When Janelle Ashley Clark accompanied her friend Tiara Lewis to a 2007 service at the Resurrection Deliverance Church International in Yonkers, N.Y., she encountered a “tall, handsome and very talented” man playing the piano.
That man was David Christopher Funchess, who said he was attracted to Ms. Clark as soon as she walked through the church door.
“I had a hunch,” said Mr. Funchess, 39, who volunteered his musical talent every week at the Christian church and also plays piano professionally, backing up indie artists like Kenyon Dixon, the Amours and Maiya Blaney. “There are times in your life when you realize that this person is for you and that was my hunch.”
But when he tried to get Ms. Lewis to set him up with Ms. Clark, 36, he was unsuccessful.
“He seemed like a nice guy, but I was in a serious relationship at the time and wasn’t focused on meeting anyone new,” Ms. Clark said.
Over the next nine years, the two would occasionally see each other at church and have brief conversations at various functions. Mr. Funchess said he wanted to remain a constant in Ms. Clark’s life, even if it was just as friends.
“Dave would flirt with me, but I thought nothing of it,” said Ms. Clark, who graduated from Buffalo State College in 2008 with a degree in hospitality. She has since worked as a recruiter for the health care union 1199 S.E.I.U. job security fund and employment center in Manhattan.
In 2016, Ms. Clark broke up with her longtime boyfriend. Around the same time, Mr. Funchess’s friend Thomas Clay, a gospel musician, died suddenly. His death inspired Mr. Funchess to vigorously pursue the things he wanted, so he immediately called Ms. Clark and asked her out for a smoothie.
Her breakup still fresh, Ms. Clark said she “wasn’t interested in anyone at the time.”
“I just wanted to wallow,” she added. “But Dave was persistent, so I relented.”
They focused on growing together as friends. Mr. Funchess would meet Ms. Clark every day at the train station when she got off from work and would drive her around while the two chatted.
Slowly, their friendship grew more than platonic, at which point they decided to stop seeing other people. Their budding romance was not the only good thing going for Mr. Funchess: Months after they officially started dating, he landed a job as a teacher’s aide at a public school in Yonkers.
By December 2020, Ms. Clark was ready to get married. “But I wasn’t sure if Dave was because he hadn’t mentioned anything,” she said. That month, she went to church and prayed, asking God if he would be “my husband or not, because I couldn’t see myself with anyone else.”
Unbeknown to her, Mr. Funchess was at work on a surprise proposal. The two became engaged on Dec. 27, 2020, in front of a Christmas tree at the Ridge Hill mall in Yonkers.
“I didn’t expect it because Dave had been pranking me with fake proposals for the past six months,” Ms. Clark said. “He would act like he’s getting on one knee and then tie his shoes or he would say, ‘This is such a romantic moment’ as if he was going to propose and then he’d tell me a joke. So, when the proposal was actually taking place, I didn’t believe it.”
Before 150 guests, who were required to wear masks, they married April 9 at the GoldenSword International Fellowship Church in Bronxville, N.Y., with 14 bridesmaids, 14 groomsmen, two flower girls and two ring bearers in their wedding party.
Margaret Martinez, a pastor at Resurrection Deliverance Church International, officiated at the ceremony, which she led with her husband Lorenzo Martinez, also a pastor at that church.
“The wedding was an amazing experience,” Mr. Funchess said. “When Janelle walked in, I thought to myself ‘I’m marrying the girl of my dreams.’”
Said the bride, who moved into the groom’s home in Yonkers after their wedding, “I’m grateful that Dave didn’t give up on the hunch he had that we were meant to be together.”