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‘It Was Like My Pinterest Board Come to Life’

Only a few months after Ashley Mungiguerra and Zachary Chan began dating, an ocean would force them to live apart.

The two met in April 2013 during their freshman year at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. Ms. Mungiguerra, who is from Lantana, Texas, connected with Mr. Chan, who is from Wantagh, N.Y., while they were celebrating a mutual friend’s birthday at Social, a since-shuttered bar on what she called the “Hofstra strip.”

“We went out for a mutual friend’s birthday and became friends,” said Ms. Mungiguerra, 27.

But the pair didn’t start dating until their junior year. In October 2014, Mr. Chan, also 27, sent Ms. Mungiguerra a text message inviting her to dinner. She thought it was a group dinner with friends, but it turned out to be a first date.

A few months later, Ms. Mungiguerra left campus for an exchange program at the University of Amsterdam. While their relationship was still in its early stages, Mr. Chan said that they were both up for any challenge that distance posed. “We were committed, so we were going to make it work,” he said. “It was definitely tough.”

In 2015, Ms. Mungiguerra and Mr. Chan received bachelor’s degrees from Hofstra; she in journalism and political science and he in accounting. The next year, he earned a master’s degree in taxation from the university. They now live in Lewisville, Texas. Ms. Mungiguerra works as an account executive at Dala Communications, a public relations firm in Dallas. Mr. Chan works as a senior tax analyst at the McKesson Corporation, a medical supply company in Irving, Texas.

In December 2018, the couple traveled to Amsterdam to celebrate New Year’s Eve. They had spent time there together twice by then — once when Mr. Chan visited Ms. Mungiguerra during her time studying abroad and again in November 2017.

Months before the trip, Ms. Mungiguerra had booked a dinner reservation on Dec. 30, 2018, their second day in the city, with no idea what else they might do that night.

Credit…Rebecca Langford
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“Zac wanted to leave earlier so we could take photos of the canals at night,” she said. “We stopped on the Peperbrug to look out at the canals, and Zac started saying a lot of very nice things.”

As they observed the canals, Ms. Mungiguerra said she saw Mr. Chan remove something from his pocket and finally realized what was happening.

The surprise overseas proposal was no simple task, Mr. Chan said. “I wrote a note and tied it to the ring box for T.S.A. because I had heard sometimes it comes up on the metal detector.” It read, “Please be discreet with this box.”

The couple postponed their original wedding date of Oct. 17, 2020, because of the pandemic. They were married almost a year to the day later, on Oct. 16, 2021, at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas.

When Jeffrey Hopkins, the father of one of Ms. Mungiguerra’s bridesmaids, Erin Hopkins, heard about the wedding, he made a joke about officiating. He may have been kidding, but the couple thought it was a great idea and Mr. Hopkins was ordained by the Universal Life Church to celebrate the event.

“We’re not religious and we didn’t want a stranger,” Ms. Mungiguerra said.

About 120 guests attended the ceremony in the center’s sculpture garden, which Mr. Chan described as a bit of an oasis. “In the back, where the water features are, when we were standing there, the sound of the fountains, it was surreal,” he said. “It makes you feel like you are not in the middle of the city.”

“We also felt more comfortable as the wedding was entirely outdoors,” Ms. Mungiguerra added.

In lieu of a traditional wedding cake, the couple had a croquembouche and a groom’s cake with a New York Rangers hockey theme. Their cocktail napkins featured their two rescue dogs, Josey, a Border collie, and Bailey, a black lab.

“It was like my Pinterest board come to life, seeing the skyline and being under the lights,” Ms. Mungiguerra said. “You’re in your own secret garden.”

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