A Heart So Full, Her Chipped Teeth Were an Afterthought

Kyra Friedell and Alexander Fernandez disagree about what constituted their first actual date.

But the couple can pinpoint with certainty when they fell in love. It was Presidents’ Day weekend in 2018, most of which Ms. Friedell spent with chipped front teeth because hers were hit by a bottle while the two were at a bar.

By then, the pair had been getting to know each other for about six months. They met in August 2017, when Ms. Friedell, 32, appeared on an episode of a now-defunct dating podcast that was co-hosted by her friends and produced by Mr. Fernandez, 35, in Oakland, Calif.

He grew up in San Francisco and San Leandro, Calif., before graduating from the University of California, San Diego, and later receiving a master’s of public administration degree from the University of San Francisco. Ms. Friedell was raised in Golden Valley, Minn., and moved West after graduating from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn.

Right away, Mr. Fernandez, who goes by Alex, said he was “pretty smitten” with her — so much so that he forgot to hit record after Ms. Friedell arrived. He “definitely laughed a whole bunch,” she said, “and specifically at my jokes, which really wins me over.”

On the episode, Ms. Friedell, who is Jewish, discussed why she would never date a Catholic, telling the podcast’s co-hosts Yassi Davoodi and P.J. Cruz that her reasons included the religions’ divergent views on everything from God and Jesus to the afterlife and shame.

Despite being raised Catholic, Mr. Fernandez, who is Filipino, by then mostly attended mass on religious holidays, and said he had other qualities that Ms. Friedell told the co-hosts she sought in a partner. He also wasn’t put off by her aversion to the faith, he said, because “I understood the religion I was raised in to be more varied than the way Kyra thought it was.”

Though the two had chemistry enough that Mr. Cruz said he could feel “the energy between them” at the recording session, Ms. Friedell was then dating someone else. Her relationship ended later that month. But shortly afterward, her younger brother, Seth Friedell, died suddenly.

Mr. Friedell was in the United States Air Force and received a military funeral in Shreveport, La., in addition to a service in Golden Valley. Attending both required Ms. Friedell to leave Oakland for several weeks.

On the day she returned in October, Ms. Friedell attended a trivia night that Ms. Davoodi and Mr. Cruz had planned so she wouldn’t be alone. Mr. Fernandez was also there. When it ended, he drove Ms. Friedell home.

What he considers their first date happened later that month, when the two had a picnic on the grounds of the Oakland Temple, a Mormon temple that overlooks San Francisco and its namesake bay.

“Despite the many signals to me that this was a date,” Mr. Fernandez said, it was clear that Ms. Friedell, who was still grieving her brother, “never identified it as such, so I couldn’t just lean in and ask her for a kiss.”

More of these one-on-one hangouts followed, as did more get-togethers with Ms. Davoodi and Mr. Cruz, which included a game of doubles badminton, a sport that Mr. Fernandez had played in high school.

While Mr. Fernandez still mostly kept his feelings for Ms. Friedell to himself, Ms. Davoodi would find ways to remind her of them. “I didn’t want to overdo how great I thought Alex was, but I told her he’s the real deal,” Ms. Davoodi said.

The following February came the Presidents’ Day weekend that cemented their relationship.

While they were drinking Coronas at Double Dutch, a bar in San Francisco, someone bumped into Mr. Fernandez from behind, causing him to stumble into Ms. Friedell as she was swigging from a bottle, which slammed into two front teeth that she had already damaged in a monkey-bar accident as a child.

The incident left her with chipped enamel and the need for new crowns. But Ms. Friedell said she hardly even thought about her teeth in the days that followed because she was so content spending time with Mr. Fernandez.

Toward the end of the holiday weekend, as they sat on her couch eating ice cream, “I remember the two of us grinning at each other and being like, ‘This weekend was pretty perfect,’” she said.

Mr. Fernandez said that, “more than anything, the comfort I felt with Kyra that weekend really solidified the potential for our relationship.” He added, “Every point of connection was intimate and cozy, like we’ve had this weekend a hundred times and will continue to have them for a lifetime more.”

