A Funny Thing Happened at the College Reunion

Alexis Branagan and Patrick Ryan arrived separately at the Cloister Inn eating club at Princeton in June 2017.

Although they didn’t know each other, Ms. Branagan, 31, who graduated from Princeton in 2011, and Mr. Ryan, 34, who graduated in 2009, were all-too familiar with the annual Princeton reunions event, which Ms. Branagan was attending for the sixth year in a row, and Mr. Ryan for an eighth.

Mr. Ryan’s reunions streak got off to a late start as he served nearly four years after graduating as a Marine Corps officer, primarily as a staff officer at the Third Intelligence Battalion in Okinawa, Japan.

“It’s one huge party,” said Ms. Branagan, a professional ballet dancer, ballet teacher, and arts administrator who is a member of the New York Theatre Ballet, a touring chamber company.

She went on to describe one particular moment at the reunion.

“I walked down the staircase with my friends,” she said, “and our eyes just locked.”

“I immediately felt this special connection,” she added, “and since I was the one walking down the stairs, I made a beeline toward him.”

Mr. Ryan, a vice president at Edelman, where he advises companies on investor relations and financial communications, spoke briefly that day with Ms. Branagan before asking her out.

She was living in Astoria, Queens at the time, he in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.

She said yes and they exchanged phone numbers, and a few days later met at bar near Penn Station, where they spent hours talking.

“The conversation flowed,” Ms. Branagan said. “We found so many commonalities between us.”

One of those common traits was a sense of humor, which paved the way for a smooth evening as far as Mr. Ryan was concerned. “She laughed at all of my jokes, and that was a good sign” he said. “Our families were both from Ireland, so there was a lot in common there as well.”

Within a month, they were serious, and dated steadily until October 2019, when they got engaged.

“Patrick brought a real and true ease to my life,” Ms. Branagan said. “I never thought ‘Oh, he’s not going to like that,’ and I never had to question my next move, it was just me being me, and so I never had to question as to whether or not I made the right move in being with him.”

They were married Jan. 17 by Msgr. Thomas Mullelly at St. Aedan’s, the St. Peter’s University Church in Jersey City, N.J. The Rev. Rocco Danzi, a Roman Catholic priest, took part in the ceremony. The bride estimated that 50-70 guests — “well-distanced from one another” — were in attendance. (New Jersey’s restrictions allow for up to 150 people or 25 percent of the room’s capacity; St. Aedan’s seats 1,500.)

The coronavirus changed two sets of original plans, the first a planned ceremony at St. Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church in Hawthorne, N.J., and the second at Cairnwood Estate, a wedding venue in Bryn Athyn, Pa.

“When cases ticked up as the holidays came, this glorious Plan B didn’t make sense any longer,” the bride said. “We felt better about hosting something in a larger cathedral, and not hosting any indoor dining.”

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Written by Bourbiza Mohamed

I have 26 years of experience as a professional writer and editor and have been working as a full time freelancer since 2011. I am originally from Casablanca, Morocco, and I graduated from Qatar University with a degree in journalism. I have worked for newspapers, magazines, news agencies, websites. I speak fluent Arabic, French, English, Russian and Spanish.

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