Monday, July 15, 2024

As a high school exchange student in Chartres, France, in 2010, Aaron Gabriel Nastaskin developed a crush on Claire Marie-Elisabeth Rabut, a classmate, even texting a friend back home in California about her. But while she was curious about all things American, the crush went unrequited. In Ms. Rabut’s mind, a Los Angeles native was supposed to have long, blond hair. Plus, she had a boyfriend.

Beyond being Facebook friends, they barely stayed in touch.

In the fall of 2017, after doing his bachelor’s degree in agricultural business at the California Polytechnic University of San Luis Obispo, Mr. Nastaskin returned to France for graduate school in the masters in international business program at the Grenoble Ecole de Management in France. With a job interview lined up in Paris in February 2018, he saw on Facebook that Ms. Rabut was studying for a doctoral degree in physics from the Sorbonne University in Paris. He suggested they meet.

Ms. Rabut thought they would have nothing in common, but agreed to lunch right near her physics lab, giving herself an out. She chose Do et Riz, a Vietnamese restaurant.

From the second he saw her again, Mr. Nastaskin considered Ms. Rabut “his dream girl,” but it still wasn’t mutual. Not yet.

“I always thought my match would be another scientist,” she said. “I thought businesspeople were not very serious, but Aaron has this fire, where he wants to succeed in every project he starts.”

They bonded over having one immigrant parent. Ms. Rabut’s mother immigrated to France as a teenager from Vietnam, while Mr. Nastaskin’s father immigrated from Kyiv, now part of Ukraine, to Chicago, via Israel and Belgium. And they shared their mutual frustration that neither parent had raised them to speak their native tongue.

It was a rare, snowy day in Paris, and the conversation flowed so easily during their lunch that Ms. Rabut brought Mr. Nastaskin back to her lab afterward.

When he returned to Paris two weeks later for a follow-up interview, she took him out clubbing with her friends. He spent the night on her couch. Soon after, Ms. Rabut was in the French Pyrenees, and sent Mr. Nastaskin a postcard asking if he wanted to go on a trip together. Both knew, at this point, they were having feelings for each other. They planned a weekend in Costa Brava, Spain, in April.

“That’s when we just fell crazy in love,” Mr. Nastaskin said. “It was the most magical weekend, where nothing was planned, but everything happened so easily and perfectly.”

But rather than stay in France, Mr. Nastaskin yearned to start his own business, and he felt he could only do that in the United States; before returning to Los Angeles, he stayed with Ms. Rabut in Paris for a month.

“We had to confirm it was real,” she said.

Ms. Rabut had a year and a half left to finish her Ph.D. They saw each other every two months during that time. After she graduated, Ms. Rabut moved to Los Angeles in January 2020, where they still live.

Mr. Nastaskin, 30, is the owner and founder of Froma Foods, which helps artisanal food producers market their products.

Ms. Rabut, also 30, is a postdoctoral research scholar in biomedical engineering at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. In addition to a Ph.D., she has a bachelor’s degree in math and physics and a master’s degree in physics from École Normale Supérieure de Cachan.

In April 2022, Mr. Nastaskin rented out a small theater in Los Angeles, telling Ms. Rabut they were going to a friend’s show, and they entered when it was already dark. At the end of the show, about a young couple in love, that Mr. Nastaskin’s actor friend created just for them, Mr. Nastaskin proposed onstage. When the lights went up, Ms. Rabut saw the audience was all friends and family.

[Click here to binge read this week’s featured couples.]

The couple were legally married in front of their immediate families on Oct. 11 at Chartres City Hall by Élisabeth Fromont, the first deputy mayor of Chartres.

They had two additional ceremonies at Domaine De Vaujoly, a former farm originating from the 16th century, in Courville-sur-Eure, France.

On Oct. 13, they held a Vietnamese tea ceremony in which they both wore traditional ao dai — she in Cardinal red, he in royal blue — in front of 150 guests. The celebratory meal featured a roasted pig (which the couple didn’t eat both because of their vegetarianism and Jewish dietary laws).

On Oct. 14, Rabbi Leah Lewis of Temple Menorah in Redondo Beach, Calif., where the couple belong, led a Jewish ceremony in front of 200 guests.

Over time, Ms. Rabut, who was raised Catholic, decided to study for conversion to Judaism. She converted in August 2023.

“It sparked something in me that I didn’t really know was able to be sparked,” said Ms. Rabut, who is taking Mr. Nastaskin’s name. “We’re very happy to already be a multicultural couple, and me being Jewish doesn’t take that away.”

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