Since moving thousands of miles apart, Cassidy Aria Melissa Benn and Marcini Anthony Grosvenor had only seen one another on five visits before getting married.
Before the move, the two had been good friends for years, meeting at Grace Temple Assembly of God Church in Guyana, a small South American nation. “So we basically always knew each other,” Ms. Benn said. “We eventually became best friends.”
On Jan. 23, 2011, things took a turn toward something new. “She said she had something to ask me,” Mr. Grosvenor said. “I said, ‘OK. I have something to say to you too.’”
“I said, ‘Can I be your girlfriend?’” Ms. Benn recalled asking. “He said he was going to think about it. He’s a jokester. He already had feelings, but he wanted to prolong it.”
The following day, the two teens had their first date as a couple at Church’s Chicken in New Amsterdam, Guyana. “We were best friends before, so it wasn’t anything too strange,” Mr. Grosvenor said. “It was just an upgrade in title,” Ms. Benn added.
It wasn’t long before her family found out about the “upgrade.” They told her she was too young to date. “So, we were dating and not dating at the same time,” Ms. Benn said.
As if dating on the sly wasn’t hard enough, in April 2015, things got much harder — Ms. Benn moved to the United States. “My aunts came and got me from Guyana for a better life,” she said. Her maternal great-uncle and aunt adopted her, and five years later, she applied for citizenship and became a U.S. citizen in May 2022.
Ms. Benn and Mr. Grosvenor had initially split up following the move, but ultimately decided to stay together and dated long distance for eight years. “We have virtual dinner dates the 24th of every month, our dating anniversary,” Ms. Benn said.
“It was so hard. The first time I came back was the summer of 2017 for two weeks,” Ms. Benn, 26, said. She returned again, for about a month each visit, in December 2018, March 2021, December 2021 and December 2022.
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It was on one of those visits that Mr. Grosvenor, 30, proposed. He created a WhatsApp group with several of her friends to devise a plan. He then encouraged Ms. Benn to plan the “girls’ night out” that she had been wanting. So she did.
When she arrived at Caribbean Cuisine Restaurant & Cocktail Bar in Berbice on April 10, 2021, “I was greeted by 10 people, and each of them had a rose with a card that read something that meant a lot to both of us,” Ms. Benn said. The last rose was from Mr. Grosvenor.
Ms. Benn is a cashier at Express, the clothing retailer, as well as an academic adviser at CUNY’s York College, where she received a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She lives in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn and was born and raised in New Amsterdam, Guyana, as was Mr. Grosvenor.
Mr. Grosvenor works offshore with Exxon as a third mate. He graduated secondary school level in Guyana by taking the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examination.
The two were wed at Grace Temple Assembly of God Church, where they first met. The Rev. Doreen Henry, a senior pastor, officiated and 93 guests attended. A reception followed at the restaurant Zero Gravity Home Style.
The night before, the couple had a queh queh, a pre-wedding Guyanese tradition during which the couple is celebrated and the bride hides from the groom, “which was epic because my husband did not find me and had to end up paying my dowry. He was looking for like a good hour, then gave up,” Ms. Benn said. “My mom hid me in a shop that was located in the down flat of the house and he did not think to check.”
They reunited for the wedding — but will part again soon. For now, Ms. Benn will continue living in Brooklyn, while Mr. Grosvenor remains in Guyana. “I will travel back and forth as much as money and time permits,” Ms. Benn said.
“It’s a bittersweet feeling,” Mr. Grosvenor said. “It’s always been hard when it’s time to leave. However, knowing we are closer to ending the distance gives me calmness.”