Even though the first few days of college were a blur for Neil Mahesh Chitrao, one moment in particular stands out: when he met Aastha Wadhwa during the convocation ceremony for the Cornell undergraduate class of 2017.
“I remember introducing myself to Aastha, and my first impression was that she was very self-confident and very outgoing,” said Mr. Chitrao, 27. “I was very favorably impressed by that.”
Ms. Wadhwa was also impressed by Mr. Chitrao, and the two became fast friends. They spent much of the fall of 2013 studying together, and because Mr. Chitrao had a car, they were able to explore Ithaca, N.Y., where they often tried new restaurants.
Though Ms. Wadhwa just saw Mr. Chitrao as a friend during the first year they knew each other, Mr. Chitrao had a crush on Ms. Wadhwa. In February 2015, he called her to ask her on a date, but she declined. Ms. Wadhwa said she was worried that if she and Mr. Chitrao dated and then later broke up, she would lose a close friend.
“Our friend groups were so intertwined, it felt like if we didn’t go anywhere, it would have gotten really uncomfortable and awkward,” said Ms. Wadhwa, 26.
Her rejection did not extinguish his crush, however, and Mr. Chitrao found that being around Ms. Wadhwa was painful after she turned him down. He started to distance himself from her, and aside from a few trips to hike at area waterfalls that summer, they barely saw each other.
“I honestly didn’t take that with the maturity I wish I did,” Mr. Chitrao said of Ms. Wadhwa’s initial rejection. “I was really sad. I was pretty dejected.”
In September 2015, Ms. Wadhwa’s friends threw her a surprise birthday party. She was excited to celebrate, but when she looked around the room, her heart sank. Mr. Chitrao wasn’t at the party.
“I remember just looking around and thinking that Neil wasn’t there, and I really missed him,” Ms. Wadhwa said. “That’s when I realized I liked him back as well.”
A few days later, Ms. Wadhwa texted Mr. Chitrao and he asked her out again. Ms. Wadhwa agreed, and Mr. Chitrao planned an elaborate outing that included dinner, dessert and a movie.
“It was actually the cutest date,” Ms. Wadhwa said. “It was so well thought out.”
Within a couple months, the couple met each other’s families, and before long Ms. Wadhwa’s younger sister would call Mr. Chitrao for advice instead of Ms. Wadhwa.
“I just remember thinking that if Neil can fit in so well with my family, and adopt my sister as his own, that’s when I realized I was in love with him,” Ms. Wadhwa said.
As their time at Cornell came to a close, Mr. Chitrao, who had dedicated four years to pre-med studies, decided he no longer wanted to pursue a career in medicine. As he explored other possibilities, he said he was grateful to have Ms. Wadhwa by his side.
“The end of college was a pretty scary time,” Mr. Chitrao said. “I almost felt kind of rudderless, and it was actually Aastha who was a major stabilizing force for me.”
Following their 2017 graduation from Cornell, the couple stayed in Ithaca for another year while Ms. Wadhwa completed a masters of health administration at the university. In September 2018, they moved to Jersey City, N.J., and Mr. Chitrao started law school at N.Y.U.
He now works as an associate at the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in New York. Ms. Wadhwa is an associate at the consulting firm Alvarez and Marsal in New York.
A month after they moved to New Jersey, Mr. Chitrao surprised Ms. Wadhwa by proposing on a row boat in Central Park.
The couple were married Oct. 29 at the Legacy Castle, a wedding space in Pompton Plains, N.J., before 180 guests. Sulbha Khare, a Hindu priestess, officiated.
“The people he cares about and loves, he goes above and beyond for,” Ms. Wadhwa said about Mr. Chitrao. “I know he’s going to make the best husband.”