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An Unexpected, Yet Precisely Perfect Pairing

The old maxim that you don’t really know a person until you live with him does not apply to Andrew Shackett and Patrick O’Keefe. In their case, all they had to do to really get to know each other was hop on a plane from New York to Birmingham, England.

Mr. Shackett, 54, and Mr. O’Keefe, 55, both of Manhattan, met in April 2015 on the website OkCupid. Each had recently ended a longtime relationship and was new to online dating.

But sparks flew as soon as Mr. O’Keefe saw Mr. Shackett outside his West Village apartment building. “Andrew had the most beautiful blue eyes,” he said. Instead of shaking hands, they kissed.

A first date at Elephant & Castle, a restaurant in the West Village, led to a flurry of others in quick succession. By date No. 4, Mr. Shackett learned that Mr. O’Keefe had booked a trip to visit friends in Herefordshire, England, in May.

“I said, it’s too bad I didn’t meet you earlier so I could go with you,” said Mr. Shackett, the owner of ASA Consulting, a company that helps nonprofit groups with fund-raising. Mr. O’Keefe, a veterinary recruiter for Compassion-First Pet Hospitals, asked Mr. Shackett to join him and the flight was booked. But before they even reached the home of Mr. O’Keefe’s friends in England, Karen Walsh and Christine Heinrich, their crash course in really getting to know each other began.

Mr. Shackett left his laptop on the plane.

“It was his business laptop,” Mr. O’Keefe said. “It had his whole life on it. Once he realized it was missing, he was pretty devastated.”

“I literally curled up in a corner and cried,” Mr. Shackett said. “I thought my business was over, my life was over. Patrick didn’t know what to do. He had never seen anything like it.”

Ms. Heinrich, through connections at the airport, eventually recovered the laptop. Mr. Shackett soon recovered his equilibrium. But the incident was instructive for both men, who discovered they are the yin to the other’s yang. “Andrew reacts to things much differently than I do,” Mr. O’Keefe said. “I don’t let things get to me.” Mr. Shackett, by contrast, is prone to slipping into what he calls ‘the crazies.’”

Friends tend not to sugarcoat Mr. Shackett’s anxious nature. “We experienced Andrew in full panic mode as soon as we met him,” Ms. Heinrich said. She and Ms. Walsh worried at first that someone so high strung was not right for the laid-back Mr. O’Keefe. But after a few days with the couple, they understood their chemistry was not just romantic.

“Andrew can easily become carried away,” Ms. Heinrich said. “Patrick is his grounding anchor.” Mr. O’Keefe would also become Mr. Shackett’s anchor to family.

Mr. Shackett’s parents, Albert and Barbara Shackett, died in the 1980s when he was in college and his sister, Heather Gangloff, had just finished high school. His mother had lung cancer, his father kidney disease. Mr. O’Keefe introduced him to his own parents, Harold, who goes by Skip, and Karen O’Keefe, a few months after the England trip.

The visit to Mr. and Ms. O’Keefe, in Vernon, N.J., near where Mr. O’Keefe grew up with three siblings in leafy Glenwood, N.J., opened a reservoir of family longing in Mr. Shackett. “It’s so beautiful there, and his mother is a very maternal person, and his father is so affable,” said Mr. Shackett, who grew up in Windsor Locks, Conn. “I felt this closeness with them. I think because I never had an adult relationship with my own parents.”

Mrs. O’Keefe sensed instantly that Mr. Shackett would become a fixture in the family. “Andrew and I were drawn to each other,” she said. “We have great discussions. We’re both very opinionated.”

Mr. O’Keefe moved into Mr. Shackett’s downtown apartment in the fall of 2015. Soon after, they established a second home in Vernon, where they started spending weekends and summers in an apartment on the property of Mr. O’Keefe’s parents. Mr. O’Keefe, a passionate gardener, grows flowers and vegetables. Mr. Shackett devotes his days there to chats with Mrs. O’Keefe and stress-reducing walks with the couple’s dogs, Chico and Maxine.

And, despite the laptop hysteria that defined their first overseas trip, Mr. Shackett and Mr. O’Keefe love to travel together. For Mr. Shackett, a detailed itinerary is essential.

“Historically, I was the type of traveler who showed up and left,” Mr. O’Keefe said. Maybe I had something planned in the middle, maybe not.” Mr. Shackett’s itineraries have been a revelation. “They’re beautiful, if slightly intimidating, with every hour accounted for. And every reservation has been confirmed two or three times.”

Last October, Mr. Shackett drew up an itinerary for France. They couple had planned a weeklong vacation with Ms. Gangloff, and her daughter, Alison. Before the flight, Mr. Shackett told his sister she should plan for a day trip on her own, because he was planning to propose to Mr. O’Keefe during a visit to the village of Chartres.

Mr. O’Keefe said he had “zero inkling” about Mr. Shackett’s proposal plan. “Then he started giggling, and he gave this beautiful speech where he told me how wonderful the past few years had been, and that he wanted to make it permanent,” Mr. O’Keefe said. “I said yes.”

On Oct. 26, in a nod to the pastoral life both love, they were married in front of 110 guests seated on hay bales at the Farm at Glenwood Mountain in Sussex, N.J. For Mr. O’Keefe, the setting was rich with nostalgia: His childhood home was directly behind the farm’s apple orchard. He and his siblings used to sneak onto the property and play there.

Mr. Shackett and Mr. O’Keefe, in custom vests and shirts made by Articles of Style and custom Levis bluejeans, walked down a sloping grass aisle to a friend, Marie Kerl, who was ordained by the American Fellowship Church. In vows they wrote themselves, Mr. Shackett promised he would always make Mr. O’Keefe feel loved, “even if my crazies make you question otherwise.” Mr. O’Keefe, calling Mr. Shackett “my most perfect man,” began by summing up the nature of their relationship: “Andrew wrote his vows before he proposed,” he said. “I wrote mine at 8 a.m.”

After both men promised to forever embrace each other’s faults and strengths, Ms. Kerl pronounced them married. A hayride wagon that had delivered them to the ceremony flipped its hand-painted sign from “we do” to “we did.”


When Oct. 26, 2019

Where The Farm at Glenwood Mountain, Sussex, N.J.

Cows and Cocktails After the pasture wedding, guests were transported via hayride down a gravel path to a cocktail hour in the herb garden. During the trip, they passed grazing cows and pens packed with turkeys and chickens.

Gratitude “Andrew is so happy he finally has the family he never had,” and his sister, Heather Gangloff. “We lost our parents so early. Andrew closed off his heart for a while. Patrick’s family has made up for so much.”

Local Bounty In the recently restored barn, guests were served free-range chicken grown on site followed by apple turnovers made with apples picked in the orchard. As wedding favors, bottles of locally grown honey were placed at each table setting.

Keep It Simple Weeks before the wedding, as a way to get Mr. Shackett to stop nagging him about whether he had written his vows, Mr. O’Keefe said, “I told him, If you ask one more time, my vows are going to be, ‘Marry me, man!’” During the ceremony, he ended his vows with those words.

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