It Was ‘I Love You’ (Twice) at First Sight

On their first date in October 2014, Randy James told Ashley Finigan he loved her. Twice.

“Usually, I would have bolted,” said Ms. Finigan, 35. “But I remember believing him.”

The couple matched on the dating app Tinder before meeting in person at the Promontory, a restaurant in Hyde Park, Ill. “We were just connecting really well,” Mr. James, 34, said of the chemistry he felt, which prompted him to say “I love you” to Ms. Finigan. It was her first, and only, Tinder date.

“Basically, from the time we met, we were together,” she said.

Mr. James, who is from Chicago, graduated from Malcolm X College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago, with an associate degree in nursing. Ms. Finigan graduated from Amherst College and received a master’s degree in African American studies from Columbia University. A Brooklyn native, she moved to Chicago to pursue a doctorate in history at the University of Chicago.

The couple now resides in Brooklyn, in a brownstone in Bedford-Stuyvesant that Ms. Finigan’s grandparents purchased in 1951 and three generations of her family have lived in.

Ms. Finigan, who is completing her doctoral program mostly remotely, works as a teacher of Upper School History and American Studies at the Berkeley Carroll School in Park Slope. Mr. James is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies at the CUNY School of Professional Studies in New York.

In 2020, the couple founded The A Line Wine, a Brooklyn-based wine business they run together. It partners with producers in the Finger Lakes to crush and bottle wine that features designs by a local artist on its labels.

“A Line Wine is named in homage to my siblings, as we all share the same first initial: A,” said Ms. Finigan. “The name of the brand is also inspired by the A train, which I grew up traveling on from Bed-Stuy, Harlem and Queens.”

One evening in September 2020, while in their living room watching “Mo’ Better Blues” on the Denzel Washington Network on Roku, Mr. James popped the question.

“We had talked about it before — I never wanted to do it in public, I always wanted it to be just us two,” Ms. Finigan said. “I was sitting on the couch eating popcorn and he was just like, ‘Be my wife.’ It was so me.”

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“Mo’ Better Blues,” Spike Lee’s film about a fictional jazz group, became the theme of their Oct. 2 wedding, which took place on the stoop of the Finigan family brownstone. The bride entered to its titular song, “Mo’ Betta Blues,” performed by the Branford Marsalis Quartet and Terence Blanchard. And they chose a wedding hashtag, #mobettawedding, inspired by the movie.

“Everything that happened was purposeful,” said Mr. James, including the couple’s decision to work with various Black vendors for the event. The bride got ready at the Akwaaba Mansion, a bed-and-breakfast, and a reception was held at Peaches Restaurant, both in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

“This was very important to both of us to use our wedding ceremony to celebrate the artistry of Black New Yorkers,” Ms. Finigan said.

The bride’s brother, Aren LeeKong, who was ordained through American Fellowship Church, officiated in front of roughly 68 guests who were fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. But the total number of attendees, Ms. Finigan said, “seems blurry because it was outdoors on the stoop, so many other guests came, like neighbors.”

“I saw everybody that wasn’t a part of it truly being loving from a distance,” Mr. James added. “Cars were going by, honking, yelling — just random people.”

Moving in and starting a business together before their wedding meant that, “in many ways, it felt like we were married” Ms. Finigan said. “But now that I am it just feels like a beautiful new start.”

Mr. James agreed. “I know her very well but it also feels like this is new now. Everything that we’ve done is still there, this is just a new chapter.”