By Kaitlin Menza
After years of trying out life in different cities around the world, Kim finally fell in love with Savannah, Georgia. In late summer 2016, she decided to put down roots and buy a house. There was just one problem with the final paperwork: A hurricane was heading up the east coast and projected to hit the city. “All of a sudden it was coming to Savannah, but I didn’t really know what that meant until my realtor said, ‘We need to move up your signing. We need to close earlier,’” recalls the high school math teacher. She didn’t quite understand yet, as a new resident, but the city was preparing to shut down. Kim signed the papers just two hours before the city issued a mandatory evacuation.
Instead of spending her first night as a homeowner within her own four walls, Kim drove hours in gridlock to stay with a friend in Atlanta. Looking to blow off some of the hurricane stress, on her second day in Atlanta she fired up Bumble and spotted Matt. He stuck out immediately because of his profession as a kids’ soccer coach, a role that Kim also holds. They started chatting and “it was just the most comfortable conversation,” she recalls. “He seemed really genuine and down to earth.”
The pair met up the very first night they chatted. Kim invited him to come hang while she was out with some friends. “They all just interrogated him because they knew it was a Bumble date. I loved it because I didn’t have to ask anything—I just got to sit and listen to all the answers,” Kim laughs. And she loved that Matt was game for it: “He handled it like a champ.” Eventually the group peeled off until only Matt and Kim were left, and they shut down the restaurant discussing the drama and anxiety of the day before. “Obviously, I thought she was beautiful,” Matt says. “She seemed like a happy, positive person. And I was unbelievably attracted to Kim’s smile.”
Kim didn’t think much of their meeting, and figured that she might not see him again; she lived in a different city, and Matt had to fly out the next day for a wedding. But they kept texting, and were so intrigued by each other that they met for a Monday morning breakfast date right after Matt flew back and just before Kim left for Savannah. Still, Matt wasn’t sure it made any sense to bond with someone who lived four hours away. “But there was just that immediate attraction, and we both really enjoyed hanging out with each other,” he says. “So I was of the mindset: ‘Well, screw it!’” They agreed to keep chatting. “We left it with a promise for Matt to visit Savannah one day, assuming I still had a house to host him in!” Kim says.
When Kim returned to Savannah, her house was fine but the city was not. “Huge trees were down, Spanish moss was thrown everywhere,” she remembers. Even her favorite park “looked like a disaster zone.” That upheaval, coupled with the stress of moving into a new house, inspired her to take a little leap and reach out to Matt for some emotional support. “I texted him, ‘I know this is soon, but would you mind FaceTiming with me? I’m feeling a little overwhelmed and I’d like to see you.’” Kim recalls. During their call, Matt then took a bigger leap, and suggested he schedule their visit.
What ensued was essentially a weekend-long third date, and even though they had a great time, Matt was torn. He saw that the potential for a long-distance relationship was brewing, and having been in several of those before, he wasn’t a fan. “I think part of my brain was trying to stay away from that,” he says. “But the other part was like, ‘This girl’s amazing. You need to keep pursuing this.’” They admitted their hesitation to each other. Aside from the distance, they’d both just gotten out of serious relationships. Yet they found themselves driving back and forth at least once a month through the end of 2016, and by February 2017 were calling each other boyfriend and girlfriend.
Unfortunately, they were both kind of stuck. Kim had just bought her house in Savannah, while the nature of Matt’s job required him to stay in Atlanta (or at least, in a major city). At the end of the 2017 school year, Matt came for a visit. “I was trying to wait til we had been dating for a year to bring it up, but we had a few drinks, so I was feeling brave,” Kim laughs. She went for it, suggesting that perhaps she could do one more year of teaching in Savannah, then look for a job in Atlanta. Matt’s response? “‘Oh my God, great. And then we can live together!’” With plenty of time for them both to get used to the idea, and with a clear runway toward a bigger future together, Kim moved to Atlanta in the summer of 2018.
Over Thanksgiving 2019, Matt asked Kim’s father for permission to propose, and her mother offered him a gemstone that her father had proposed with—and her great-grandparents before them. A plan formed around a proposal in their beloved Savannah, but then of course, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Jewelry stores closed down, and both of their jobs shifted significantly. But by April 2020, Matt once again found their relationship mantra. “Everything just got so stalled I basically was like, ‘Screw it,’” he says. He proposed after a meal at home, down on one knee with a ring made of string. “I wore that string ring for months, until jewelry stores opened up again and he was able to get an actual ring, and I still have it,” Kim says. “He said, ‘I just don’t want to wait anymore.’”
Of course, given pandemic restrictions, they did have to wait a little longer. With Kim’s family in New York and Matt’s in Virginia, they didn’t feel comfortable asking anyone to travel. They married that September at a courthouse with their parents on FaceTime and just three friends present—including the friend who’d housed Kim during Hurricane Matthew. In September 2021, they had their bigger wedding in Savannah with 120 guests. “I was smiling ear to ear,” Kim says. “It was the most magical day in the world.”
As for the future, the couple are yearning for a return to travel—Italy and Thailand are on the short list—and planning to start a family. Plus, they bought a house together, Matt got a promotion, and Kim got a new job. Having survived hurricanes, a pandemic, and 275 miles of distance to get here, Kim says that they’re now looking forward to just enjoying a simple life.