But first things first: Kelly, 33, and Ryan, 32, were introduced around 2014 by Kelly’s then-boyfriend. He and Kelly had a tradition of spending Friday nights at Cusbah, an Indian restaurant on H Street NE, where Ryan worked part time as a bartender while attending graduate school.
At the bar, Ryan and Kelly developed an easy rapport and, eventually, a friendship. “I always thought, ‘Man, he’s so cute and nice. Why doesn’t he have a girlfriend?’ ” says Kelly, who owns Carnes & Co., an event planning, PR and yoga company. “I even tried to set him up with my best friend, but there were no sparks.”
That was probably because Ryan was secretly smitten with Kelly. He says he “immediately had a crush on her” but kept it private because she had a boyfriend.
In January 2016, Kelly took a three-week trip to India to become a certified yoga instructor. Before she left, she had a frank discussion with her ex about their future. When she returned, she discovered that he not only wanted to end the relationship, but also had a new partner.
Kelly shared the raw details of their split with The Washington Post’s Solo-ish blog. “It took me a good six months or so to rebuild myself to the point at which I was able to say yes to new experiences,” she says.
But gradually, Kelly began to embrace new opportunities. When the lifestyle website Brightest Young Things announced a June party at the National Museum of American History, she snagged a ticket and posted about it on Facebook.
Ryan saw an opening and took it. They made plans to go together, and at the party, their chemistry was palpable. They snapped a picture at a photo booth and later shared a first kiss in Ryan’s backyard pool.
After a decade of dating in the District, a town of “alpha males with enough male toxicity to take down a horse,” Kelly quips, Ryan was a breath of fresh air. “It was so nice to meet someone who was genuinely kind and nice,” she says.
And, because they were already friends, they were able to skip all the awkwardness and tension typical of a budding relationship and “get straight to the good stuff,” she adds.
An avid fan of costumed occasions, Kelly began inviting Ryan to Renaissance fairs and cosplay conventions. Soon, it became a regular pastime.
“She’s very much a weirdo-geek, and I’m very much a closeted weirdo-geek, masquerading as a normal guy,” Ryan says. “She introduces me to new things and pulls me out of my shell.”
In September, while Kelly was at Dragon Con, a convention in Atlanta for fans of science fiction, fantasy and comic books, Ryan sent her a video of him performing the song “S.T.A.Y” from the sci-fi film “Interstellar.”
“I completely lost my mind when I heard it,” Kelly recalls. “I was like: ‘This is a love letter. I have to go,’ ” she recalls. She packed her bags and booked the next flight home. She didn’t even change out of her Eleven costume from the show “Stranger Things” before arriving at Ryan’s doorstep to tell him she was falling in love.
A few weeks later, Ryan returned the sentiment at a murder-mystery-themed party. “She is an unapologetic, unstoppable weirdo who loves life,” says Ryan, a program analyst at the Department of Justice. “I love and admire her confidence.”
In fact, it was Kelly who ended up on one knee. In May 2017, she proposed to Ryan during a private tour of the observatory at Columbia University in New York, presenting him with a ring made out of meteorite and dinosaur bone. He said yes without hesitation.
Nearly a year later, they eloped to New Orleans on April Fools’ Day (natch). Their first choice was to get hitched at a chapel in the Czech Republic made entirely of human bones. But they ultimately settled on the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, where they exchanged vows surrounded by antique bottles and potions.
After the ceremony, the pair had their palms read in Jackson Square and ended the night at a vampire-inspired speakeasy, where the bride tossed her bouquet off the rooftop to a boisterous crowd on Bourbon Street.
The offbeat festivities didn’t end there. On Sept. 8, the couple feted 200 family members and friends with a voodoo-inspired bash at dusk in the historic Congressional Cemetery on Capitol Hill. The party, complete with fire dancers, a 15-member percussion band and a stilt walker, was billed to “thrill guests” and “wake the dead.”
An Edgar Allan Poe impersonator and professional mentalist milled about as guests ate vegan New Orleans-inspired gumbo among the headstones.
Instead of wearing a lavish white dress, the bride chose a wine-red Victorian-style one, which she paired with zombie-inspired makeup and an embellished white wig. The groom followed suit with a crimson three-piece look and a velvet top hat.
Partygoers were also encouraged to come in costume, and many did, donning colorful robes, veils and skulls.
“Tonight, they are looking death in the face and saying, ‘I choose to be with you for life,’ ” said guest Vail Henry. “And that is pretty badass.”