Ten years ago, Charné took her aunts out for Mother’s Day. They were at the same club where Darryl was celebrating his birthday with friends. They didn’t know each other, but he saw her from across the room. “Her beauty was the first thing that brought me to her,” Darryl says. “But after getting to know her, that’s not even her best quality. Her best qualities are her personality and her kind heart.”

He asked her to dance. “He was hilarious,” Charné says. “I love to laugh and for me, that caught me right away. His smile was gorgeous.”  That was the beginning of their relationship. Though they broke up two or three times in the following years, they came back together in 2011, and they commemorated the reunion at Crustacean Restaurant in San Francisco.

In 2015, Darryl proposed at Crustacean, on Valentine’s Day, after a Bay cruise, morning brunch and wine tasting. Darryl presented Charné with his Valentine’s gift—a jewelry box with a ballerina inside. Thrilled with the surprise, she was stunned when she read the inscription:  “Our never ending love story starts today.”  And there were their names and the date.

“That’s when I started thinking, ‘what does this mean?’” Charné says. “It felt like it was just us…then he got on his knee and my heart was racing, and it was so intense in a very beautiful way. And then I do remember my full name being said, ‘Charné Charlene Brown, will you marry me?’ And the ring, of course, which is gorgeous, and I said yes.”  That was when they remembered they were in a restaurant, and realized people at adjoining tables were clapping.

They learned a lot during the planning process, which extended more than a year, and finally the day arrived. As Darryl waited with the officiant—his uncle, a pastor from Pennsylvania—and bridal party at the front, he could see Charné in the distance, before she even started her walk down the aisle. “As soon as I saw her, my eyes just teared up,” Darryl says. “Then she walked down closer and I could see her better, and my eyes just teared up again, and then she came down the aisle, and I was just like, ‘Wow!  She looks beautiful, she looks amazing.’”

Since her father lives in South Africa, Charné’s mom walked her down the aisle. “I was worried about my mom as we walked down the aisle. I found myself telling her knock-knock jokes all the way down. So I had some laughter before I actually got to Darryl, but it was very sweet to see him, because he was just in tears, and it was beautiful.”

Though they had trials over the years, “I think we’re stronger than we’ve ever been,” Charné says. “He is so sweet, so caring, loving, even a caretaker. That’s probably one of the things that I love about him the most.” 

—Margaret Snider