From Training Buddies to Life Partners
Laura Siegle and A.J. Cephus met through CrossFit. When she left for a monthlong break, he realized that he wanted to take their relationship beyond the gym.
Laura Siegle and Ahmaed Cephus Jr. had trained at the same CrossFit gym in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, for about a year, engaging in friendly competition and getting to know cursory details about each other’s lives, when Ms. Siegle left for a month in the summer of 2016 on a trip.
“I realized I was missing her like crazy,” said Mr. Cephus, 32, who is known as A.J.
So when she returned, he invited her to join him at a New York Philharmonic concert in the park, though their schedules precluded the date. For her birthday, she was planning to attend a concert in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, and she asked if he’d like to join.
“I thought, ‘Oh, sweet. She’s reciprocating,'” he said.
Actually, she wasn’t. She invited a broad swath of friends and acquaintances, though she and he had a wonderful time together. “It still felt kind of like a date,” he said.
Afterward, he asked her to dinner, and this time, it was Ms. Siegle who didn’t grasp the intent of the invitation.
“The way he asked me was clear — I was just kind of incredulous,” said Ms. Siegle, 37, who had assumed throughout their acquaintance that the woman with whom he often came to the gym was his girlfriend. “I was so jaded by the whole process of dating by that point, I was like, I don’t want to get my hopes up.”
Her uncertainty evaporated when she pulled her bicycle up to the restaurant.
“It was the most wonderful first date imaginable,” said Ms. Siegle, who will take her husband’s name. “This was such an amazing, fun surprise: The connection that I had been searching for was someone I had known for quite a while.”
As they parted, she pulled him in for a kiss.
“I was very nervous, which is not characteristic,” he said. “Someone drove by and started cheering.”
Credit…Rachel Bell Photography
In the following weeks, the two made the most of the remainder of her summer vacation, as their work schedules had them operating on opposite ends of the day. She is a seventh-grade social studies teacher at Lower Manhattan Community Middle School, and he was at the time in hotel management and worked nights.
Ms. Siegle graduated from Wesleyan University and received a master’s degree in sociology and education from Columbia, where Mr. Cephus is about to begin his junior year, double majoring in computer science and sustainable development. He had attended St. John’s University in Jamaica, Queens, for two years after high school, but couldn’t afford to continue so instead went into hotel management.
“I would say I fell in love with her within the first few dates,” he said.
During her summer trip, she had picked up an unmannered puppy off the streets, and Mr. Cephus impressed her with his patience, tolerance and willingness to shoulder part of what she viewed as her own burden. (The puppy, Pina, is now well-behaved and beloved. “She’s the best dog ever,” Ms. Siegle said.)
“It made me understand how much he cared for living things, how dedicated he was as a caretaker in general, and how much he cared about making sure that I was not stressed out by this,” she said.
The couple married Aug. 22, in a tent outside the Spruce Point Inn in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, with Sally Bullard, a notary public, officiating. They had intended to have their wedding a year earlier, but postponed it because of the coronavirus pandemic. About 100 guests attended, all fully vaccinated.
One unexpected benefit of the delayed wedding was that the couple’s daughter, Summer Joy Cephus, born May 15, was a guest at the event, too.
Said Mr. Cephus, “How else would all of our friends and family also get to meet our child?”