It took Chelsea Graham and Matthew Kocurek four years to to get to their first date.
The couple, who met through mutual friends in 2013, would repeatedly run into one another at parties and events around Alvin, Texas. At one birthday dinner, they talked the night away.
Sensing a strong connection, Mr. Kocurek began making sure he was around when he knew Ms. Graham would be as well. Their friendship grew and started to feel like something more. In the spring of 2017, he asked Ms. Graham to dinner.
After that date, at the Yard House restaurant in Friendswood, Texas, they didn’t waste a minute. “We may have been friends for a while, but once we really ‘saw’ each other, there was no going back. We knew almost immediately this was it.”
Ms. Graham, 28, says she remembers talking to Mr. Kocurek, 30, on the phone a day or so after their first date and she could tell he was about to say “I love you.” “Before he could say it, I said ‘I know you love me, and I love you too.’”
After six months of dating, they decided to do a move-in trial for a week, calling it a “practice run.” Within that week, Ms. Graham had a bad stomach bug; there was a solar eclipse; and Hurricane Harvey hit. So that one week turned into three, after which they knew that together they could manage anything.
Both Ms. Graham and Mr. Kocurek graduated from the University of Houston-Clear Lake. Ms. Graham also has a master’s degree from the University of Houston Graduate School of Social Work. She is set to begin work as a medical social worker at the Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston on Jan. 4, 2021. Mr. Kocurek is a software developer at Hewlett-Packard Enterprise in Houston. Although they are both Alvin natives, the couple now reside in Houston.
Mr. Kocurek proposed in the summer of 2019 on the beach in Paradise Island, Bahamas. As far as Ms. Graham knew, the trip was simply to be a celebration of her graduation. “Everyone else knew, but I couldn’t tell her mom because she cannot keep secrets,” Mr. Kocurek said. “I always knew that this was the person I wanted to spend my life with and it just seemed like the right time.”
The pandemic forced the couple to make some revisions to their original wedding plans. The guest list was cut to 70 from 170, and their honeymoon changed to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee instead of Europe. They still had their wedding at their original venue — the Milltown Historic District’s River Venue in New Braunfels, Texas, along the Guadalupe River — though much of the celebration was held outside.
The couple married Dec. 5, with Pastor Richard Schweinsberg from Texas Wedding Ministries officiating. The couple had a bridal party of 10, including Mr. Kocurek’s father, David Kocurek.
The bride wore a custom, long-sleeve gown ensconced in lace, and “the buttons at the end of my sleeves are actually from my mother’s sleeves of her wedding dress. So that is very special.” The groom donned a classic black tuxedo and a dark green bow tie.
About 70 guests were in attendance and about 30 watched via Zoom. Sanitizing stations and masks were available to the in-person guests, and seating was spaced out.
The venue was decorated in white roses, pine and eucalyptus. Ms. Graham said she and Mr. Kocurek wanted “all the winter feels but not quite screaming Christmas.”
“We brought a lot of elements from our own house to the venue,” she added, “including sentimental items like the painted portrait of our dog, a schnauzer mix named Wren.”
Mr. Kocurek’s mother, Tammy Kocurek, crafted soap in a wintry balsam and evergreen scent and tucked them into tiny bags with little cards that read “Baby, it’s Covid outside” as wedding favors.
After the ceremony guests went outside. “It did dry up outside so we were able to be out on the large patio where guests could see the river below and stand next to heaters.”
Ms. Graham had a special father-daughter dance with her father, Mike Graham. The two performed routines to Chris Cornell’s “The Promised” and “Only These Words.”
The evening ended with a “snowflake toss” of biodegradable, water soluble confetti that looks like snow when it’s thrown.