An ‘Accident of Geography’ Was the Start of Forever

It all started at a bar on St. Patrick’s Day in 2014.

Valeria Estefania Dueñas was at the Brass Monkey in Washington celebrating her cousin’s birthday. John Harrison Garfinkel was there for St. Patrick’s Day drinks with friends.

“I saw Valeria — and Valeria’s about 5-foot-5 — so she’s not short, but she’s having trouble getting the bartender’s attention,” said Mr. Garfinkel, now 31. “I had an extra beer, and I wanted to talk to her, she’s very beautiful. I worked up the courage and I offered her my beer and we started talking.”

Ms. Dueñas was well aware of Mr. Garfinkel’s presence. “He was the tallest guy at the bar,” said Ms. Dueñas, now 30. “I just kind of made it seem like I was struggling to get the bartender’s attention. And it worked.”

The pair bonded over a shared love of music and soon after went on their first date to Bar Charley in Washington.

“In a very virtual and technologically advanced environment, we really met the old-school way,” Ms. Dueñas said. “And it’s pretty shocking that we met because we have no social elements in common. I went to school in Arizona, I grew up in the Southwest. John’s a city guy, he grew up in New York City.”

Ms. Dueñas, a lawyer in the general counsel’s office at the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington, graduated from the University of Arizona with degrees in political science and Spanish. She graduated from American University Washington College of Law and received a master’s degree in international affairs from the American University School of International Service. Mr. Garfinkel, a senior director at Pointe Advisory in Reston, Va., graduated from Wake Forest with a degree in finance and is an M.B.A. candidate at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

“We’re an accident of geography,” Mr. Garfinkel said.

While the pair met in Washington, Mr. Garfinkel knew he wanted to propose in Arizona. “She loves Arizona, so I wanted to make sure I proposed in Arizona and that her family was there to celebrate afterward,” he said.

Mr. Garfinkel got down on one knee during a hike to Devil’s Bridge in Sedona. With Ms. Dueñas out front during the hike, he called to her. Two guides that Mr. Garfinkel had arranged for the hike were actually professional photographers there to capture the moment.

“He never says my name, so when he said my name I was like, ‘He’s either breaking up with me, or we might be getting engaged,’” Ms. Dueñas said. “And so I turned around and sure enough he was on his knee and he asked me to marry him.”

The pair married Aug. 28 — about a year after their postponed date in 2020 — at Washington National Cathedral surrounded by around 100 family members and friends. The ceremony was an interfaith ceremony, with both Rev. Canon Dana Colley Corsello and Rabbi Kenneth Block leading the ceremony, and Rabbi Block signing the marriage license.

Immediately after the wedding, the couple left for an Italian honeymoon on the Amalfi Coast and in Tuscany. They plan to get a dog and name it after the bar where they went on their first date, Bar Charley.

“I have felt like we’ve been married for a while now,” Mr. Garfinkel said. “We’ve known each other for so long and I’ve always known I was going to marry Valeria.”

After Mr. Garfinkel finishes school, the pair hope to settle into a house and eventually have children. “John is the only person I could spend the rest of my life with,” Ms. Dueñas said.

“I just feel so lucky to have met Valeria,” Mr. Garfinkel added. “To have been in the Brass Monkey at the same time, that her cousin happened to throw her birthday party there, that we were there. Even though we’re not Irish, the luck of the Irish struck that day.”

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