Francesca and Matthew

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How We Met

Matt and I met the summer going into our junior year at Villanova, when we were both volunteering to help out with the new student orientation program. I still remember the butterflies I felt in my stomach when I first saw him. He had this insanely positive energy that lifted up everyone around him. We had a bunch of mutual friends at Villanova, and that fall I found myself frequently looking for excuses to bump into him. I remember one run-in particularly well: I was warming up with the other cheerleaders for our performance at the opening ceremonies for Villanova’s Special Olympics Fall Festival, a huge event that Matt was running. I saw him start walking toward me and this big, goofy smile spread across my face—but it turns out he just wanted to know if I could move our warm-up elsewhere because we were kind of in the way!

I chickened out from asking Matt to one of my formals and had pretty much given up on my secret crush when I got a text from him: “Hey, this is really random, but would you want to get lunch sometime?” I said that I’d love to, and we had our first date at a cafeteria on campus called Café Nova. Matt graciously paid (he still had an unlimited meal plan, and I didn’t!). The cashier who rang us up looked from him to me and said, “He’s a keeper, I can tell.” I thought so, too. We started officially dating shortly after that.

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How They Asked

It’s difficult to keep a secret from someone you’re quarantining with, so I have to admit that I suspected Matt was up to something when he nervously said he had to run out for an appointment on a random day during the summer of 2020. I spent the next few weeks getting way too dressed up for casual outdoor dinner dates, just in case he decided to pop the question. But nothing happened until a couple of months later when we were in the process of moving from the tiny Hoboken studio where we’d lived for the last three years to a bigger apartment a few blocks away.

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We decided to have dinner at the new apartment the day we got the keys, and since none of our furniture had arrived yet we ate pizza and drank wine on the floor. We didn’t have our TV or Wi-Fi set up, but Matt had brought over a few boxes that included our Scrabble board. (The game had become our go-to quarantine activity; we’d faced off at least 20 times by then.) We decided to play a game, and a few turns in I pulled a tile from the bag that felt slightly different from the rest. Etched into the wood were the words: Will you marry me? Tears stung my eyes as he knelt and produced the most beautiful ring I’d ever seen. Of course, I said yes!

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Matt later told me that he’d been planning to propose to me earlier that year in Greece, a trip that we wound up canceling due to the pandemic. But I couldn’t be happier that he decided to propose the way he did. Sure, the photos we took were dark because we didn’t even have any lamps in the apartment yet, he was wearing a soccer jersey, and my outfit was less than flattering. But it was completely and totally unique to us. It wasn’t the scenic proposal he’d had in mind—it was so much better. (Plus, we got dressed up for some amazing photos a few weeks later!)

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Special Thanks

Halie Aaron
 | Photographer