It’s a romance decades in the making, born of close friendship and family ties. As the children of friends, Michelle and Billy knew each other throughout childhood; however, it wasn’t until Billy took over his late father’s restaurant in 2000 and Michelle started working there that they became close friends.

Only 19 and 15 years old respectively, Billy and Michelle would lean on each other through youth’s up and downs, as the disappointments and excitement of dates and relationships were the common topic of long dinners. “Looking back, I realize that we were best friends, but I didn’t see it that way at the time,” Michelle remembers.

She also didn’t have any inkling of romance with Billy—that was still years away. As they matured and Billy pursued business opportunities, while Michelle became an elementary school teacher, they saw each other less and less. “That was when Billy popped the question of wanting to become more than friends,” Michelle says. “Seeing less of me made him realize how important I was in his life. He loved me more than just a good friend.”

At first, Michelle wasn’t sure that she felt the same way. Billy’s persistence paid off though, and Michelle’s feelings grew. Three years into their courtship, Billy surprised Michelle by placing a ring on her finger as she slept and leaving a card on her pillow to find when she awoke. They had talked about marriage, but the timing came as a surprise. “Of course my answer was yes,” Michelle says.

Ten months later, Michelle and Billy completed their nearly life-long road toward marriage with an intimate ceremony of 55 close family and friends at the The Citizen Hotel. Michelle accommodated her mother’s desire for a traditional Chinese wedding banquet of 900 guests that evening at the same venue.

Although there were many challenges (Michelle says she now values the role of a wedding planner, which she did without), the couple customized the events with personal touches each step of the way. With her love for flowers, the bride handpicked each bloom for her wedding bouquet; she also decorated the attendant’s table with her personal collection of vintage teacups and clever tea-related wedding favors (including Earl Grey tea bags custom printed with the words “Love is Brewing”). The couple wrote their own ceremony and vows, and each honored their fathers, who had passed away years before.

“I kept everything pretty simple and neutral and focused on the details that mattered most to me and Billy.”

Some of the most memorable moments for the couple came at the reception, which Michelle says included great music from their DJ, a fun trivia game, and a first dance as husband and wife that she will never forget. Dancing to the slow and intimate “Years from Here” by 4 P.M., Michelle says that her groom sang the song in her ear as everything around them melted away. “As Billy sang, he got teary-eyed, and he normally never does! It felt like it was just the two of us in the room.”

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