In June 2010, after ending a long-distance relationship, Renee Raymond decided to take a sabbatical from dating. It was time to let destiny take its course.
“I needed to be very clear with myself, and the universe, about what I wanted, who I was, and what worked for me and what didn’t work for me, which is not something I had done in a meaningful way before,” says Renee, 56. “It was like, ‘Let me take a minute and pause for my cause.’ ”
Little did she know that 700 miles away, in Chicago, her future wife, Patricia Raspberry, was doing the exact same thing.
Having recently ended a long-term, long-distance relationship, Patricia similarly decided that a year-long dating hiatus was the best course to help ensure her happiness.
“I got very specific about what it was that I wanted in, and from, a relationship,” says Patricia, 47. She began journaling and listing all of the characteristics she hoped to find in a partner, including quirky, super smart, intuitive, spiritual and humble.
Luckily, fate, in the form of a mutual friend, intervened. “She was relentless!” Patricia recalled. “She kept saying, ‘I believe that a higher spirit is telling me that you two have to meet.’ ”
In June 2011, while Patricia was in Washington helping to plan her sister’s wedding, the friend arranged a group dinner at Oyamel in Chinatown. And, as she suspected, the connection and chemistry between Renee and Patricia was immediate and palpable.
Renee says she knew then and there that she would marry Patricia, if given the chance.
“I was completely floored with how beautiful she was,” says Renee, a magistrate judge in the D.C. superior court system. “When she spoke, and this deep voice came out of this beautiful face, I started getting dizzy and physically became clumsy.”
(That’s not an exaggeration. Weeks into dating, Renee says, she bought a balance bracelet to help level her. “Meeting her really shifted my entire internal axis,” she says.)
After dinner, they left the group and moved their discussion to Room 11, where they continued talking for hours. They were shocked at how similarly they approached life — religion, careers, even music.
“We interpret music the same way. We really feel it, in the same moment, the same sound,” Patricia says. “We will listen to a song and at the very same beat, we’ll both just go, ‘Mmm.’ I mean, it happens so often now, we just laugh.”
They each left with the other’s number, and a feeling of hope and confidence.
“It was like we had literally put out in the universe, ‘This is what I want. I’m ready!’ and it went, ‘Okay, here you go,’ ” Patricia says, laughing.
Over the next few weeks, they saw each other frequently, going to concerts and dance clubs and driving around Rock Creek Park.
Things progressed rapidly, and, by the end of June, Patricia had invited Renee to a family brunch at her parents’ house in Washington the weekend of her sister’s wedding.
“Renee’s in the kitchen, rolling up her sleeves and helping out with everything,” Patricia says. “And at one point, I see she’s carrying a plate of cobbler. I ask, ‘Where are you going with that?’ She says, ‘I’m taking it to Ma!’ ”
In December, Renee flew to Chicago, helped Patricia pack up her cats and her belongings, and moved her into her home in Washington.
“It didn’t feel fast. It felt completely right,” Renee says. “Like it just made sense.”
Shortly after the move, Patricia’s father, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist William Raspberry, asked, or rather insisted, that Patricia invite Renee to dinner with the family and his close friends at his home in Washington.
Hours later, after a night of laughter and good conversation, Patricia found herself getting emotional. “I got in the car and started crying,” she recalls. “I remember thinking, ‘This is what I always wanted and at one point I thought I might never have it.’ ” She stopped the car, ran back into the house and gave her father a huge hug.
Soon, they were spending every Sunday night at Patricia’s parents’ house. A year later, William Raspberry died of prostate cancer.
“He was setting the stage so that she and my mom would be closer, and that we would be okay when he was no longer here with us,” Patricia says. “It was beautiful.”
They keep up the tradition today, sharing dinner every Sunday with Patricia’s mother, Sondra, whom Renee still calls ‘Ma.’
“Her profound love for my family is so deep, true and natural,” says Patricia, a social psychologist and founder of Black Raspberry Consumer Insights, a D.C. qualitative research firm. “There are no in-laws in our family. We are really just a big family.”
Both were convinced they had found their perfect match. “A friend’s partner once told me, ‘You’re going to have to let go of this whole notion that you can have someone who is funky, cool and super smart, all wrapped up in one package. It’s never going to happen for you,’ ” says Patricia. “I never forgot it, because I never believed her. And when I met Renee, I thought, ‘I finally got it.’ ”
In March 2014, during a three-week trip to Bali for Patricia’s 45th birthday, Renee proposed. Not wanting to risk losing the engagement ring, she presented Patricia with a makeshift, sand-grass ring at Kuta Beach.
“We later read that ‘kuta’ means ‘our,’ ” Renee says. “It was literally just us on ‘our’ beach,” Patricia adds.
Intimidated by wedding preparation, the couple put off planning specifics for some time. But after the landmark Supreme Court decision in June 2015 that affirmed same-sex marriage as a constitutional right, they felt lucky and privileged to be able to share the wedding with their loved ones when, where and how they wanted.
“All of our friends and family were absolutely ecstatic [with the news]. You could just feel this energy,” Renee says. “It must have felt like when the 13th or 14th Amendment was passed. It was like we were beginning to be seen, really seen.”
It also increased the excitement — and pressure — for the couple to pick a wedding date. “As soon as the Supreme Court said, ‘It’s all right, you can get married now,’ then people really began [asking], ‘So, when are you getting married?’ ” Renee says.
“And it became not cool to keep saying, ‘I don’t know!’ ” Patricia added.
On Sept. 17, Renee and Patricia were married at Arena Stage in Washington. The brides, meeting from opposite sides of the theater, walked down one of the aisles together, hand in hand.
Many of the 230 guests became misty-eyed as the couple exchanged personalized vows.
“The moment I met you, my entire life shifted and I knew that neither it, nor I, would ever be the same,” Patricia said. “My soul exhaled because I had finally found you.”
More from On Love:
Are you getting married in the Washington region? Tell us why we should feature your nuptials here at wapo.st/weddings.