By Kaitlin Menza
It was the week of Mo’s 30th birthday in spring 2021, and he was feeling melancholy. He’d watched his best friends, as well as his beloved sister, find their people and settle down. “You almost get the sense that you’re left behind, and it’s a terrible feeling because you never want it to be as though you don’t appreciate the happiness of those around you,” he says. Mo was happy with his career as an architecture teacher and loved the people in his life, but a crucial piece was missing. “Since I was a kid, I really dreamed of having a family, and that dream wasn’t achievable without the right person,” he says.
Mo had been online dating for years, but still hadn’t found the long-term relationship he’d been seeking. He vowed to delete all the dating apps on his 30th birthday. When he opened Bumble for what he thought was the last time, Sibel’s face was waiting there. “I remember looking at it and thinking, ‘This woman just looks so familiar, as if I know her,’” Mo says. He thought she was beautiful—and appreciated her profile’s acknowledgment that she too was tired of online dating. “I was like, ‘Alright, to hell with it,’” he says. “One last swipe.’”
Indeed, Sibel was also feeling discouraged with dating, but something about Mo’s familiar face—and the fact that he’d taken the time to fill in his profile completely—intrigued her. “He actually explained some stuff about himself and what he was looking for in a partner,” says Sibel, who’s now in nursing school. She liked that he seemed serious and that he wasn’t just online dating because he was bored.
They set up their first date at an axe-throwing bar near their respective New Jersey homes a week after they matched. Mo brought flowers wrapped in paper he’d printed out himself of characters from Sibel’s favorite movie, which they’d chatted about on the app. Sibel was moved by the gesture, and pleased with how cute he was (“Wow, good job!” she remembers thinking to herself). She made a good first impression on Mo, too. “I just went from the most nervous I’d felt since I was a teenager to the most overwhelming sense of calm,” he says of seeing Sibel on their date.
After throwing hatchets around, the pair moved on to a bar and talked for hours. Aside from sharing a faith (they’re both Muslim) and the same favorite music and TV shows (they’re both into indie and folk, and love the fantasy genre), they were shocked to learn how many times their paths had crossed before that night. Growing up, their families had gone to the exact same pizza place every Friday night, and they’d lived only a block apart for seven years. “It just felt like we’d kept missing each other,” Sibel says. “It’s clichéd, but I was like: ‘This is definitely fate.’”
They met up a few days later for their second date, and scheduled the third for the very next day. “The gaps between dates got smaller and smaller until, within a few weeks, we were seeing each other every day,” Mo says. In the past, Sibel had mostly hid her dating life from her family due to their more traditional Muslim culture, but she couldn’t help but gush to a cousin, who warned her: “Okay, you sound like a crazy person! I don’t want you telling me that you’re going to be engaged next time I talk to you!”
Still, the couple introduced their mothers on Mother’s Day, and Mo asked Sibel’s father for his permission to propose soon after. “I’m Turkish, so a big thing is asking the future bride’s father for her hand in marriage,” Sibel says. “I know that’s a pretty broad thing culturally, but Turkish people put a lot of emphasis on that.” The couple planned a trip to Turkey for that July, and Mo expected to propose there.
But once he had the ring, he couldn’t wait. Just 78 days after they met, Mo proposed in his backyard, which was lit with tiki torches and decorated with flower petals. At the end of his walkway was a sign with calligraphy he’d made himself of one of Sibel’s favorite lines from the Quran: “And we created you in pairs.”
Given many factors—including the COVID-19 pandemic and Sibel’s plan to attend nursing school in the fall—the couple decided to get married in a tiny, religious ceremony the following month. Only their parents and one sibling were present, and Sibel wore a white Moroccan-style dress lent by her new mother-in-law. To underscore the wedding’s strictly logistical nature, Sibel had an oral surgery scheduled for later in the day. “We had our ceremony—it probably didn’t even take an hour—and then Mo drove me to the oral surgeon, and I got my wisdom teeth out,” Sibel laughs. “Yeah, it was a really magical first wedding day!”
Now, the pair are planning two more weddings for next fall: a giant, more traditional celebration with extended family, and a more intimate gathering with friends. Though they’re excited for the festivities to come, they already have everything they want. Says Mo, “I made a 30th birthday wish, and she came true the very next day.”