Their Romance Blossomed from a Love of Plants

Dr. Sarah Santucci and Kevin Zhang have always shared a love of plants.

The pair met when Dr. Santucci stopped by the table for Mr. Zhang’s botany club at Princeton in 2013, when she was a freshman there, and he a sophomore. She impressed him with her ability to identify species on sight.

“I was heading the table at the activities fair for the botany club and I had this terrarium of carnivorous plants,” Mr. Zhang said. “Most people will walk by and grab some candy and won’t even talk to us or have any questions. But then this girl, Sarah, walks by and was like, ‘Oh my goodness, is this a Nepenthes?’ So I was very nerdy and super impressed because not only did she take notice, but she also knew what the name of the plant was.”

Dr. Santucci later joined the botany club and the two became friends. They began exchanging plants as gifts for birthdays and bonded over plant shows.

By 2016, Mr. Zhang’s feelings for Dr. Santucci had grown more than platonic. That year, he worked up the courage to ask her what she was doing for Valentine’s Day. “I was actually going to do a movie night with somebody else and I could see he was disappointed so I was like, ‘Hmm, there’s potential here,’” Dr. Santucci said.

She agreed to go on a date the next day, however, and Mr. Zhang took Dr. Santucci out for dinner at the Princeton Quadrangle Club. That evening, their friendship officially blossomed into romance when he asked her to be his girlfriend.

Mr. Zhang, 26, graduated from Princeton in 2016 and is now attending the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Santucci, 27, graduated from Princeton in 2017 and earned a medical degree at the Perelman School of Medicine in May 2021. She is now completing an intern year in internal medicine at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia.

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When they weren’t studying, the couple spent their free time together hiking, gardening, watching movies, traveling and attending flower shows. “He’s very courageous in trying new things,” Dr. Santucci said. “I am less so, but he encourages me to do that more, which is really healthy for me.”

In November 2019, they took a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains. While they had talked about marriage, Mr. Zhang wanted to surprise Dr. Santucci with a proposal on the trip.

But Dr. Santucci had a feeling the question was coming. “This whole trip was just very nice, very well planned. So I thought it was going to be a special trip, if you know what I mean,” she said.

Mr. Zhang took care to make the moment distinctive. “I have this side hobby of working with rocks and minerals and things like that, so what I decided to do was make a ring box out of bismuth,” Mr. Zhang said.

But the box had broken the morning of the proposal and had to be repaired. Two tubes of super glue later, the pair hiked to an overlook at the New River Gorge Bridge where Mr. Zhang got down on one knee.

The couple were married Oct. 16 at the Princeton Chapel in Princeton, N.J., by the Rev. Dean Alison Boden, a minister at the United Church of Christ. There were 92 guests, most of whom were vaccinated, in attendance and a reception followed at the site of their first date, the Princeton Quadrangle Club.

Dr. Santucci and Mr. Zhang look forward to finishing their respective studies and continuing to support one another through both good and bad times. “We always manage to find fun in situations,” Mr. Zhang said. “We’re very lucky; a lot of times even if something bad happens we still end up having fun.”

“We’re super lucky to have the mentors that we’ve had and the people that have guided us along this way to help us be together,” he added.