Nicki Anderson used to hate blind dates. She hated the dread. She hated the anxiety. She hated the anticipation and eventual disappointment. She hated them until Nov. 21, 2010, the day she met David Cornelius.
Nicki’s best friend, Shayna, and her boyfriend, James, were the ones who set the pair up. Shayna showed Nicki a picture of David on Facebook. She noticed that he was in the Army, in a fraternity and that he was cute. Although she was nervous about dating someone in the Army, she agreed to meet David on a double date with Shayna and James.
They decided to go to Public Bar DC to watch an NFL game and then maybe get drinks. Nicki was already anticipating leaving right after the game.
“I’m all for leaving situations when they’re uncomfortable, and I had really weird blind dates in the past,” says Nicki, a Fredericksburg native. “But with David, it was like I didn’t want to leave. Shayna knew that I liked him when I suggested staying around and playing pool.”
They all stayed out well into the night, talking and drinking and enjoying each other’s company. Nicki was feeling good about things until David let her know that he was moving to Seattle the next month.
Nicki wasn’t exactly heartbroken when she first heard the news. She was just starting grad school and was going through a lot of changes. But instead of cutting off future plans with David, she decided to make the best of their few weeks together.
“I think we hung out every day or almost every day together until I left,” David says. “She seemed like she had a lot of good things going for her. She was very dedicated and determined, so I felt like she was someone I wanted to spend a lot of time with.”
They played shuffleboard at Atomic Billiards in Cleveland Park and had a good enough time that about a week into dating, David introduced Nicki to his parents. By the time David moved, Nicki knew it couldn’t possibly be the end of their relationship.
“The first sign that something was really brewing was when he and his father drove to Seattle and we texted practically the entire time,” Nicki says. “And when he first got to Washington he was like, ‘It’s so nice. You should see it,’ and within two weeks of being there, he bought me a plane ticket to visit him.”
“I was moving into my house and away from everybody I knew and I felt secluded, so I just decided that it would be so much nicer to have Nicki around,” David says. “So we could explore together and hang out again.”
Nicki admits that she was hesitant about flying across the country to see a guy she had just met, so like any good daughter, she made sure to give her mother all of David’s information.
“Let's just say I was covering all my bases,” Nicki says with a laugh. “I called my mom and basically said, hey, this is what I’m doing and if you don’t hear from me in a few days here’s his phone number and his address just in case.”
The trip went extremely well, and quick visits like that would continue for the next three years while Nicki remained in the Washington, D.C., area. They stayed committed to seeing each other at least once a month, with surprise meet-ups in airports or wherever Nicki traveled for her job. It was clear with each trip that Nicki and David were becoming more attached, and soon enough, the marriage talks began.
They both knew that they loved being together, but the move to make it more official was all on David. In summer 2012, David was stationed in the Philippines for four months. Because they couldn’t see each other during that time, they decided they would meet up in South Florida for a cruise as soon as possible.
“It was actually my co-workers that made me realize what was going on,” Nicki says. “I hadn’t really thought about a proposal, but they were all like, ‘So you’re going on a Caribbean cruise after all this time apart, and you really think nothing’s going to happen?’ ”
The co-workers were onto something. David had a ring stuffed in his luggage. The problem was that his luggage didn’t arrive right away.
Nicki noticed David getting really uneasy when the first batch of bags came on board and his wasn’t there. Hours passed, with David getting more and more anxious, so much so that the second his bags did come, he started to unpack.
He told Nicki that he had some gifts for her to unwrap. First was a pair of sneakers she’d had her eyes on for a while. Then champagne glasses, then a key chain of a puzzle piece with a matching one for David. Then a wedding countdown device, which let Nicki in on what was happening.
“After two minutes of his luggage getting there and him showing me all these things, he was on one knee,” Nicki says with a laugh.
Their seven-day cruise and engagement celebration came at an opportune time because in a few months, there would be some major changes in both of their lives.
Nicki moved to Seattle the following January after securing a job, and in May, David deployed to Afghanistan.
“It definitely drew us closer,” Nicki says. “The move was a commitment to a relationship that we were going to endure together. With him gone, it strengthened us as a couple. It prepared us for the now. It was like we checked off all those invisible boxes. Yes, we can survive long distance. Yes, we can survive a major time difference. Yes, we can survive Afghanistan.”
He was stationed in Afghanistan for nine months, but they talked every day through FaceTime and Skype. In February, David came home.
On March 22, Nicki Anderson, 28, and David Cornelius, 30, were married at Harbour View in Woodbridge, Va., by their military chaplain in front of 225 family members and friends. They liked to think of it as a “destination wedding to home.”
“Even when David’s been gone, I’ve never felt alone in anything,” Nicki said before the wedding. “So I’m actually looking forward to just David and I and whatever children may come as a traveling little family and showing them what a happy life is.”