It’s almost like there’s not really a separation between the two. They truly enjoy each other.”