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‘Our Differences in Age and Skin Color Meant Nothing to Us.’

When Constance Collins began dating Matthew Steuer in October 2018, some of her family members were not too thrilled.

“They had some strong reservations with Matthew,” said Ms. Collins, who is 32 and from College Park, Ga. “They said that Matthew and I didn’t belong together for two reasons: They did not like the fact that he was 24 years older than me and that he was a white man.”

The two met in August 2016 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where each began a teaching job at the American School of Kinshasa.

They became fast friends. “We collaborated professionally on numerous projects, and trusted and counted on each other,” said Mr. Steuer, 56, who is from Manhattan’s Upper West Side. “We were simply enjoying each other’s company in this strange and challenging new land.”

Their relationship turned romantic during a trip two years later to Senegal.

Mr. Steuer, an early childhood specialist at the International School of Uganda, took the disapproval from Ms. Collins’s mother and stepfather in stride. “While it created some tension and challenging feelings, I honestly did not take it personally,” he said. “I understood where they were coming from, and imagined I might feel similarly were Constance my daughter.”

Ms. Collins, who was then a middle school social studies educator at the American International School of Johannesburg, said that each and every time a family member tried to dissuade her from seeing Mr. Steuer, she simply “stood firm.”

The couple met each other’s extended families for the first time on their wedding day. “Believe it or not, it went really well,” Mr. Steuer said. “Once our two families sat down and talked, there was a lot of respect and warm feelings.”Credit…Lucie B. Photography

“I had been friends with Matthew for more than two years and grew to love everything about him,” said Ms. Collins, who graduated from Yaleand received a master’s degree in social studies education from Columbia.She is currently pursuing a master’s degree remotely in race, gender and educational leadership at Harvard.

“I loved his values, his view of the world and his love of the school children we taught,” she said. “This man was my best friend, my mentor and my lover. Our differences in age and skin color meant nothing to us.”

Mr. Steuer described the “love and loyalty” displayed by Ms. Collins. “That was something very special and unique to me,” he said. “I had not found that in a woman until I met Constance.”

Several weeks after their trip to Senegal, Mr. Steuer, who graduated from Wheelock College and received a master’s degree in early childhood education from Erickson Institute in Chicago, announced that he had taken a job in Uganda.

Ms. Collins tried to follow him, but there were no other teaching job openings there at that time. She accepted an offer in Johannesburg, which was, geographically, the closest she could get to Mr. Steuer, albeit a short plane ride away.

In July 2019, the summer before they were to report to their respective campuses, Ms. Collins and Mr. Steuer went on a New England road trip during which she surprised him with a birthday gift in the form of a skydiving experience for two.

They were soon jumping out of a plane together, some 12,000 feet above Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains of Vermont.

“Breathtaking,” Mr. Steuer said, “simply breathtaking.”

In the first eight months of their long-distance relationship, they managed to meet nine times, in various parts of a faraway continent where both were beginning to feel at home.

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The couple changed into custom outfits designed by Sello Medupe, a South African designer, for their reception.Credit…Lucie B. Photography

They took advantage of one three-week break by taking a 10-day safari in Botswana in the Kalahari, the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park, followed by five days at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, where they interacted with elephants, took a helicopter ride above the falls and went white water rafting down the Zambezi River.

“After all that,” Mr. Steuer said, “we spent some days on the beaches in Mozambique to recover.”

On March 17, 2020, Mr. Steuer’s school closed because of Covid-19. Almost immediately he was on a flight to South Africa to be with Ms. Collins. “As it turned out, my flight just made it there by a thread,” he said, “while other teachers I knew were turned away from the airport the very next day.”

After six months of living together, they began to realize how much they enjoyed each other’s company, and, as Ms. Collins put it, “how much we trust each other, laugh together, confide in each other and how life is just better together.”

It all led to a simple conclusion. “At that point, we both knew that we wanted to get married,” Mr. Steuer said.

After Ms. Collins and Mr. Steuer enjoyed so many days in the sun, their world went dark when Ms. Collins, who had a kidney transplant nine years earlier, suddenly went into kidney failure and was rushed to a nearby hospital, where surgery was needed before she was prepared for dialysis.

On Sep. 6, 2020, when Ms. Collins was still recovering, Mr. Steuer proposed to her at a wildlife reserve in South Africa, “where the engagement ring was delivered by the cutest lion cub you ever saw,” Ms. Collins said. A few days later Mr. Steuer returned to Uganda to resume teaching.

The following month, Ms. Collins traveled back to Atlanta to be with family and near Piedmont hospital, where she received what Mr. Steuer said was “her lifesaving, second kidney transplant.”

Ms. Collins returned to teaching full time, albeit online and in Atlanta, in January 2021, but was back in South Africa a month later.

“I loved his values, his view of the world and his love of the school children we taught,” said the bride. “This man was my best friend, my mentor and my lover.”Credit…Lucie B. Photography

She taught full time while hosting international panel discussions and facilitating workshops on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.

Ms. Collins’s next trip to the United States, in New York’s Hudson Valley, included yet another walk with Mr. Steuer, this one down the wedding aisle at FEAST at Round Hill, an events in Washingtonville, N.Y., where they were married July 22.

It was the first time the bride and groom had met each other’s extended families. They included the bride’s parents, Cheryl Lloyd, a set driver for movie productions in Atlanta, and Cedric Collins, a parole agent at San Quentin State Prison in California. Also among the 70 guests were the groom’s mother, Wilma Steuer, a former early childhood educator and his father, Dr. Irwin Steuer, a retired orthodontist in New York.

Adiya White-Hammond, a friend of the couple who became a Universal Life minister for the event, officiated.

“Believe it or not, it went really well,” Mr. Steuer said. “Once our two families sat down and talked, there was a lot of respect and warm feelings. Constance’s stepfather, Andre, came to me privately — with tears in his eyes — to share how he had initially misjudged me, and how he was proud of me and happy to call me family.

In August, Ms. Collins was reunited once more with Mr. Steuer, as she accepted a job as the service learning coordinator at the International School of Uganda.

“We didn’t exactly break down and cry when we were reunited,” Mr. Steuer said, laughing. “But we were completely overjoyed, I will tell you that.”


On This Day

Where FEAST at Round Hill, Washingtonville, N.Y.

When July 22, 2021

Honoring Their African Connection The couple worked with Sello Medupe, a South African designer, to custom design their reception outfits. “He did a brilliant job and we were so happy,” said Mr. Steuer. “When we were introduced as husband and wife at the reception and we appeared in those outfits for the first time, it was a showstopper.”

Grading Papers Everywhere The groom, born and raised in Manhattan, has been living and working abroad since 1989. Before his current teaching job in Uganda, he has taught in Hong Kong, Singapore, Uruguay, the Netherlands and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Not Her First Rodeo, Either The bride, who grew up in Atlanta and b, has also lived and taught at schools in France, Switzerland, the Democratic Republic and South Africa.

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