Drs. Sarah Y. Siu and David X. Yang were on what they call their “negative-fifth date” when they first broached the subject of marriage.
It was 2018, and the two had been friends for nearly a decade. They were having dinner and began reminiscing about an awkward moment that they had shared early in their friendship, in 2011, when Dr. Yang asked Dr. Siu whether she would date him. At the time, Dr. Siu had declined — she had just started dating one of Dr. Yang’s classmates, and she wanted to give that relationship a shot. (It didn’t pan out.) Dr. Yang wanted to know where Dr. Siu thought their lives would be if she had said yes when he had asked her out seven years earlier.
“I think we would be married,” she responded, “with kids.”
It was, you may detect, a decent indication that Dr. Yang had another shot.
The first time Dr. Siu saw Dr. Yang was in 2010, when both were in Hong Kong as part of the China Synergy Programme for Outstanding Youth, a multicity tour of China for students. (Dr. Siu likens the trip to a Chinese version of Birthright Israel.) Dr. Siu and Dr. Yang were having dinner with a group of their peers at a long table in a restaurant in Lan Kwai Fong, a district known for its nightlife. Dr. Siu introduced herself to a fellow student, explaining that she was pre-med and that she lived in New York. The student gestured to a young man seated several seats away.
“That guy over there, David, is also in med school in New York,” Dr. Siu was told.
Dr. Siu and Dr. Yang didn’t say much, if anything, to each other that night. But as the trip progressed, the two fell into the same social group. By the time they returned to New York, they were friends. Dr. Yang’s foiled attempt to ask Dr. Siu out happened the following year. They remained friends afterward.
Shortly after their what-if chat about marriage in 2018, the two finally started dating. There was no precise “date zero” after that “negative-fifth date” — the transition was gradual — though they do recall a pivotal discussion at a sushi restaurant where they agreed to give dating a shot.
In 2019, they moved in together in Manhattan.
And then this year, on Jan. 25, Dr. Siu and Dr. Yang stepped into their apartment drenched. It was Chinese New Year, the sky was open, and they had just trudged through the rain to and from a family dim sum lunch. After replacing their wet clothes, Dr. Yang asked Dr. Siu to sit down on the living room couch. He said he had something to ask her.
His proposal didn’t come as a surprise; the couple had gone ring shopping together. Dr. Siu said yes. They spent chunks of February cooking up grand plans for a wedding, which was to take place in 2021.
The next month, of course, the coronavirus rolled in and swept away the couple’s wedding plans. In late March, Dr. Yang was enlisted to be part of the coronavirus intubation team at NYU Langone Health. A week later, he was infected with the virus.
For two weeks, Dr. Yang was quarantined in the couple’s bedroom. Dr. Siu slept on the couch — the same one where Dr. Yang had proposed a couple months earlier.
After Dr. Yang recovered, he and Dr. Siu agreed to get married sooner rather than later. “I don’t want to sound morbid, but if something happens,” he said, trailing off the words.
Dr. Siu, 30, a chief resident in dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, and Dr. Yang, 33, an anesthesiologist at NYU Langone, were married in Manhattan on Nov. 3 by Peter Boruchowitz, a Universal Life minister, who performed the ceremony over video chat. The ceremony was preceded by a small outdoor family gathering in Manhattan on Sept. 26.
The couple plans to host a full wedding ceremony “whenever it’s safe,” said Dr. Yang. “Who knows when.”
Call it their negative-first year (or two) of marriage.