Jayla Moody and Jordan Marshall’s love story might have started sooner if only they had spoken during the time that both attended Mercer University in Macon, Ga., where he was the captain of the football team, and she was the 2018 Homecoming Queen.
But they never chatted at school, in part because Mr. Marshall, 28, was three class years ahead of Ms. Moody, 25; he graduated in 2016 and she in 2019.
Both were involved in Greek life on campus, though, so they had friends in common and followed each other on social media. “I had been admiring him from afar,” Ms. Moody said.
On Nov. 21, 2018, she took a screenshot of a photo Mr. Marshall posted on Instagram, and sent it to her friend Ashleigh Rose, telling her he was the man of her dreams. “I admired his commitment to his photography, his outward and apparent love for Jesus, and his ability to light up a space with his smile,” Ms. Moody said.
About a week later, she and Mr. Marshall both ended up at the Thirsty Turtle club in Macon, where he had been living and working since he graduated. When Ms. Moody found herself in an uncomfortable conversation with a stranger at the bar, Mr. Marshall swooped in to pretend to be her boyfriend.
“I saw her face screaming, ‘Help me,’” he said.
Neither Ms. Moody nor Mr. Marshall acknowledged in that moment that each followed the other on social media. “We both laughed and awkwardly walked away,” she said. But they remained on one another’s minds.
A week later, Mr. Marshall finally asked one of their mutual friends if Ms. Moody was single. She was. Before making a bolder move, “I went to her Instagram and liked a whole bunch of photos,” Mr. Marshall said.
Ms. Moody began liking some of his photos in return. Then he liked some more of hers. And so it went until he finally direct messaged her, and they soon began texting.
Their relationship was still strictly digital when Ms. Moody found out through another mutual friend that both she and Mr. Marshall would soon be attending the same Christmas party at a friend’s home in Smyrna, Ga. Ms. Moody chose not to mention the party to Mr. Marshall, wanting to wait until they got there to see his reaction.
Once she arrived, about an hour after him, “We spent the whole time there together,” Ms. Moody said.
Their first date came the following January, and afterward, the couple quickly fell into what felt like a very natural rhythm for them both. “She made it easy for me to open up and speak my mind. So, I wanted to do the same for her,” Mr. Marshall said.
After starting 2019 on the high note of their budding romance, the year soon became a trying one for Ms. Moody. That July, a maternal aunt for whom she had been a secondary caregiver died of gallbladder cancer. Months later, Ms. Rose, the friend whom she had sent the screenshot of Mr. Moody to, died in November.
Reflecting on that time, Ms. Moody said the back-to-back deaths “taught me how important it was for me to love intentionally and without waiting.”
The couple began to talk about marriage in the summer of 2020. That November, Mr. Marshall surprised Ms. Moody with a proposal at Condesa Coffee in Atlanta, where she was living at the time. A fan of coffee shops, she had no idea he had rented the place out and arranged for friends and family to be there in person and via video call to celebrate with them.
The following summer, the two moved together to Holly Springs, N.C. Ms. Moody is now completing a Ph.D. in higher education at North Carolina State University, and Mr. Marshall works as a football coach at Methodist University in Fayetteville, N.C.
On March 12, the couple were wed at Fall Line Station, an events venue in Macon, before 190 guests, all of whom were required to show negative Covid tests before attending. Cleon Henriques, who was ordained by what is now known as Bridge Pointe Church in Marietta, Ga., officiated.
Though their first meeting came years later than it could have, once the two connected, “He drew me in completely,” Ms. Moody said. “There were no games.”