Planning a wedding in eight months is stressful enough. Imagine doing so from across the globe. That’s the challenge Katie Boe and Sam Heuck faced while planning their recent nuptials.
Both work in China — Katie is a program manager at the Joint US-China Collaboration on Clean Energy in Shanghai, and Sam is a general manager at AMANN Group China. They met about five years ago when Katie, a recent graduate of Washington and Lee University in Virginia, was trying to get acclimated to her new life in China. Sam’s sister Lidey had learned from a mutual friend that Katie would be in China and suggested she get together with Sam, who had moved to China for work a few months earlier. They hit it off right away, and it immediately became clear to Katie that in Sam she had found more than just a friendly face.
“I can very distinctly remember sitting there in this very new stage of life and being like, ‘Wow, this guy is literally finishing my sentences,’ ” says Katie, 26.
Despite the initial attraction, the two were living in separate Chinese cities. But Sam, 28, was persistent, hoping that fate would bring them back together.
“I was trying to drop hints that Shanghai was a really great place,” he says. Finally, about a year later, his wish came true and Katie moved to Shanghai. The two started dating soon after.
Being so far from home (Katie is from Washington and Sam is from Pittsburgh), the two became each other’s family.
“Meeting each other made living here more fun and more of an adventure,” says Sam. And they have shared many adventures, traveling to more than 20 countries while living abroad.
By 2017, Sam decided to take the first steps toward making their family official. But getting a ring on Katie’s finger was easier said than done.
Sam had picked out the ring from a U.S. jeweler, but getting it to China was another matter. He saw his chance in April 2017, when Katie’s mother, Elizabeth, was traveling to Italy, where the couple planned to meet her for a ski trip. A college friend of Sam’s picked up the ring and took it to JFK airport in New York, where he managed to track down Elizabeth, whom he had never met. She then ferried the precious cargo across the ocean. But much to her dismay, Sam held off on proposing until two months after the Italy trip.
“My mom was definitely slightly annoyed because she thought that Sam was going to propose on the trip,” Katie says with a laugh. “She had bought the new iPhone with portrait mode to capture it.”
After getting Katie’s father’s blessing on a trip to the States in May, Sam hid the ring while he waited for the perfect moment. On a random Wednesday in June, he delivered a note to Katie at work, instructing her to meet him at a favorite park near their home: “Better Together,” one side of the note read, with the name of the park and the time on the other. Katie had a feeling a proposal was coming and started getting emotional at work, much to the surprise of her Chinese co-workers.
“The ‘proposal’ thing is not a custom in China,” she says, “so some of my colleagues were quite confused as to what was going on.” Chinese proposals, she adds, tend to have more parental involvement and are less dramatic.
When Katie arrived at the park, Sam was waiting with a picnic and champagne.
“Despite the fact that I had more or less known what was going to happen for a couple of hours, I was sobbing,” Katie says. “I think he had to ask me three or four times before I actually said yes!”
A friend was hiding in the bushes during the proposal, discreetly snapping photos.
“It was so perfect to have another member of our expat Shanghai family there for the proposal,” Katie says. The newly engaged couple then headed to their favorite restaurant on the Bund (a waterfront area of Shanghai) and had dinner overlooking the city skyline.
Despite their ties to their adopted country, Sam and Katie decided to get married in the District at the Washington National Cathedral, with a Chinese-themed welcome dinner the night before at the Cosmos Club.
“We never considered having it in China because none of our family is here,” she says.
Katie had always wanted a winter wedding and was willing to sacrifice a few months of planning to do so. So the countdown was on. “I was going to do whatever I could to make it happen,” she says.
Among other things, that meant having only a few days to choose her gown on a short visit to the States in July, with the final fitting a mere 10 days before the ceremony.
But it all came together, and on Feb. 10, the couple exchanged vows at the ornate neo-Gothic cathedral in front of 240 family members and friends, and celebrated later at the Sulgrave Club.
“I really do feel like there was a lot of joy at our wedding because our story is so special,” Katie says. “We’ve been each other’s family for a long time, and now it’s official.”