When Maria Laura Steverlynck and James McIntyre were introduced for the first time at a party in 2006, they didn’t exchange numbers.
McIntyre, who hails from Kalamazoo, Mich., works for Morgan Stanley, raising funds for affordable housing. Ms. Steverlynck, who is completing a Ph.D. in 20th Century Latin American Art at The Graduate Center, is Uruguayan and spent much of her childhood living in Ecuador, Italy and Chile. At a glance, one might not immediately guess they had anything in common.
But they did share a mutual fondness for the Caracas Arepa Bar in the East Village and they both happened to know the owner of the restaurant. It was enough for the two to continue talking for several hours that night before parting ways.
Two months later when Steverlynck visited Caracas for dinner, she was told that McIntyre had been inquiring about her and was hoping to get her number.
“At that point, I figured I had nothing to lose,” remembered Steverlynck recently, over a glass of red at . “So I gave it to him.”
Before long the pair was dancing to Manu Chao and Los Amigos Invisibles in Prospect Park.
“James is a really easy person to talk to and a great listener,” said Steverlynck, 31. “He was someone I felt an immediate connection with.”
After two years of dating, the couple moved into an apartment together on Degraw Street at Court Street and set about planting a garden and decorating, with Steverlynck taking the lead on most household projects.
“When we moved in together, she had the hammer and drills,” he said. “I am good at supervising things but Mari is a trained artist by trade. She sees things a different way and I don’t have that particular skill set. So it’s been nice—
—we balance each other out,” Steverlynck, who also teaches at Parsons, interjected.
“I’m more analytical and more outgoing,” acknowledged McIntyre, 32. “Mari has kind of a shy personality whereas I like to talk to everybody.”
At this, the bride laughed. “Yes,” she said. “James likes to be the center of attention and I’m more hesitant about that.”
So hesitant, in fact, that Steverlynck was completely unaware she was the guest of honor when McIntyre drove her out to Rockaway Beach for their anniversary one summer day. After hours spent in the sun, the pair sat down at a summer cantina the Caracas restaurant group had recently opened there.
“I went to get our lunch at the counter, picking up a bottle of hot sauce and an extra white container,” said McIntyre. Inside the case, he tucked a vintage ring he had purchased from a jeweler in Chinatown.
“When I came back to the table, we started eating and I asked her if she wanted some hot sauce,” he continued. “And she kept saying, ‘No, I don’t want any hot sauce.’ So finally I said, ‘OK, well if you don’t want hot sauce, do you want to get married?’”
Her mouth half full of arepa, Steverlynck was “more than shocked,” she said. “It was very sneaky of him. But it was also very sweet.”
With arepas having launched their love affair, and restaurants occupying a major element of their social life, good food has taken priority in much of the couple’s planning for their wedding on Tuesday, July 3 at .
“Through the researching process we learned that Roberta’s in Buschwick does catering,” said Steverlynck. “So in addition to a regular meal we will have a pizza course from Roberta’s—and that is very us.”
Other special dishes will include sweet and savory treats from a Uruguayan bakery in Queens; a Slovakian family recipe for cookies that McIntyre’s mother will bake; and a wedding cake provided by Carroll Gardens’ own .
If guests are still hungry after that, one of the will show up for more noshing at the after party.
“Wedding food doesn’t have to be bad,” enthused McIntyre. “And it doesn’t have to be traditional. These dishes are much more who we are as a couple.”
Likewise, many of the decorative elements were hand-crafted by Steverlynck, herself. From origami flower bouquets to homemade terrariums, handsewn tablerunners and a custom multicolor chuppah, “there were definitely a lot of art projects in front of episodes of Friday Night Lights the past few months,” quipped McIntyre.
But even if everything fell apart at the last minute, the groom said, it wouldn’t really matter.
“At the end of the day, we’re getting married and that is the most important thing,” he said, staring across the table at his bride-to-be."I will be dancing no matter what."