At the Juilliard School, it’s rare for someone in the dance division to cross paths with someone in the music division. But that’s exactly how Christopher Kenji Butcher Reynolds, a doctoral candidate in collaborative piano, met John Livingston Hewitt, an undergraduate student in dance, in September 2019. Mr. Reynolds was wearing a T-shirt featuring Mr. Hewitt’s favorite drag queen, Trixie Mattel, when they ran into each other at the school. Earlier that year, Mr. Reynolds had followed Mr. Hewitt on Instagram after seeing him dance.
For the next month, Mr. Hewitt would reply to Mr. Reynolds’s Instagram posts of his family’s cat, Tiger, and the two would flirt until Mr. Hewitt asked Mr. Reynolds out.
They had their first date at E’s Bar on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Mr. Hewitt told Mr. Reynolds that he loved to talk, “which was perfect because I love to listen,” Mr. Reynolds said.
But the two took it slow and didn’t kiss on the first date. “I really wanted to, but I was also afraid of the kind of hookup culture that our generation had developed,” Mr. Reynolds, 28, said. “And I liked him so much that I wanted to see if he wanted to have another date just based on getting along really well.”
He did: Within two months, Mr. Hewitt had all but moved into Mr. Reynolds’s home in Hell’s Kitchen close to Juilliard’s campus. When the pandemic began in March 2020, a mere six months into their relationship, Mr. Reynolds suggested that they escape the city and spend two weeks with his family in his hometown Ithaca, N.Y.
Two weeks turned to three months, during which time Mr. Hewitt bonded with Mr. Reynolds, his parents and sister over competitive games of Mario Kart and watching the reality TV show “Drag Race.” Mr. Hewitt, a contemporary dancer and longtime fan of K-pop, would also teach them K-pop choreography after picking up the steps from YouTube tutorials.
“Chris’s family was so welcoming,” Mr. Hewitt, 25, said, adding that he immediately felt like a member. “It’s cliché but true that when you marry someone, you marry their family too, and I got to know from joining Chris in quarantine that his family is incredibly kind, generous and fun.” Mr. Hewitt grew up in Silver Spring, Md., but moved to Hamburg, Germany, in high school to train for dance — his family moved to the Netherlands at the same time where they still live.
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That spring, Mr. Hewitt graduated virtually, and later in the summer Mr. Reynolds got a job with the Lyric Opera of Chicago as an ensemble pianist. The couple moved to Chicago, and a few months later, they welcomed Stevie, a tuxedo cat, into their family. “She’s the only figure who’s as important to each of us as we are to each other,” Mr. Hewitt said. He now works as an account manager at the Information Systems Audit and Control Association, a professional group.
In the summer of 2021, they attended a friend’s wedding in California and began discussing the prospect of marriage. Mr. Reynolds proposed on Dec. 29, 2021, with a scavenger hunt. The couple would often gift each other scavenger hunts for birthdays and holidays, but this time Mr. Reynolds tested Mr. Hewitt on his knowledge of the Ithaca house where their love story blossomed.
“All that time in Ithaca felt like a very integral and special part of our relationship,” Mr. Reynolds said.
They were married July 22 at Osmica at Spring Trail Farm, an events space and bed-and-breakfast at Finger Lakes outside of Ithaca, by Michael Maglaras, Mr. Reynolds’s uncle, who was ordained by the Universal Life Church for the wedding. Since Mr. Reynolds is a quarter Japanese on his mother’s side, the couple honored that heritage in their ceremony. He wore a traditional kimono, and the farm décor was filled with cherry blossoms and origami paper cranes.
“We didn’t want our vows to be generic, like ‘I’ll love you till the end of time,’ but more about actual things about our day to day life,” Mr. Reynolds said, sharing how he’d promised to let Mr. Hewitt be the funny one. Their promises ranged from cheeky to sincere.
Their first dance was to “Happy Days Are Here Again” by Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand, which segued into pop choreography to “Talk That Talk” by TWICE, a K-pop girl group. They had rented a Steinway grand piano, which had last been used by Paul Anka at a performance in Syracuse. Mikaela Bennett, a professional musical theater performer and friend of Mr. Reynolds, performed “People” from Funny Girl, accompanied by Mr. Reynolds on the piano.