Lifestyle

Finding Love From Studio 1A in Rockefeller Plaza

Round Valentine’s Day final 12 months, Jenna Bush Hager, a bunch of NBC’s “As we speak with Hoda & Jenna,” launched into a mission: to assist her good friend and colleague Elizabeth Harrington Leist, who goes by Libby, discover romance.

“Jenna was reporting on love within the pandemic and the way folks had been discovering one another,” Ms. Leist, the senior vice chairman of “As we speak” and a senior vice chairman of NBC Information, mentioned. “I used to be trying to meet somebody.”

Ms. Leist, now 43, had by then been single for years — “since my 30s,” she mentioned. “I’d been mounted up with 1,000,000 individuals who didn’t work out.” She had additionally just lately been promoted from her earlier place as a senior govt producer of “As we speak,” which meant she not needed to get to mattress early and get up at 3:45 a.m. The life-style change opened her as much as new relationship potentialities. “I used to be transitioning and gaining a brand new perspective,” Ms. Leist mentioned.

Although she had mentioned her relationship life with Ms. Bush Hager, Ms. Leist had by no means earlier than been arrange by her. To supply potential suitors, Ms. Bush Hager contacted her fraternal twin sister, Barbara, and two pals. Certainly one of them was Emily Fisher, a fantastic arts photographer, who had met Ms. Bush Hager years in the past by means of Willie Geist, the host of “Sunday As we speak.” Ms. Fisher rapidly replied with a suggestion: Sayan Ray, her husband’s finest good friend.

Like Ms. Leist, Mr. Ray, 48, was experiencing a interval of transition. In the summertime of 2020, his earlier marriage of 12 years led to divorce. However he wasn’t as involved with assembly new folks. A father of two — his daughter, Shailey, is 12 and his son, Kieran, is 9 — Mr. Ray mentioned that, following his divorce, “ensuring my kids had been OK was my precedence.”

His first response to Ms. Fisher’s overture was that he wasn’t prepared. “Then she despatched me an image of Libby and I believed, she’s very nice wanting and had a pleasant smile and I may inform she was particular person,” he mentioned. “So I agreed.”

After Ms. Hager Bush launched the 2 by way of e mail, Mr. Ray, the inventive director at Harrison and Star, a well being care advertising and marketing company in New York, invited Ms. Leist on a date. She advised they meet just about, on Zoom, however he persuaded her to get collectively in particular person. “I wished to get out of the home,” he mentioned.

Their first date, on Feb. 21, 2021, started at Central Park, the place they strolled across the reservoir. Espresso at The Consulate, a restaurant on the Higher West Aspect of Manhattan, adopted.

As they talked, Mr. Ray mentioned he discovered Ms. Leist to be “good, strong and all the way down to earth.” When he introduced up his divorce, “she simply listened,” he added. “I discovered that comforting.” Of her impression of Mr. Ray, Ms. Leist put it this manner: “Jenna actually delivered.”

Weeks later, they met for a second date on March 6. Ms. Leist traveled from her Manhattan condominium close to Gramercy Park to spend the day with Mr. Ray, who had deliberate an itinerary of actions for the 2 close to his house in Danbury, Conn.

The nine-hour tour started with espresso and pastries at Hayfields Cafe & Florist, in North Salem, N.Y. Then got here a two-hour stroll. Afterward, they visited The Aldrich Up to date Artwork Museum, in Ridgefield, Conn., and went searching for antiques. Their final cease, in North Salem, was for dinner at Purdy’s Farmer & the Fish, Mr. Ray’s favourite restaurant.

“It was lots to decide to, however it was candy of him to indicate me” his space, Ms. Leist mentioned. “He put plenty of thought into all the pieces.”

Mr. Ray was thrilled to see Ms. Leist, whom he described as “a busy metropolis woman in a busy job,” respect his slower-paced life. When the 2 grew to become acquainted, he had questioned in regards to the compatibility of their totally different life. “However displaying her round and her being receptive to my space” made him extra assured {that a} relationship would work, mentioned Mr. Ray, who had begun to fall for Ms. Leist earlier than their second date ended.

It took Ms. Leist three extra outings to have an analogous epiphany. Following their fifth date in late March, she recalled considering, “Wow, I’m going to marry this man.”

That summer time, Ms. Leist met Mr. Ray’s kids at a Fourth of July barbecue hosted by Ms. Fisher and her husband, Murray Fisher. “I knew in my coronary heart he was an ideal dad,” Ms. Leist mentioned, “however now I acquired to see it.”

“It grew to become very clear that Sayan had a complete life that existed earlier than me and that I must work out be part of it,” she added.

As they continued to spend time with one another, slowly, a household unit fashioned. “I’ve all the time wished kids,” Ms. Leist mentioned. “The extra we acquired collectively, the nearer I felt to gaining that.” Her weekends, which had been beforehand spent going to SoulCycle and low with pals, as she put it, quickly grew to become devoted to actions with Mr. Ray and his kids.

