Sunday, June 23, 2024

Janine Michele James and Nasaria Elaine Valadez started planning their wedding in the fall of 2022, approximately six months before either of them proposed.

“People would be like, ‘Tell me about the proposal,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, it hasn’t happened yet,’” Ms. James said.

Instead, in September 2022, they had a conversation during which they decided to marry, and soon after, agreed that the wedding would need to be on Nov. 11, 2023: Ms. James’s lucky number (11/11). They knew that Ms. Valadez’s job as a lieutenant commander in the Coast Guard could require them to leave Alameda, Calif., in 2024, so they wanted to wed this year.

Not wanting to waste any time to plan, they put off the proposals. “We booked our venue before we got engaged,” Ms. Valadez said. It was an easy choice: They picked Ciel Creative Space, an events space in Berkeley, Calif., where they also had their first date in February 2022.

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

After matching on the dating app Feeld in January 2022, Ms. Valadez invited Ms. James to an art show. She arrived early for the date, and as she waited for Ms. James, she felt nervous. She’d come off a streak of awkward dating experiences, including one in which someone had seemingly sent very old images as a current representation of herself. Some of the photos Ms. James had posted on Feeld were professionally shot, and Ms. Valadez fretted that they were fake.

“Someone gets out of Uber and comes up to me, looking like she was going to hug me, and I thought this is a catfish,” Ms. Valadez said. It turned out the woman thought Ms. Valadez was the security guard. “She asked, ‘Is this the entrance?’” Ms. Valadez said.

Minutes later, another Uber arrived carrying Ms. James. They clicked right away and continued their date at Friends and Family, a bar in Oakland, Calif. “It was very unlike any feeling I’d had during a date,” Ms. James said. “Our conversation didn’t stop.”

Ms. James, 36, grew up in the Bay Area and received a bachelor’s degree in journalism and creative writing from San Francisco State University. She worked at YouTube and Facebook before joining Twitter as a senior program manager. Separately, in 2018, she began working as a psychic with a focus on glamour, beauty and self-care in rituals. In 2023, a few months after leaving Twitter in protest of Elon Musk’s takeover of the company, now called X, she turned her psychic side gig into a full-time endeavor.

Ms. Valadez, 38, grew up in Tomball, Texas. She received an associate degree in general sciences from Lone Star College-Tomball, a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Houston, and an M.B.A. from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. She enlisted in the military to help pay for her education, and after completing her undergraduate studies, joined officer training on the naval engineering track.

On the morning of March 12, 2023, Ms. James got a “download,” or what she calls the spiritual messages she receives as a psychic, saying Ms. Valadez would ask Ms. James to marry her that day. “Nasaria was completely normal,” she said. “But my intuition already knew it was coming.”

She was right. Ms. Valadez had arranged a picnic at Rutherford Hill Winery in Napa County. “It was where we had our first real kiss,” Ms. Valadez said. But her plan was thwarted by rain. She scrapped the picnic, proposed, then took Ms. James to drink wine at JCB Tasting Salon, and afterward, to a nearby hotel for an overnight stay.

About a month later, Ms. James and Ms. Valadez registered for a half marathon in Maui. Ms. Valadez is an avid runner, while Ms. James is not. “She kept telling me I need to practice,” Ms. James said. She did — four times. “I knew that I would propose that day and I’m really good under pressure, so it didn’t matter if I practiced or not because the adrenaline would get me through those 13 miles,” she said.

After the two crossed the finish line, Ms. James got on one knee and asked Ms. Valadez to marry her. Afterward, they went for a meal at the Mill House, a restaurant in Wailuku that has since closed, and for a tasting at Ocean Vodka Organic Farm and Distillery in Kula. “It’s on a hill with a beautiful view,” Ms. Valadez said.

They were married Nov. 11 in front of 63 guests. Their officiant was Montana Hooks, a friend who was ordained for this event through the Universal Life Church. Retracing their first date, the reception was at Friends and Family.

Ms. Valadez wore a custom tuxedo from Hive & Colony, and Ms. James wore an Art Deco-style dress from Martina Liana, a jeweled cape by Madison Chamberlain and a star crown by Jennifer Behr. Ms. James’s friend’s mother, Kiamara Ludwig, created a floral design for the ceremony.

“She foraged around the Bay Area to get the right flowers,” Ms. Valadez said.

“They were so immaculate that the ceremony space asked if they could buy them off of us,” Ms. James added.

Christina Xu, one of Ms. James’s clients, painted the ceremony live as it unfolded. “By the time we were married, she had our silhouettes and our outfits down,” Ms. Valadez said. “It was beautiful.”

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