As they grew closer, Ms. Friedell said that Mr. Fernandez’s character made her reconsider her preconceived notions about Catholics. They found ways to fuse their cultures, including through cooking: Brisket in adobo and challah with purple yam, for instance, became favorite dishes to prepare.

In January 2019, the couple adopted a mix-breed rescue dog that they named Surly. Two years later, they bought a fixer-upper duplex in Oakland, which they’ve been mostly renovating themselves since moving in.

“We knew it would be a lot of work and it would suck,” said Ms. Friedell, a senior researcher at the software company Salesforce in San Francisco.

But the experience has been a healthy test for their relationship, according to both Ms. Friedell and Mr. Fernandez, who is now the senior business operations manager at Rivet School, a company in Richmond, Calif., that offers online bachelor’s degree programs.

In May 2021, he proposed by reciting a list of 30 things he loves about her.

No. 12: “Because we both want to leave the party at the same time.”

No. 20: “Because you agree to hold my things in your purse.”

No. 30: “I think I wanna marry you.” Mr. Fernandez delivered the last reason, a lyric sung by Bruno Mars, through tears, and chose it because Mr. Mars is of Jewish and Filipino descent.

On Feb. 19, they were married at the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland’s Joaquin Miller Park. Katherine Peterson, a friend of the bride who was ordained by the Universal Life Church for the occasion, officiated before 160 guests, all of whom had to show proof of vaccination upon arrival.

Mr. Fernandez and his groomsmen wore barongs, a style of dress shirt from the Philippines. Ms. Friedell wore a backless white jumpsuit that she accessorized with a veil made by the groom, who took up sewing during the pandemic.

The outdoor ceremony was held on the center’s grounds and incorporated elements from the bride’s and the groom’s cultures. In the Jewish tradition, they were married beneath a huppah and broke a glass. Following the Filipino custom, the two were draped with a veil and had a rope tied in a figure-eight pattern placed on their heads.

At the reception that followed, attendees mingled outside and indoors amid an exhibit titled “The NASA Experience.” The cross-cultural celebrations continued on the dance floor, where the couple and their guests did both the hora and a money dance in which cash was pinned to the bride and groom.

In her vows, Ms. Friedell cited qualities shared by Mr. Fernandez and her deceased brother, which include fierce loyalty and a penchant for mischievous grins. She also noted how improbable their romance had seemed at first.

“The reality is there is almost nothing about our lives that we held in common prior to dating,” she said, adding that now, “We see our differences as complimentary, as fortitude for our relationship and the relationships around us.”

The bride also thanked the groom’s family for treating her as such while she was still mourning her brother.

“When I met you all, my grief was fresh and I was hyper aware of losing the person who called me sister,” she said. “Becoming part of your family, gaining new brothers and sisters, cousins, aunties and uncles couldn’t have come at a more impactful time.”

Mr. Fernandez, whom Ms. Friedell said has always made their relationship fun, channeled that playfulness in his vows.

“I vow to remember new people’s names for you, to sometimes tell you the wrong one on purpose,” he said. “Is it Ken, is it Kent? I don’t know.”

He also emphasized how fortuitous their relationship has been from the start.

“How lucky are we?” Mr. Fernandez said. “To have lived full lives and then to have found each other, realizing we have not lived at all.”

When Feb. 19, 2022

Where Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland, Calif.

Best Moon Man The couple signed the ketubah, a traditional Jewish marriage contract, in a room where four astronaut suits were on display. One of them was worn by Alan Bean, a member of the Apollo 12 crew and the fourth person to walk on the moon.

Jump Start The night before the wedding, instead of hosting a rehearsal dinner, the couple invited their guests to play badminton. Afterward, when Mr. Fernandez and Ms. Friedell got in their car to head home, it wouldn’t start. “I took it as a sign telling us to pause and spend our last moments unmarried together before we get swept up in everything,” said Mr. Fernandez, who had to call someone to come and jump the battery.

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