Neither Kevin Gordon Neil nor Annalise Brittany Deal were looking for romance when they were introduced by a mutual friend in February 2020.
Ms. Deal, whose relationship with another “Kevin” had ended six months earlier, had doubts about dating anyone else with the name. Mr. Neil, who was studying at Boston University School of Theology, was seriously entertaining the idea of becoming a monk.
“I was hanging out with monks at a monastery in Cambridge,” he said, “and stayed in their guesthouse twice a month.”
But both had told their mutual friend — his former high school girlfriend and her friend from college — that they had a calling to become an Episcopal priest and, knowing this, she decided to connect the two.
“Not too many young people become Episcopal priests,” said Mr. Neil, 27, who met Ms. Deal, 25, at a coffee shop in Boston soon after they were introduced.
At the very least, Ms. Deal thought he could offer her guidance. From Atherton, Calif., she graduated magna cum laude from Boston College and was then a teaching fellow at the Epiphany School, an Episcopal school for low-income families in Boston.
“I didn’t know the Episcopal scene in Boston very well,” Ms. Deal said. She saw Mr. Neil, who at the time was a pastor for the homeless at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston, as a way in.
Mr. Neil, who is from Westborough, Mass., graduated summa cum laude from Gordon College in Wenham, Mass., and holds a master of divinity degree magna cum laude from Boston University. At the coffee shop, he found Ms. Deal “super-engaging, interesting and funny,” he said. “I wanted to see her again.”
The following week, on Ash Wednesday, they met at the now-closed Matt Murphy’s Pub, in Brookline, Mass. Over beers they bonded further over camping, hiking and being middle children — he of five siblings and she of three.
“Boy I’m in trouble,” he recalled thinking by 11 p.m. “I had an idea about my next few years. Now I don’t know.”
“I had a feeling she’s going to be a big part of it,” he added.
After they closed down the pub at 1 a.m., Ms. Deal, who described Mr. Neil as “handsome for anyone, especially an Episcopal priest,” drove him to Allston, Mass., where he lived with five roommates in a house maintained by the Charles River Episcopal Co-Housing Endeavor. She then headed to Dorchester, Mass., where she lived with a dozen teaching fellows.
In March 2020, they squeezed in two more dates. The first was dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant followed by a Boston Symphony concert, and then a first kiss.
The second, a group dinner the next day at his place, happened as Mr. Neil was preparing for a weeklong trip. But that evening, he got word it was canceled because of the pandemic. His schedule suddenly cleared, he spent the next few days with Ms. Deal.
“We had an amazing weekend,” Mr. Neil said. By the end of it, “we both kind of knew we were going to marry each other,” he added. A couple weeks later, after lockdowns were put in place, she moved into his house in Allston.
That July, they embarked on a cross-country camping trip through Appalachia and the South before beginning a long-distance relationship when she started a master of divinity program at Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, Calif., and he returned to Boston.
“We prayed together a lot early on,” Ms. Deal said. “That was solidifying for both of us.”
Mr. Neil, who will be taking the bride’s surname, proposed in November 2020, in Menlo Park, Calif., during a walk at sunset.
The following year, in June 2021, he moved into her seminary apartment in Berkeley, and they later adopted a Border collie mix named Pemi and a one-eyed tabby cat, Pablo. Mr. Neil is now a priest and the vicar at the Episcopal Church of St. John the Evangelist in San Francisco’s Mission District. Ms. Deal is completing her master’s program.
On May 28, the Rev. Jane Soyster Gould, an Episcopal priest, and the groom’s mentor, officiated at Trinity Church in Menlo Park, before about 190 vaccinated guests, and the bishop of the Diocese of California gave a blessing.
Afterward, the newlyweds celebrated at a reception in the back yard of the bride’s parents’ home in Atherton. Her parents’ golden retriever, Max, and the couple’s dog, Pemi, joined in the festivities, which did not end before some (two-legged) guests jumped in the pool.