Jayla Moody and Jordan Marshall’s love story might have started earlier if they had talked to each other during the time they both attended Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, where he was the captain of the soccer team, and she was the Homecoming Queen of 2018.
But they never talked at school, in part because Mr. Marshall, 28, was three years ahead of Mrs. Moody, 25; he graduated in 2016 and she in 2019.
However, both were involved in Greek campus life, so they had mutual friends and followed each other on social media. “I’d admired him from a distance,” said Mrs. Moody.
On November 21, 2018, she took a screenshot of a photo Mr. Marshall posted on Instagram and sent it to her friend Ashleigh Rose, telling her he was the man of her dreams. “I admired his dedication to his photography, his outward and apparent love for Jesus and his ability to light up a space with his smile,” said Ms. Moody.
About a week later, she and Mr. Marshall both ended up at the Thirsty Turtle club in Macon, where he had lived and worked since graduation. When Mrs. Moody found herself in an awkward conversation with a stranger at the bar, Mr. Marshall ducked in to pose as her boyfriend.
“I saw her face screaming, ‘Help me,'” he said.
Neither Ms Moody nor Mr Marshall acknowledged at the time that they followed each other on social media. “We both laughed and walked away uncomfortably,” she said. But they remained in each other’s thoughts.
A week later, Mr. Marshall finally asked one of their mutual friends if Mrs. Moody was single. She was. Before making a bolder move, “I went to her Instagram and liked a bunch of photos,” said Mr. Marshall.
Ms. Moody, in return, started liking some of his photos. Then he liked her a little more. And so it went until he finally texted her directly, and they soon started texting.
Their relationship was still strictly digital when Ms. Moody learned through another mutual friend that both she and Mr. Marshall would soon be attending the same Christmas party at a friend’s house in Smyrna, Georgia. Mrs. Moody chose not to name the party Mr. Marshall, who wanted to wait until they got there to see his reaction.
Once she arrived, about an hour after him, “we spent the whole time there together,” Ms. Moody said.
Their first date came the following January, and after that the couple quickly fell into what felt like a very natural rhythm to both of them. “She made it easy for me to open up and express my opinion. So I wanted to do the same for her,” Mr. Marshall said.
After they kicked off 2019 at the peak of their budding romance, the year quickly turned into a rough one for Ms. Moody. In July, a maternal aunt for whom she had been a secondary caregiver died of gallbladder cancer. Months later, Mrs. Rose, the girlfriend to whom she had sent Mr. Moody’s screenshot, died in November.
Looking back on that time, Ms. Moody said the successive deaths “taught me how important it was for me to love intentionally and without waiting.”
The couple started talking about marriage in the summer of 2020. In November, Mr. Marshall surprised Ms. Moody with a proposal at Condesa Coffee in Atlanta, where she then lived. She was a fan of coffee shops and had no idea that he had rented out the place and arranged for friends and family to be there in person and via video call to celebrate with them.
The following summer, the two moved to Holly Springs, NC together. Ms. Moody is now completing a Ph.D. in higher education from North Carolina State University, and Mr. Marshall works as a soccer coach at Methodist University in Fayetteville, NC
On March 12, the couple married at Fall Line Station, an event venue in Macon, in front of 190 guests, all of whom had to show negative Covid tests before attending. Cleon Henriques, who was ordained by what is now known as Bridge Pointe Church in Marietta, Georgia, officiated.
Although their first meeting came years later than it could have been, once the two hooked up, “it totally pulled me in,” Ms. Moody said. “There were no games.”