Connecting on a Rooftop

At a rooftop party in 2014 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, a college friend introduced Erin Jaeger, who had recently moved to New York, to Mahen Gunaratna, by saying, “He’s our new roommate, he’s great, he’s the best,” Ms. Jaeger said.

“It was very cordial — it wasn’t sparks are flying,” said Ms. Jaeger, now 30 and the senior director for product marketing at Yext, a software company in New York. She graduated cum laude from Dartmouth.

In the months that followed, the two saw each other regularly in social gatherings, often at the Crown Heights apartment where they first met but also for activities such as a memorable trip to a shuffleboard club in Brooklyn. They developed an easy rapport.

“She would hang out at the apartment more and more, and so I got to know her a little better,” said Mr. Gunaratna, now 34 and the communications director for Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey. He graduated from Georgetown.

“I was so comfortable with him, and I didn’t think he was looking me up and down whenever he saw me,” she said.

So in June 2015, at another rooftop party, when it started raining and the group decided to head over to a nearby bar, Ms. Jaeger turned to Mr. Gunaratna and asked him to hold her cellphone for the evening since she was wearing a dress without pockets.

“We got to the bar and he basically made the first move by buying me a beer, not knowing that I don’t like beer,” she said. “Suddenly, I just didn’t want to pay attention to anyone else.”

“We just had a lot of chemistry,” Mr. Gunaratna said.

The two shared their first kiss on the bar’s dance floor. And when they saw each other next, she was relieved that things weren’t awkward between them. He asked for her number so that he could ask her out “on a real date.”

They went to a Ping-Pong bar in Manhattan, and on a subsequent date, to a trivia night.

“We complement each other really well,” Mr. Gunaratna said. “We’re just like each other’s best friends, always talking about each other’s interests, and we do things completely different professionally. She understands what motivates me really, really well, and is genuinely interested in that.”

“He has such a strong sense of his purpose in the world in a way that’s really infectious,” Ms. Jaeger said. “A lot of people maybe say they’re attracted to their partner’s ambition, but he’s so self-assured and has a such strong personal North Star that it makes me feel better about myself to be around him.”

By September, when the two were planning to attend a gathering that would include his colleagues, Ms. Jaeger asked Mr. Gunaratna how he intended to introduce her.

“Part of me, deep down, was ready to define the relationship at that point,” she said. “He said, ‘Well, I would love to introduce you as my girlfriend,’ and I was like, ‘I’d love that, too.’”

On the fifth anniversary of that date, Sept. 12, the couple were married at the Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Family in New Rochelle, N.Y. The Rev. Patrick Nsionu, a parochial vicar at the church, performed the ceremony before about 35 people, including Governor Murphy and his wife, Tammy Snyder Murphy.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, they had intended to have two wedding celebrations — the first at the church where they were ultimately married, which is in Mr. Gunaratna’s hometown, and the second, with 200-some people in New Hampshire, which is Ms. Jaeger’s home state.

Regrets, though, they have few.

“It’s really clarified our priorities in a way that not much else probably could,” said Ms. Jaeger, who will take her husband’s name. “When all the fanfare is stripped away — you can’t have a band, you can’t have dancing until three in the morning — what does that leave? It leaves that I’m marrying him because I want my future to be with him. It’s not about how we get married, it’s just about the who.”

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