Angela Schiller and Robert Swift Jr. first noticed each other in August 2015 at a Black Faculty and Staff Caucus function hosted by Kennesaw State University near Atlanta.
Ms. Schiller, 45, was running late and found a seat in the back of the room. Surveying the space, she spotted Mr. Swift and instantly felt a connection. “It was a feeling that I had never experienced before,” she said, adding: “not in this immediate way.”
As the event went on, she kept sneaking glances his way. “When it was over, I felt like I was on a carousel of handshakes and nice-to-meet-yous,” she said. “Then Robert suddenly appeared before me. I couldn’t stop smiling, but I wanted to play it cool. I was just getting out of a long-term relationship and wasn’t planning on getting into anything anytime soon, but something about Robert made me want to stay open.”
Mr. Swift, 46, had noticed Ms. Schiller, too, and knew he had to find a way to approach her. “I’m a shy person, but something about Angela made me know that I couldn’t leave that room before introducing myself,” he said. “My initial impression of her was that she was not only beautiful, but also very down to earth, pleasant and funny.”
After their first encounter, Mr. Swift sent Ms. Schiller weekly emails, asking how she was doing and letting her know he was thinking about her.
“This really intrigued me,” said Ms. Schiller, who earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Santa Cruz, a master’s degree in Africana studies and social and cultural analysis from N.Y.U. and a Ph.D. in theater and performance studies from Stanford. She is now the director of arts education for the nonprofit ArtsBridge Foundation in Atlanta.
Mr. Swift has a bachelor’s degree in business and organizational communication and a master’s degree in education from the University of Akron. He works as an instructional designer at Kennesaw State University.
About a month and a half after they met, he invited her to lunch. Not sure of his intentions, she suggested that they make it a brown bag lunch outside where they could enjoy the beautiful fall Atlanta weather — something low key and low stakes.
It turned out to be a two-hour meal and life-changing for both of them. They talked about their families, their past, their dreams and more. “We laughed a lot and that was a good sign for me,” said Ms. Schiller. “I walked away feeling amazing and that I wanted to spend every day in his company.”
Mr. Swift said he “had a feeling that she liked me when she gave me a hug before she left.”
They continued to see each other and in 2018 the two moved in together.
As they started putting the pieces together on how to or even whether to get married during a global pandemic, Ms. Schiller’s mother, who is retired and lives in California, noted that state’s catastrophic wildfires, heat waves and droughts, telling them, “Life is short. Don’t wait. Go for it.”
They became engaged in September 2021 and were married Oct. 22 before 25 friends and family members at the Southern Gentleman, a restaurant in Atlanta. Dawn V. Eskridge, a Universal Life Church minister, officiated.
They asked their guests to be fully vaccinated before the event. Masks were optional for the outdoor ceremony, for which candles were arranged into a circle to serve as a makeshift altar.
“The moment Angela arrived at the altar, the gravity of what was happening became surreal,” Mr. Swift said. “Angela was absolutely stunning. I was falling in love with her all over again.”
“When I saw Robert standing at the altar, it reminded me of the first time I laid eyes on him,” Ms. Schiller said, adding: “It’s amazing how one day someone walks into your life, and suddenly you can’t remember how you lived without him.”