Carter A. Hartmann ’22 and Charlotte A. Hartmann (neé Nelson)
Charlotte A. Hartmann (neé Nelson) and Carter A. Hartmann ’22 describe themselves as a “Covid miracle couple.” Both members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they became good friends while taking Russian language lessons for their respective missions: his to Ukraine and hers to Kazakhstan.
When they returned, Carter messaged Charlotte on Facebook over winter break of 2020. He then subsequently visited Provo, Utah, where she attended Brigham Young University; their first date was at an In-N-Out.
“I was telling all my friends I was going out with this awesome girl,” he says. And so when Covid-19 forced Harvard undergraduates away from campus, “I went straight back to Utah.”
Their engagement came later that year on Christmas Eve, when Charlotte was visiting Carter’s family. They had discussed getting engaged, and she suspected the proposal might happen that trip.
But as the days passed, she began to wonder if he was “just trying to throw me off.” So when the couple left to buy an ingredient at the store and returned to find rose petals and candles around the Christmas tree, she was completely surprised.
“I had wrapped the ring under the tree. So she unwrapped it, and I got on one knee and proposed,” Carter recalls — “and I said yes,” Charlotte adds.
Five months later, on May 14, 2021, they were married at the Manti Utah Temple, where Charlotte’s grandparents also had their wedding. The flowers were especially important to Charlotte — her father grew up working at a nursery and she worked at a flower shop in high school. She wanted more blooms than greens, and her bouquet included roses, peonies, and lisianthus.
After graduating from BYU in December 2021, Charlotte moved to Cambridge. She got a job at Hemenway Gymnasium so that she and Carter could play basketball together, which they love to do, among numerous other sports.
Carter is part of a group of friends — including Alejandro E. Jimenez ’22, Ryan E. Ixtlahuac ’22, and Noah M. Jones ’22 — who lived together in Utah during the pandemic and are all married. “Almost every weekend we go on a double date, or have a game night with them, or have them over for dinner,” Carter says.
The couple will move to New York City this summer, where Carter will work in consulting and Charlotte will be a mutual fund accountant.
As they walked away after our interview concluded, the couple hurried back and decided to share one more piece of news: “We’re expecting!” The baby is due in November.
Alejandro E. Jimenez ’22 and Denise Jimenez (neé Han)
In late 2019, when Denise Jimenez’s (neé Han) sister and brother-in-law asked what qualities she was looking for in a partner, she said she wanted someone “full of goodness.” They immediately thought of Alejandro E. Jimenez ’22, whom they had met on a church mission in Los Angeles. Alejandro was visiting Utah in November, where Denise was studying at Brigham Young University, and her sister set them up on a date.
They made dumplings. “Denise’s family is from China,” Alejandro said. “And they love to make dumplings together. I thought it was a great way for me to be exposed to [her] family culture.” On their second date — many months later, when Alejandro moved to Utah in March 2020 due to the pandemic — he showed Denise how to make enchiladas, a food important to his Mexican American heritage. Both foods involve combining two components, wrapper and filling, to make a whole, full of goodness.
But it would take a little longer for their relationship to blossom. “He actually friendzoned me,” Denise recalls. They stopped talking for a while, but reconnected over debating Russian authors — she thinks Tolstoy is superior, while he prefers Dostoevsky — and started dating in May 2020.
Denise knew she wanted a serious commitment early on: She was going to attend law school, “and I’m not going to defer law school if we’re not super committed.”
In summer 2021, Alejandro gave Denise a two-month range of when he was going to propose. But he wanted to surprise her, so “for about a month,” he says, “I put on surprises to make her think, ‘perhaps this is the time he’s going to propose.’”
On a Friday in July, he suggested a picnic. “I had her in the driver’s seat in a sense, choosing where we would want to go for this picnic,” Alejandro says. “But in the background, I had the exact location picked out in the mountains in Utah,” where he had family lay out a blanket and charcuterie board.
“The entire time was like, ‘I guess this is all my ideas,’” Denise recalls. When they reached the picnic spot, she realized “he was proposing, and so I just started crying.”
The wedding was on December 21, in San Diego. Their airline offered them $3,000 each to delay their flights, but they were unable to reschedule a marriage license appointment. “We decided in that moment between our marriage and the $6,000,” Alejandro says — they chose their marriage.
After Alejandro graduates, they will move to New Haven. “The number one thing about a long term relationship and marriage,” Alejandro says, “is you’re making compromises for each other.” Denise took a year off as he finished his undergraduate degree, and now he is following her to Yale, where she will start law school in the fall.
Raj Karan S. Gambhir ’22 and Sahej K. Chawla
Before Raj Karan S. Gambhir ’22 and Sahej K. Chawla ever met, their parents knew each other.
