Margaret Brennan gave herself five years to become a broadcast journalist. Within two years, she was in front of the camera and, by age 26, had landed her first on-air contract. She has covered such top news stories as the European debt crisis, the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak live from Tahrir Square and, most recently, U.S. nuclear negotiations with Iran.
“Most Americans travel through their TVs, not with their passports,” says the Washington-based CBS correspondent, who primarily covers national security and foreign policy for the network.
Maj. Ali Iyad Yakub, who goes by the nickname Yado, seemed to take a more relaxed approach to life before going to law school and becoming a judge advocate in the U.S. Marine Corps.
The couple first met in 1998 at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Margaret, a freshman, and Yado, a senior, were acquaintances, sharing only occasional greetings when passing on U-Va.’s Lawn.
“It was a matter of timing,” Margaret says. “Both of us agree that we never would have dated each other back in college.”
The two ran in different circles. “I thought she was too conservative, too preppy, too ‘New England,’ ” Yado recalls. “She thought I was a bit wild and partied a bit much.”
In the summer of 2000, Margaret studied abroad at Yarmouk University in Irbid, Jordan, on a Fulbright-Hays grant. The trip proved life-changing in more ways than one. She honed her passion for travel, learned about the complexities of international affairs and happened to share an apartment with her future sister-in-law, Samia Yakub. The two became friends and traveled together, even visiting Samia and Yado’s grandmother in Damascus.
In June 2012, when Margaret moved to Washington from New York to work for CBS, she and Samia reconnected on Facebook. Over dinner, Samia mentioned that her brother also was returning to the area for a fellowship on Capitol Hill.
Margaret got a kick out of learning that the “T-shirts and flip-flops, boyish, not regimented” student had become not only a lawyer, but also a Marine. “That was not at all how I remembered him,” she says.
Nine months later, while touring open houses on 16th Street, Margaret noticed an attractive guy waiting at the bus stop. As she got closer, she realized it was Yado. They chatted briefly, and he invited her to his housewarming party the next month.
Margaret attended the party with mutual friends, but it wasn’t until the end of the night that the two visited again. Yado handed her his business card and suggested they meet to “compare notes” on the District. She wasn’t sure whether he was interested in her or simply networking.
Over the next several weeks, they exchanged e-mails and, despite their busy schedules, met for drinks and dinners. Margaret says she considered those get-togethers dates, but Yado saw the outings as two newcomers to the city just getting together.
“We went on a few dates — well, at least I thought they were dates. . . . I wore a cute dress! If we were just hanging out, I would have put my jeans on,” Margaret says jokingly.
Eight weeks later, the two shared their first kiss. “I was definitely taking it slow, really slow. I wasn’t in a rush,” Yado says. “I know it can intrigue a girl when that’s the case.”
The more time the two spent together, the more Margaret discovered a different side of Yado — one that was “calm, intellectually curious, regimented and composed.”
“He listened really well, to the conversation and the follow-up. I was really struck by that because that’s often not the case,” she says. “He wants to fully understand, be empathetic, be present and in the moment.”
Yado was similarly captivated. “When she let her guard down, I liked what I saw,” he says. “I like the fact that she’s down to earth, in spite of who she is and what she is. Once I realized that . . . it really surprised me and intrigued me.”
The two became a couple that summer and, five months later, decided to embark on a trip to Thailand. “We saw how well we traveled together,” Margaret recalls. “We were both up for exploring. . . . Both of us didn’t want to go back to the hotel to take naps because we didn’t want to miss a moment.” Yado described the experience as “pure happiness.”
As soon as they returned to the States, Yado contacted a jeweler and, unbeknownst to Margaret, bought an engagement ring.
On March 15, 2014, Yado picked Margaret up at Andrews Air Force Base, where she had just returned from covering Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s attempts to negotiate a peace deal in Ukraine, and the two drove to Charlottesville for a day-long getaway. After visiting local wineries, the two stopped by their alma mater. Jet-lagged and hungry, Margaret walked ahead briskly on the U-Va. Lawn, eager to leave and get to dinner. But she felt a pull on her arm, turned around and saw Yado dropping to one knee on the spot where they had met more than 15 years before.
He told her: “If I would have known then what I know now about you, I wouldn’t have waited so long to propose to you.” Shocked, Margaret says she “almost blacked out.”
The next morning, the two drove back to Washington in time for Margaret to appear on “Face the Nation.”
“We had a two-week moratorium on wedding planning, but the next morning . . . I woke up and saw my mom had already started a Pinterest [wedding] page,” Margaret says with a laugh.
Two weeks before the festivities, Margaret was still coordinating last-minute details from her hotel in Switzerland, where she was covering the Iran nuclear talks.
“You have long days with very little information coming out, but you’re on edge all the time,” she says. “I was trying to do seating assignments and answer e-mails in the midst of all that. I had to keep rescheduling my wedding dress fitting because we kept getting the talks extended.”
On April 11, Margaret, 35, married Yado, 37, at the historic Decatur House in downtown Washington. The ceremony blended the couple’s two cultures: The bride is Irish American, and the groom is Syrian American. Bagpipes played as Margaret, wearing a Monique Lhuillier gown and a floor-length veil, walked down the aisle and as the couple left the ceremony under a traditional military saber arch.
The 191 guests — including CBS News president David Rhodes and “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer, who recently announced his retirement — listened to a Middle Eastern quartet during the cocktail hour and danced the dabke, a folk Arabic dance, at the reception. Two days later, the newlyweds jetted off on a 16-day honeymoon with stops in South Africa, Mauritius and the Seychelles.
A few days before the wedding, Margaret said she was most looking forward to “turning and seeing everyone you love in one place.” Yado agreed. “I think the wedding is going to be a great mix of our two worlds. I’m just going to take it all in, look at all the faces in the crowd and not let a moment pass by too quickly.”