It was the beginning of the school year in 2010 when Victoria Stuss and Brian Bones first took notice of each other. The two were attending a Georgetown University School of Medicine orientation mixer at Guards, a now-defunct college haunt, when Brian decided to introduce himself.
“I actually knew Tori lived really close to me, basically on my street, so I went up to her and her friend and was like, ‘Hey, why aren’t we besties yet?’ Which is totally awkward, but it was just me being a friendly newbie, I guess,” Brian says with a laugh.
In their first year, the two had all of their lecture-style classes together, but Victoria says she didn’t see much of him because he wasn’t exactly the going-to-class-every-day type.
“I definitely knew he existed,” Victoria says. “I’d see him out all the time, and I remember thinking he was tall and funny, but we never really had a solid conversation until second semester.”
Brian invited Victoria and her friends to a happy hour of sorts at McFadden’s in February, and the two were able to learn a bit more about each other. Brian no longer thought of Victoria as “just a quiet girl,” and Victoria no longer thought of Brian as “just a slacker.” After spending the rest of their first year on friendly terms, Brian decided to make his move when they got back to campus in the fall.
He took her out to Mon Ami Gabi in Bethesda, where, even though they had been friends for more than a year, they still had first-date jitters. The two relied on their separate medical school experiences to lead the conversation, and they quickly found out that they were undeniably different students with polar opposite approaches to studying, which ended up helping them through the next two years of school together.
“We were studying for the same tests, but we were studying in very different ways, with me being more big picture and Tori wanting to fill in the little details. But we have always had very similar successes,” Brian says. “Which led us to create a name for the two of us while we went through this stressful school experience — Team Bones.”
They considered themselves official by that December and began an extremely encouraging and valuable relationship. With medical school as demanding as it is, they started leaning on each other for support through the most difficult parts of their academic careers, such as 80-plus-hour weeks working at a hospital and grueling finals periods.
“By our third year, I was thinking about what I really wanted out of life, outside of hospital life,” Brian says. “And quickly during that time, I realized what I wanted, and it wasn’t career goals, it was about being with Tori and coming home to a person and place I loved.”
After about a year as supportive teammates on Team Bones, Brian and Victoria started to talk marriage. In December 2012, Brian visited Victoria’s family in New Jersey and was granted permission to propose from her father. On Dec. 30, they visited the Old Post Office and climbed to the top, but Brian quickly realized that the miserable and frigid evening was not the right time, so he waited until the next day, New Year’s Eve.
On their drive back to the District from a Louis C.K. show in Baltimore, Brian asked whether she wanted to check out the monuments at night. Once they got out of the car, he realized that he had made a good decision. Someone was putting tea lights all around the reflecting pool, and although the area surrounding the Lincoln Memorial was packed with tourists, Brian took Victoria to a more secluded area off to the side and got down on one knee.
Often after accepted proposals, couples begin to stress about a wedding or a life together. But for Brian and Victoria, there was another huge step they had to take as a medical school couple.
“In our fourth year, we were applying to residency programs, and we were trying to apply to the same metropolitan schools, so we had to make a lot of sacrifices money-wise and couldn’t see each other for some weekends to go on interviews,” Victoria says. “So after the proposal, it wasn’t like, ‘Okay, great. Now let’s start a home.’”
After more than six months of applying and interviewing and waiting, they found out that they were both offered positions at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., where Victoria will begin her studies as an otolaryngologist — an ear, nose and throat doctor — and Brian will begin his in general surgery and then radiology after they graduate next month.
“More than the proposal itself, I think that application process and getting back our standardized exam scores and realizing that we could be together and that we didn’t have any boundaries as far as residencies really solidified us, so we could start enjoying a life together as opposed to existing in this limbo,” Brian says.
After several dates along the Tidal Basin during cherry blossom season, Victoria and Brian had dreamed of getting married there. But their nuptials were a victim to March’s cruel arctic blast, and instead of marrying at the Jefferson Memorial as they had planned to do March 28, the two were forced to move their ceremony to the Carnegie Institution for Science, where they were already planning to host their reception.
Victoria Stuss, 26, and Brian Bones, 28, were married under a wooden arch they built together. Cherry blossom vines, which had been retrieved the day before from a florist and taken back to their sauna-like apartment to bloom, decorated the room, and the 100 guests were treated to a cake Victoria made herself.
“I’m looking forward to sitting on our porch in some rocking chairs,” Brian said after the wedding.
“At this point, I’m excited to be in a place with Brian for more than a year,” Victoria said. “And I’m excited to build a home in Winston-Salem with our dog, Colby Jack Bones, and buy some cowboy boots.”