“My mom actually recently found a photo of Sahej’s parents at my dad’s 50th birthday party,” Raj says, “which was over a decade ago.”
Raj and Sahej are members of the Sikh community in Orange County, Calif. and were introduced to one another by their parents last summer. In their first encounter over two light Vietnamese coffees — they immediately realized they liked the same milk alternatives — they dove into conversation.
Their shared backgrounds allowed them “to skip the formalities” and move onto deeper subjects. Nearly a year later, they still “talk every day” while Raj finishes his last year of college and Sahej begins studying pharmaceutical science at the University of California-Irvine.
Family remained a significant part of their relationship as it progressed, but not “just because our families have known each other,” Raj says.
In their community, marriage “is not just a union between two people, it’s really a union between two families,” he says.
In March of 2022, the couple were engaged at Sahej’s family home at their Roka, a ceremony and celebration of their engagement. During the course of the ceremony, the two families remained separate. But once Raj and Sahej went outside to take engagement photographs, Sahej they could hear sounds coming “from outside. We were like, ‘We don’t know what’s happening.’”
Once the couple returned, they found that “an impromptu dance party started, after the ceremony,” Raj says. “There were no divisions in the room, everyone was dancing around and mixing around.”
As each embarks on their professional life — Sahej at UCI, Raj in D.C. and later law school — their relationship will be maintained at a distance and the wedding may not take place for several years.
Yet both feel that the relationship is “nice and secure” and their relationship endures because “our families are so integrated,” Raj says. Just a week ago, Sahej celebrated Mother’s Day with Raj’s mother while he was in Cambridge; he called Sahej’s mom the same day.
“I think that we're already part of each other's lives,” Raj says. “To the extent that we can see each other in person, we will do that.” But the scope of their relationship, he says, is larger than a few miles of distance — “we have a longer vision than just the next few years.”
Ryan E. Ixtlahuac ’22 and Inaê Ixtlahuac
Ryan E. Ixtlahuac ’22 and Inaê Ixtlahuac first met speaking Portuguese, while on mission with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Portugal. They began dating in December of 2019.
Now, their conversations ebb in and out of Portuguese, Spanish, and English. “Sometimes we don’t even know which language we’re talking in,” Ryan says.
“We never finish a sentence in one language,” Inaê adds.
The couple shares more than just a hodge-podge of languages — as Ryan attended college at Harvard, they played strategy board games together and spent long hours, night after night, in the Smith Campus Center where Inaê proofread Ryan’s papers.
The two dated throughout the pandemic. Inaê was in school at Brigham Young University while Ryan attended classes remotely in Provo, Utah, by the university. It didn’t take long to realize that they were “super committed to each other and wanted to get married,” Ryan says.
In December 2020, a year after they started dating, Ryan planned a circle of flowers on a mountain top overlooking Utah County — the place where their relationship began. Ryan proposed and Inaê, “happily,” said yes.
In August 2021, the two got married. Inaê’s family flew to Utah from her hometown of São Paulo, Brazil; Ryan’s family came in from Monterey, California. After a day of celebration, the two went on a honeymoon, and soon after, took a four-day road trip back to Boston — Inaê’s first time visiting Harvard and her new home. After graduation, the couple will return to Utah as Inaê finishes up her last year of college.
Alexandra P. Grayson ’22 and Nicholas G. Kells
Sustaining a long distance relationship during the early days of the pandemic was a difficult task. But it prepared Alexandra P. Grayson ’22 and Nicholas G. Kells for an even greater distance: from Cincinnati to a nuclear submarine, leagues under the sea, at an undisclosed location.
Nicholas will soon graduate from the United States Naval Academy, and after a year at the Nuclear Power School in Charleston, S.C., he will be deployed to work on nuclear submarines — a job with an unpredictable schedule, where he can be out for weeks or months at a time.
While Nicholas is studying nuclear power, Alex, a concentrator in Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard, will be “studying how to save lives” in medical school at the University of Cincinnati. To contact Nicholas at sea, she will have to number her emails chronologically, so that their order isn’t confused during the occasional bursts of emails he will receive.
The two met online in fall of 2019 while at home in Ohio and went on their first date in December at the Cincinnati Zoo to see its Festival of Lights. Then, the pandemic struck. In a sense, Nicholas said it had “a positive impact for us,” because both the Naval Academy and Harvard sent its students home, “so we got a solid five months, otherwise we wouldn't have had.”
Even later, when Nicholas was overseas with the Naval Academy, Alex would create scavenger hunts for him in the mail, filling envelopes with different colored hints so that he had to piece together.
“There was some sentimental value to each one of them,” Alex adds. “I'd have lyrics from different love songs that we like listening to. So you have to figure out what the categories were when he only got one sheet of paper a day.”
