Hannah Cha and Anthony Kim Elfering met in typical rom-com fashion: they sat side by side at a wedding in January 2019, at which both also gave speeches; Mrs Cha as the bride’s friend and Mr Elfering as the groom’s friend.
“I looked at him and two things stood out,” recalls Ms. Cha, 34. One was how calm Mr. Elfering seemed despite not having prepared anything for his speech. The other: “He wore white Crocs to an otherwise very beautiful wedding” in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, she said.
“I had never been to a beach wedding,” said Mr Elfering, 38, explaining. “No one told me that people still dress up like a normal wedding.”
They spent more time together as part of a smaller group that traveled to Tulum after the wedding. But when their time in Mexico ended, they didn’t expect to see each other again any time soon.
A graduate of the University of Minnesota and later serving as a language specialist in the military for five years, Mr. Elfering had just started a new job as a software engineer at CTC, a Chicago trading firm. Ms. Cha, a Case Western Reserve graduate and a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Maryland, worked as a foreign officer for the United States Department of State in Seoul.
Less than six months later, in June 2019, Mr. Elfering and Ms. Cha were each invited on a trip to Spain by their newlywed friends. There, said Mr Elfering, he began to fall for her.
In August, he decided to visit his brother, who lived in South Korea, hoping to see Ms. Cha. But when he arrived, he learned that she was in the States to visit a new boyfriend, and he soon let go of the idea that the two were going to be romantic.
Though they kept in touch through video chats hosted by their larger group of friends, it would be nearly two years before they would see each other again in 2021 at their friends’ week-long reunion in Minnesota. By this time, Mr. Elfering had quit his job to work on a video game, and Mrs. Cha and her boyfriend had broken up.
On their last night in Minnesota, after all their friends had left or gone to sleep, Mr. Elfering decided to explore the possibility of being more than just friends with Ms. Cha.
“‘This is going to be an incredibly awkward question, but have you ever thought of me romantically?'” He recalled asking her. “And she said – it was a very panicky expression – ‘No, no. I didn’t think of you romantically,'” he added.
When she left Minnesota, Ms. Cha promised to revisit the conversation with Mr. Elfering, who soon received an email from her. It was “literally like a bulleted list,” he said. “She said, ‘I have questions and I need answers.'”
Over the next month, they exchanged hundreds of emails to get to know each other better. Their exchange culminated in Mr. Elfering to go to Seoul for 90 days so they could test date dating. But Mrs. Cha remained cautious.
“I know I like him as a person and I like him as a friend, but are we actually compatible?” she said about her thinking at the time.
After being quarantined for two weeks, they went on their first date. It wouldn’t be much longer before Ms. Cha was ready to make their relationship official.
In Seoul, Mr. Elfering found a new job working remotely as a software engineer at G2, a software critic in Chicago. As they prepared for a trip to visit her family in Ohio in late 2021, they started talking about marriage. After that trip, the couple bought rings for him and her.
Ready to get engaged, Mrs. Cha was the first to propose: In February, during a speakeasy in Seoul, she planted Mr. Elfering’s ring in his glass of champagne. Weeks later, the couple left Seoul for a temporary stay in Ohio before moving to a new home outside Washington, where Ms. Cha will begin a new assignment with the State Department next month.
They were married on April 9 at Cedar Creek Grille in Beachwood, Ohio. Doyle Chisholm, Mrs. Ordained by American Marriage Ministries for the occasion, Cha performed in front of 32 vaccinated guests. There were no Crocs in sight.