Wrong Places at the Right Time

If there hadn’t been two Dunkin’ stores on the same road in East Hartford, Conn., then maybe the Rev. Lydia Wittman and Rafi Ziauddin wouldn’t have ended up at different doughnut shops for their first date in 2014. And they wouldn’t have missed the beginning of the University of Connecticut football game or the tailgate party they meant to attend.

But when they did manage to meet up (she left her Dunkin’ and drove to his once they straightened out the mix-up), they soon discovered that a cup of coffee and a nice chat trumped rushing to the stadium.

“That was a little more important than getting there for the kickoff,” she said.

Once they did get to the game, the two, who first connected on, discovered that they share a passion for other sports — she loves to ski and he loves snowboarding — and they made a pact to get to the mountains together that winter.

“That was hopeful to me,” Ms. Wittman said. “It was clear to both of us that we were interested because we were making plans for a couple months later.”

Mr. Ziauddin says that he gave her a peck on the cheek that night when they parted, but a few days later, when she drove up to his place, in Easthampton, Mass., they had a proper kiss over takeout food and amid the boxes strewn around the condo he had just moved into.

Credit…Vanessa Onuoha of V. Joy Photo

Ms. Wittman, 42, was at the time the pastor of a Lutheran church in Glastonbury, Conn. She is now the chaplain at St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco, Colo. She graduated from Concordia University in St. Paul, Minn., and received a Master of Divinity from the University of Chicago as well as a certificate of advanced theological studies from Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif. A previous marriage ended in divorce.

Mr. Ziauddin, 41, was then an actuary for risk management at the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company in Springfield, Mass. He graduated from Tulane and received a master’s degree in quantitative and computational finance from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He has plans to apply to graduate school in applied statistics or data science.

Mr. Ziauddin, who is Muslim, said initially he was hesitant to pursue the relationship because of their religious differences, but with time he was able to let that go. “The differences just seemed of less and less concern the more I got to know her,” he said. “We were compatible.”

Ms. Wittman, who will take her husband’s name, said that she realized she was in love with him when he was coaching her in how to play tennis. “It was a few lessons in,” she said. “I remember we were on the court, and I was having a hard time listening to the instructions because I was so interested in him.”

In 2016, she decided to change career directions by beginning a residency as a chaplain in Aurora, Colo., and the couple moved West.

They ended up in Frisco, a ski town near four resorts, including Breckenridge and Copper Mountain, and it was in that town that they intended to be married. They had planned for 110 guests, but decided after the arrival of coronavirus, that a wedding near where his parents live, and close enough for her parents to drive to, would be a better option.

So on July 25, the couple were married in Chattanooga, Tenn., in a wedding that began with a Muslim ceremony led by Imam Sadek Alsouqi, at the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga, and concluded at Trinity Lutheran Church in Hixson, Tenn., with an interfaith ceremony, led by Tom Judge, a chaplain at DePaul University in Chicago.



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