Maya Lillienne Mitchell and Frederick Willard Kunda
January 6, 2018, in Solebury
Fred lived in Manhattan and Maya in Brooklyn when OK Cupid matched them in winter 2014, but a shared devotion to Greater Philadelphia was among the first things that sparked their interest in each other.
With common ground and clever banter, they quickly moved their conversations from the website to text messages. But after more than a week of prolific and enthusiastic texting with no mention of meeting in person, Maya’s optimism faded, and her friends gave Fred a nickname: The Pen Pal.
Fred really wanted to meet Maya in person. With a 10-day business trip to California approaching, he was trying hard to be strategically patient. If they met beforehand, their momentum might wane before he returned, he reasoned. Then a snowstorm postponed his flight for two days. “Do you want to get drinks tomorrow?” he typed into his phone.
The guy with the slow roll had just asked for a first date on Valentine’s Day.
Maya couldn’t decide whether this was the perfect romcom plot or the point in the horror movie where everyone watching screams to the heroine, “Don’t do it!” Currently a project manager at a digital curriculum and assessments product company, Amplify, she was then director of NYC School Survey. “I think I’m going to bail,” she told her boss. “No, no, you have to go! This could be so great!” she said.
And so she and Fred — cofounder of Pinata, a marketplace platform for field-level staffing — met at the the Wayland Bar in the East Village before moving on to the Summit Bar and then the Third Man. It was the longest date either had ever had. “It was a very easy date, with very easy conversation” Maya said. “We just didn’t stop talking,” Fred said.
Fred resumed pen-pal status during his business trip, but upon his return, he and Maya had a quick succession of dates: A bar with retro arcade games. A movie. A brunch. A comedy show.
Fred, who grew up in Wayne and is now 31, was soon hooked on Maya’s intelligence, witty sarcasm, and more. “Her background was so interesting — I’m a Philly homer, and she loved Philly and the town she is from. She’s super-tight with her family, and I’m really close with my family, and she’s a social leader who brings friends together. She is everything I was looking for.”
Maya, who grew up in Yardley and is now 30, said she delighted in those same qualities in Fred. Here was a man who would understand her need to go home and her commitment to her family and friends. And then there was this: “I don’t know if I’ve ever met anyone more invested in making everything — an experience or some tangible thing — better for everyone.”
An example: Despite working in tech, Maya tends to neglect her phone. “Early on, I noticed that my phone was not where I left it, and that it was plugged in. It was Fred, who had been a little phone fairy in the night, and cared more about my phone being charged than I did.”
Fred’s parents, Kate and Skip, quickly embraced Maya, and Maya’s parents, Mollie and Phil, embraced him.
In August 2015, they moved into their Williamsburg home.
In October 2016, the couple traveled to Sicily. Fred told Maya they should fly out of New York and into Philadelphia to save money, but that wasn’t the real reason. The day before their trip, he suggested they meet near his Tribecca office then walk to the restaurant where he had a reservation in Williamsburg. Maya, who thought it a bonkers plan for the night before a big trip, tried to get out of it, but Fred persisted. As they walked across the Williamsburg Bridge, they stopped to look at the city skyline. The bridge was like a metaphor for their lives, he said, because he had lived in Manhattan when they met, and she in Brooklyn, and here they were, joining their lives together.
Maya, who was not connecting the dots, was puzzled when Fred knelt on the bridge. Then he asked her to marry him. “I think I blacked out for a moment, but clearly I did say yes, because here we are,” she said.
After their Italian vacation, their extended families met them at Fred’s parents’ place to celebrate.
It was so them
The couple married at Trinity Episcopal Church in Solebury, where a gorgeous organ made for a beautiful soundtrack, Fred said. Their nearly 200 guests made the church feel so full, Maya said. “It felt magical to walk down that aisle,” she said.
Close friends did readings, including a passage from A Farewell to Arms and Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116.
The reception took up the entirety of New Hope’s Hotel du Village, with cocktails in the bar, dinner in one ballroom, and dancing and dessert in another.
It was a black-tie affair, formal, but not stuffy, elegant, but not ornate. There was an abundance of flowers and candles. The couple danced to Frank Sinatra singing “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” and they and everyone else danced nearly nonstop to the band, with a few occasional breaks to brave the single-digit weather and roast marshmallows at the fire pit.
After reading the wedding-day letter Maya wrote him, everything felt real, and Fred was anxious thinking about what a big and meaningful day it was. Then before the ceremony, he was standing at a bar at Hotel du Village and Maya tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around to see her for the first time that day. “She was gorgeous,” he said. “And I thought, ‘Wow, I’m so at ease, I’m so relaxed, I’m so grateful, I’m so happy, and I’m so lucky.’ ”
Maya felt lucky, too. One of her favorite moments was hearing her maids of honor (her sister and cousin), her dad, and the best man talk about Fred and her and their relationship. “Hearing those words, from people who know us in different ways, in the presence of everyone we love and care about was just the best kind of overwhelming,” she said.
The budget crunch
A bargain: Maya fell in love with a dress that was much less than she expected to spend and bought it during a trunk show. The total cost was about a quarter of her original budget.
The splurge: Maya wanted their invitations to convey the simple, formal elegance of the wedding. She fell in love with a square, white invitation with black ink and hand-torn edges, and when her mom pulled her own wedding invitations out of storage and Maya saw they were nearly identical, there was no turning back. “The amount we spent was ridiculous,” she said.
Two weeks in Thailand, planned as a surprise by the groom.
Behind the scenes
Officiant: The Rev. Cynthia Skripak, Yardley United Methodist Church, Yardley.
Ceremony Venue: Trinity Episcopal Solebury, Solebury.
Reception venue: Hotel du Village, New Hope.
Music: Don Eaton Band, Philadelphia.
Photography and Videography: Kimberly Kunda Photography, Philadelphia.
Flowers: Flower Shop of Pennington Market, Pennington.
Dress: Theia, purchased at Lovely Bride New York.
Hair: Monique Moore at TMoniques Hair Design and Michelle Miller Hair.
Makeup: Jennifer Kochenour at JKO Beauty.
Groom’s attire: Hugo Boss, and Moonriver by VJ.
Planner: Sharon Dachino at O’So Inviting, Yardley.
Transportation: Park Avenue Limousine, Philadelphia.