The virus even managed to weasel its way into the couple’s engagement. Once they met, Nicholas says, “I knew after our first date, but it just felt right.” Exactly two years later, he planned to propose at the Cincinnati Zoo at the Festival of Lights. But the day before flying home to Cincinnati, Nicholas tested positive for Covid-19.
Though they planned on getting married, Alex had no idea when to expect the proposal, so when Nicholas called and frantically asked if she could “definitely” go to the Cincinnati Zoo a week later, she responded, bemused, “Yeah, we're good. We can do the date.” Given each of their busy schedules, the wedding is “theoretically” scheduled for November 2023. Until then, numbered emails and love song scavenger hunts will suffice.
Cindy Gao ’22 and Tyler Higgs
When Cindy Gao ’22 and Tyler E. Higgs first met, they went on a series of non-dates. As participants in Boston Summer Mission in summer of 2021 — a program in Dorchester for Christian community service — they were technically forbidden to be romantically involved with one another.
So Cindy and Tyler, who had connected “from the start,” found time, early in the morning and late at night, to be with one another — in parks, a Vietnamese restaurant, on runs — to speak about the “really hard years” they’d endured just before this summer and embark on the “vulnerability and healing” at the heart of their relationship.
Gao took a long, hard-won path to arrive at the program in Dorchester that summer. For much of college, she pursued a path of finance, but after an internship that she “really disliked,” she felt that her former “measures of success” were “meaningless.”
She took a yearlong leave of absence from Harvard and embarked on a spiritual journey, which led her to convert to Christianity. Following this difficult year, she met Tyler at the mission—she thought he was “really cute.”
“We definitely met during probably one of the hardest seasons of my life,” she says. “I was not looking at all for a relationship.”
Tyler, a senior at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology studying computer science, hadn’t expected their relationship to lead to marriage. He grew up in a small town in Illinois, with a population of “about 600 people,” where he says it is more common for couples to transition quickly from dating to marriage. But he “pretty much didn't expect Cindy to want to get married for a while.”
To his surprise, she brought it up. “We weren’t just going to do what was normal because our normals were so different,” she says. “We haven’t known each other for that long, maybe, but you don't have to know someone for a long time to really connect with someone.”
Tyler felt the same, and, in April of 2022, he proposed to Cindy at a park in Dorchester they frequently visited during the first summer of their relationship.
Their wedding will take place at the Boston Public Gardens on May 28, just days after each of them graduate from college. It will be the first wedding Cindy has ever attended. When asked about their plans for the future, career aspirations go unnamed. “We just signed a lease for an apartment near Alewife,” Cindy says. “And I’m getting a puppy.”
Noah M. Jones ’22 and Ariann Jones ’23 (neé Sanford)
Ariann Jones ’23 (neé Sanford) realized he was going to propose when she spotted the box in his pocket. The couple was on a camping trip, and Noah M. Jones ’22 drove them down a dirt road to a lookout he claimed to be curious about. Ariann stepped out of the car and realized it was the same place they had had their first date a year earlier; when she saw the box, she knew.
Ariann had three criteria for the proposal: Noah had to give a “little spiel about why he wanted to marry me,” which he did; she wanted to be alone, which they were; and she could not be wearing glasses, which she was not.
“It was just the two of us in this beautiful mountain range,” Ariann says. “We didn’t even have service. And we used his lanyard to tie his phone into a tree and take timed photos” — Noah’s Visitas lanyard from April 2018, when they first met.
Back then, Noah was an admitted student planning to enroll in Harvard’s Air Force ROTC program and study mechanical engineering; Ariann was a freshman in Air Force ROTC who studied bioengineering.
Both are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Everyone in ROTC and in his church told Noah he should meet Ariann, and they did, exchanging contact information. But then she went on a mission to Ecuador, so the two only stayed in touch via occasional email.
When she returned at the end of 2019, they started messaging almost daily; the pandemic then helped them reconnect in-person. After Harvard closed its campus to undergraduates in March of 2020, Noah moved to Utah, where he has extended family. At the time Ariann was taking a gap semester after her mission in Las Vegas, her hometown. Only a couple of hours apart by car, they went on multiple camping trips together along with some other friends.
On their first date they watched the sunset from that same lookout, finally able to talk about everything they messaged about for months. “We started having two hammocks, and then it got kind of cold,” Noah recalls. “We ended up sharing.” They officially started dating in June 2020.
A few periods of separation — a trip he took for ROTC training, Ariann visiting family — made them realize “we really miss each other a lot, and this is definitely something we want to make last,” Noah says. They were married eight months after their engagement, on Jan. 8, 2022.
Next year, Noah will be completing his first assignment: to get a master’s degree in robotics at Boston University, allowing him to stay in the area as Ariann finishes her undergraduate degree. After that, he will be deployed in the space force and she will be the unit commander of her Air Force detachment; they hope the military will assign them to the same place.