On the basketball court, a 17 year-old Matt Joseph was known for his competitive nature, which quickly subsided to playful banter when surrounded by close friends. So it came as no surprise that he fell for the girl who matched his athletic streak with grace and humor off the court.
The year was 2003, and Jenny Klein, then 16, also played basketball as a high school student at Maret in Northwest. Sharing social circles, their classmates hinted to each about their mutual interest in one another, but it wasn’t until one December afternoon — after two years as friends — that Matt looked to take the next step.
The pair had developed a morning routine of jockeying for the school’s best parking spot before classes began, along with an agreement that the victor would drive the other person to their car across campus at the end of the day.
“I drove Jenny to her car because I’d won the race that day,” Matt, now 26, recalls. Before Jenny disembarked, Matt asked her to be his girlfriend. They planned a dinner date at Clyde’s followed by a movie in Georgetown.
Soon, dates became routine. Matt became a frequent face in the bleachers at Jenny’s basketball games, known for his enthusiastic chants of “Go Jenny Klein! Go!” And Jenny, even with her fear of roller coasters, agreed to a date at Six Flags. Luckily for her, a sudden downpour put all roller coaster rides on hold.
Matt knew that for Jenny, who came from a tight-knit family that included two younger brothers, making a good impression with her parents and siblings would go far. As Matt was invited more and more to Klein family dinners, he and Jenny’s brothers, Andy and David, would recap Monty Python sketches. And for Matt, an only child, the feeling that he was becoming family was palpable.
“It’s something you always laugh at and do with your family,” Matt says. “But I saw a whole other side of Jenny that I didn’t see at school.” And, he adds, “I kind of envisioned us doing that.”
Not discounting the difficulties of a long-distance relationship, the pair decided to give it a try when both left for college. Matt headed to Middlebury College in Vermont, while Jenny stayed in the area at Georgetown University.
“From the beginning, I’d felt this was right,” Jenny says. “And we were mature enough to take it seriously,” Matt adds. The two remained exclusive throughout the four years of college, both traveling on weekends and holidays to see each another.
The strain of infrequent visits was tough, both admit, but they developed a system for coping, talking at night and texting during the day, even to the point where Matt’s friends would make comments about his attachment to his phone.
But late night phone calls and weekend visits were also moments for planning and speculating about the future. Both had picked up cooking as a hobby while in college, and soon Matt began receiving cookbooks as gifts from family and friends who anticipated the two would move in together after school.
The summer after graduation, the pair settled into a small apartment in Clarendon before moving to Dupont to pursue law degrees. Other than sometimes having to do more laundry than usual, Matt says the transition from living apart to living together was nearly seamless. At that point, he says, “we knew we wanted to stay together for as long as we could.”
By July 2011, Matt had spent numerous vacations with the Klein family, as had Jenny with the Josephs. But Matt wanted an upcoming vacation to Hilton Head, S.C., with Jenny and his family to be particularly special. He and Jenny had bounced the idea of marriage off each other previously, and Matt had spent long hours discussing the prospect with his parents. This was the time and place, he knew, to pop the question.
“It became a secret mission. I wanted to throw her off guard,” Matt said. So he broached the subject of shopping for wedding bands after the trip with Jenny, so that she wouldn’t suspect a proposal during the vacation. Just prior to the trip, he had purchased a ring at the same Alexandria store where his parents bought their wedding rings — something that had special resonance, Matt says.
On the evening of July 24, Matt suggested he and Jenny take a stroll on the beach near their lodge. He knew Jenny was especially fond of dolphins, and he suggested they look for some by the waterfront.
“I just got in between Jenny and the ocean,” Matt says. “She was looking for dolphins.” Jenny, puzzled as to why Matt was blocking her view, was shocked when Matt got down on one knee, told her he loved her more than anything else in the world, and asked for her hand in marriage. Soon joined by Matt’s parents, they had the rest of the trip to celebrate the news.
“It’s just one of those things that’s such a long time coming,” Jenny says. “We were ready for this.”
On August 17, Matt and Jenny were married in front of family and friends at the Sequoia in Georgetown, along the Potomac waterfront. They chose the location for its connection to their first dates in the city — a striking affirmation that 10 years of dinners, car rides, late-night chats and moments trapped in rainstorms had come full circle.
“For the first time,” Matt says, “it was really hitting me. This is something I’d looked forward to for as long as I can remember.”
As Matt and Jenny met at the altar beside a tree decorated with hundreds of colorful paper cranes (a gift from Matt’s great aunt) and a white quilt (a gift from Jenny’s late grandmother intended for her wedding day), the two were pronounced man and wife as the officiant read from Robert Fulghum’s “Union”:
“The symbolic vows that you are about to make are a way of saying to one another, ‘You know all those things that we’ve promised, and hoped, and dreamed — well, I meant it all, every word.’ Look at one another and remember this moment in time. . . . For after today you shall say to the world — This is my husband. This is my wife.”