In April 2017, Alexandra Elizabeth Howard was out to dinner with her neighbors in Manhattan’s NoLIta neighborhood. When they asked how her online dating was going, she pulled out her cellphone to show them her Bumble account. It was then that she saw a message from Dr. Brandon Zachary von Tobel, asking her out for a drink that very night.
Ms. Howard hesitated because she was in work clothes, but her neighbors, a married couple, encouraged her. The couple escorted Ms. Howard to her date at the Bowery Hotel on the Lower East Side, where she found a spot by the bar. Dr. von Tobel, now 43, walked in and gave Ms. Howard, now 30, a hug. They ended up talking until the early morning.
The couple’s closeness intensified quickly. For their second date — a lunch on Easter Sunday at Hudson Clearwater in the West Village — Dr. von Tobel met Ms. Howard in Washington Square Park. “It was almost like love at first sight because it was the first time I was seeing her in the sunshine,” he said.
About a week later, Ms. Howard was at Dr. von Tobel’s apartment in Greenwich Village. He was speaking with his mother on the phone behind a closed door but Ms. Howard said she could still hear some of the conversation: “He said, ‘Mom, I’m just telling you, she’s the one.’”
Then, two weeks after their first date, Ms. Howard joined Dr. von Tobel on a trip to Jacksonville, Fla., where he grew up. They went to lunch before a sailing trip and, while at the table, Ms. Howard said she had something to tell him but she would wait until later. But Mr. von Tobel acted on a hunch: He said, “I know what it is and I love you, too.” His suspicion was correct.
Dr. von Tobel has a bachelor’s degree in premedical studies from Columbia, a master’s degree in bioethics from the University of Pennsylvania and a medical degree from the University of Miami. He is the founder and the chief executive of a New York City-based advisory firm for health care companies. He is also a venture partner at the Cancer Fund, a Phoenix-based venture capital fund, and the president and a founder of Decibel Health, a home dialysis company based in New York.
Ms. Howard has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Parsons School of Design at The New School. She is the founder of an eponymous interior design firm based in New York City and Charleston, S.C., where she grew up.
By May 2017, Ms. Howard had moved into Dr. von Tobel’s apartment, where the couple still lives. The idea of getting married became a question of when, not if. “I had future nostalgia,” Dr. von Tobel said. “I wanted to get to that future very quickly.”
Dr. von Tobel began working with Vivid Diamonds in the fall of 2019 to design an engagement ring that featured Ms. Howard’s emerald birthstone and Dr. von Tobel’s diamond birthstone. The ring arrived in the spring of 2020, when the couple was spending some of the year in quarantine with Ms. Howard’s parents in Charleston.
But a proposal was not imminent. One of Ms. Howard’s stipulations was that the question not be asked in the summer. “I don’t want any important life event to happen when I’m really hot,” she said.
On Oct. 12, 2020, the couple was back in New York City and Dr. von Tobel proposed in the living room of their apartment.
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Ms. Howard began planning the wedding and the events leading up to it. She enjoyed the process so much that she will soon debut an event-planning company.
The wedding was held March 18 for 130 guests. The ceremony at the Charleston Library Society in Charleston was officiated by David Eversman, a friend of the couple who was ordained by the Universal Life Church for the occasion.
After a cocktail hour in the library’s back garden, a trumpeter’s notes signaled that the reception would commence. Guests were ushered through gates that separated the library’s property and the Gibbes Museum of Art, where the reception took place.
But Ms. Howard did not orchestrate every moment of the event. Dr. von Tobel planned a surprise: At the culmination of their ceremony, a choir appeared and seven musicians in the audience stood and revealed instruments. Together, they performed “All You Need Is Love,” by the Beatles.
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