In July 2020, Lawrence James Handerhan walked from his home in Washington to a local brewery for a date — his first ever from the dating app Hinge.
His date, Donnelly Lon McDowell, lived four blocks away from him. While the two had mutual friends, they had never crossed paths before. They sat outside with drinks, finding things in common: They both identified as “extreme extroverts,” they both had Italian heritage and ties to New England, and they both graduated from Princeton.
“It just felt easy to connect with each other,” Mr. McDowell, 39, said. “I’ve been on a fair number of dates where it felt like a one-off and was pretty clear early on there wasn’t a real connection. I could tell this was something.”
The feeling was mutual. A month after their first date, Mr. Handerhan, 40, confided in his sister: “I met someone. It’s early, but it feels special.”
Mr. Handerhan, who grew up in Wellesley, Mass., is the chief of staff at the Administration for Children and Families, a division of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. He has a bachelor’s degree in American history from Bates College and a master’s in public affairs from Princeton.
Mr. McDowell, who grew up in Laytonsville, Md., is a partner at Kelley Drye & Warren LLP, a law firm. He has a bachelor’s in politics from Princeton and a law degree from the George Washington University.
In the early months of their relationship, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the two spent a lot of time together.
“As someone who has double-booked social activities my entire life prepandemic, it was such a blessing to not have anywhere to go but have someone I really enjoyed being with,” said Mr. Handerhan, who goes by Larry. “I 100 percent fell in love with him on his couch, watching TV, not really moving very fast.”
A few months later, they celebrated their first Christmas together at Mr. McDowell’s house, where the couple ambitiously prepared a seven fishes feast — a meal Mr. Handerhan had grown up eating with his family — for just themselves. “By then I was definitely like, Oh, I want to spend every Christmas together,” Mr. Handerhan said. “He makes everything better.”
In 2022, they attended eight weddings as a couple. At that point, they were unofficially living together and had discussed marriage only casually. “I remember thinking, why rush it?” Mr. McDowell said.
By wedding number four, Mr. McDowell began tearing up while listening to “Anywhere with You” by Maggie Rogers. “I thought, why wait, why not do it now?” he said.
So he started planning. In November 2022, Mr. McDowell proposed in front of Mr. Handerhan’s home, amid strung up lights and photos of the two. After Mr. Handerhan said yes, the couple stepped inside the house to celebrate with two visiting friends, as well as Mr. Handerhan’s sister and best friend from graduate school, both of whom had flown in for the occasion. The group celebrated with flowers and champagne, crying and catching up.
Mr. McDowell then suggested they all head to the brewery where the couple had their first date. Upon entry, the couple was met with the cheers of 60 friends.
The couple were legally married at Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society’s Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury on Sept. 30. Mr. Handerhan’s sister, Kristen Atwood, who was ordained through the Universal Life Church for the occasion, officiated the wedding, with Mr. McDowell’s sister, Dr. Dawn McDowell Torres, taking part in the ceremony.
There were 275 guests, and instead of table numbers, the couple assigned each table a different album cover, pairing guests with the music the couple most associated with them. Their parents’s tables had albums by The Beatles.
White Ford Bronco, a ’90s cover band from Washington that Mr. McDowell had been a fan of since his law school days, played at the wedding. “We danced every single second of the reception,” Mr. Handerhan said, despite the rainy weather that brought the ceremony and reception indoors. “No one was seated.”
Later in the night, the band played the song “Ironic” by Alanis Morissette, which features the line, “It’s like rain on your wedding day.” The newlyweds took over the dance floor, belting the lyrics, and the rest of the crowd joined in.