All through their courtship, Ms. Leist and Mr. Ray all the time saved Ms. Bush Hager and Ms. Fisher abreast of any progress. “No element was too small,” Ms. Leist mentioned.

Their matchmakers appreciated each replace. “There’s vitality establishing two folks, particularly somebody I like like Libby, who’s humorous, sensible and a terrific good friend,” Ms. Bush Hager mentioned. Ms. Fisher described the pairing as “one in all my proudest achievements.”

Although she had no hand in introducing the couple, Savannah Guthrie, a “As we speak” anchor and good friend of Ms. Leist, additionally cheered on their growing romance. “We had been texting in any respect hours of the night time,” she mentioned of herself, Ms. Bush Hager and Ms. Fisher. “Everybody was hanging on each growth. It was like highschool.”

Ms. Guthrie had tried to set Ms. Leist up many occasions, however by no means succeeded. “Whereas giving beginning I used to be trying out the anesthesiologist to see if he was good for her,” she mentioned. “It grew to become my mission,” she added, however “Jenna beat me to it.”

By the autumn of 2021, Ms. Leist and Mr. Ray, who had begun discussing marriage months earlier, had been each able to take the subsequent step towards it.

“It’s wonderful how your thoughts can change,” Mr. Ray mentioned, describing how he went from considering “I’ll by no means get married once more” to feeling like he couldn’t stay with out Ms. Leist. “I wanted her in a method I didn’t anticipate,” he added.

Of their bond, Ms. Leist mentioned, “It’s uncommon to seek out this, to have a deep reliable, sincere reference to somebody,” including, “I by no means knew I may really feel this manner.”

Mr. Ray proposed that November on the New York Metropolis marathon, which occurred to fall on his birthday. To execute the proposal, he had enlisted the assistance of Mr. Fisher and Mr. Geist from “As we speak,” who was operating within the race.

About two miles earlier than the end line in Central Park, Mr. Fisher handed Mr. Geist a bag of Dunkin’ munchkins. Inside was additionally a small field containing a citrine and diamond ring. Mr. Geist then ran 5 blocks with the bag, earlier than handing it off to Mr. Ray, who was ready with Ms. Leist and some pals close to an entrance to the park.

To maintain her from turning into suspicious, Mr. Geist mentioned he was not solely requested to ship the bag to Mr. Ray, but additionally a line: “Somebody within the crowd gave this to me, are you able to throw it out?”

After the handoff, Mr. Ray and Ms. Leist walked by means of the park, returning to a spot they’d handed on their first date. Stationed close by to take photographs was Ms. Fisher, whose presence didn’t go undetected by Ms. Leist. “I didn’t get to complete all the pieces I needed to say as a result of Libby noticed Emily within the bushes taking photographs and requested why she was there,” Mr. Ray mentioned.

Regardless of being rushed, he nonetheless had time to get down on one knee and ask her to marry him. Ms. Leist instantly answered sure, and the 2 later celebrated their engagement at Sona, an Indian restaurant close to Gramercy Park, with a small group that included the Fishers, Ms. Bush Hager and Ms. Guthrie.

On June 4, the couple had been married at Grace Church in Utica, N.Y., earlier than the Rev. Christine Williams-Belt, an Episcopal priest, and 145 company. Mr. Ray’s son served as the most effective man and his daughter was a junior bridesmaid. Following the ceremony had been a cocktail hour and seated dinner at Ms. Leist’s mother and father’ house in New Hartford, N.Y.

On the reception, Ms. Bush Hager and Ms. Fisher delivered a shock speech, throughout which they learn from a guide they’d created. Its pages had been stuffed with the numerous textual content messages exchanged amongst their bigger good friend group in the course of the couple’s courtship.

“There have to be a thousand texts between all of us,” Ms. Bush Hager mentioned, earlier than quoting a message she had despatched to Ms. Fisher on April 19, 2021.

“I actually suppose that is it,” she mentioned, including, “and it was.”

When June 4, 2022

The place Grace Church, Utica, N.Y.,

The Reception The bride’s mother and father’ house in New Hartford, N.Y.

Excessive Notes The ceremony featured music and vocals from a pianist, tenor and opera singer. Throughout the cocktail hour and dinner, company had been entertained by Troy Ramey, a singer, who carried out “My Love Is Your Love” because the couple had their first dance. The night concluded with a set from DJ Spider.

Simply Youngsters On the dinner, the newlyweds sat at a desk with 13 kids, together with Mr. Ray’s and people of Ms. Bush Hager and Ms. Guthrie. “We really feel very near all these kids — they really feel like household,” Ms. Leist mentioned. “It was so joyful to look at them benefit from the wedding ceremony and it was an opportunity for us to attach in the course of the wedding ceremony.”

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