For years, Kelley Louise Carter entertained a fantasy about how she would meet the love of her life. “We’d be in Whole Foods, and he’d be wearing a Michigan State University alumni sweatshirt,” she said. “We would both grab the almond milk at the same time, then we would look up, lock eyes and that would be it. We would exchange numbers and fall in love.”

Becoming the alternative milk buyer of her dreams was not something that Moreno Quintell McCalpin could easily do when they met in 2021, because he lived in Atlanta and she in Los Angeles. But becoming the man who helped her rethink what love at first sight could look like was, for him, easy.

Ms. Carter, 46, is a senior Black entertainment reporter at ESPN’s Andscape operation Mr. McCalpin, 42, is a self-employed pharmacist and laboratory manager whose computers and television screens are permanently parked on sports channels. When they connected on Twitter in February 2021, her face was as recognizable to him as the athletes and celebrities she regularly interviews. To her, he was a friendly stranger – one of thousands following her on social media, but one whose kindness provided a lift at a time she really needed.

Find more columns on Promises here and read all our marriage, relationship and divorce coverage here.

Covid blues came for Mrs. Carter that winter. “We were in the thick of it,” she said. “They haven’t even developed a vaccine yet.” She had just bought a house in Los Angeles, removing her from apartment life and the daily interaction with neighbors that came with it. “I was literally trapped in my own house. I didn’t even have a pet.”

On February 15, 2021, the third anniversary of the release of the “Black Panther” movie, she posted. a picture of herself with the film’s star, Chadwick Boseman, on Twitter. “He had died a few months earlier and everyone was tweeting their remembrances,” she said. “I knew him well, so I tweeted a photo of Chad and me and Ryan Coogler days before the movie was released.” Mr McCalpin commented on the picture. “I would spot that beautiful smile anywhere in a crowd,” he wrote.

The compliment felt like a balm. “It was nice to have some kind of flirting with you in a way that they might have flirted with outside,” she said. After a few minutes, she sent him a direct message. “Thank you so much for the tweet, that was really sweet,” she wrote.

Mr McCalpin, who said he had always thought Ms Carter was beautiful, had commented on previous posts she had shared on social media, but this was the first time she had responded.

His response launched a romance that initially made him wonder if he had been catfished. “I thought: What does a person like her want with someone like me?” he said.

Mr. McCalpin grew up in Memphis. He and his younger sister, Ashley Prewitt, were raised by their great-grandmother, Marie Barnes. His mother, Renee McCalpin, was in rehab for addiction during her childhood until, in 1991, she died of an overdose. He never knew his father. Sports, he said, “was kind of my outlet.”

Track and football earned him a scholarship to Arkansas State University, but friends suggested he consider historically black colleges and universities. He graduated from Lane College in Jackson, Tenn., in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and planned to enroll in pharmacy school soon after. But before he could enroll himself Barnes was diagnosed with leukemia. Until she died a year later, he was her full-time carer.

A first job as a lab technician in Memphis in 2006 put him on a path of consistent lab work. “I’ve been on that train ever since,” he said. He had been working night shifts in Atlanta at the medical company Medline for two years when Ms. Carter surprised him with her direct message.

Ms. Carter became an ESPN reporter in 2016 after what she said was a “pretty nice childhood” mainly in Southfield, Mich. Her father, William Carter, was a recruiting coach who worked at colleges and high schools. Her mother, Carolyn Carter, taught English at several universities, including Eastern Michigan University.

Although she was an only child, her household was bustling with visits from her parents’ students and recruits. Among them was Kevin Willis, a former professional basketball player who attended Michigan State. “I call him my big brother,” she said. “He played for Michigan State, and since he went there I became obsessed with Michigan State basketball. They also had a great journalism program.” Ms. Carter graduated from that program with a bachelor’s degree in 2007. Her devotion to her alma mater came through in a sweatshirt in her love-at-Whole-Foods fantasy.

Before Ms. Carter and Mr. McCalpin went from non-stop direct messaging to all-night phone calls eight days after their first Twitter meeting, she had a word to describe her love life. “It was tragic,” she said, laughing.

“I think a lot is said about women having great careers, and I think the main thing that’s being said is that we don’t make time for love in our lives,” she said. “That was not the case for me at all. As much as I wanted to grow in my career, I wanted to grow in love. But I didn’t find that.”

The connection she felt with Mr McCalpin on social media provided a first glimpse of it. “What got me is, his childhood story isn’t the prettiest, but he endured that trauma and was still so kind and friendly and introspective and full of life. I love that he takes care of people.”

For Mr. McCalpin, relationships in his 20s and 30s were “interesting,” he said. He had one long-term girlfriend. “But I was a trailblazer. I guess I ran away from a lot of good women.” His feet were firmly planted when Ms. Carter flew to Atlanta to meet him for a first date on May 15, 2021. She had friends and family in town. “My thought was, if he’s weird, I’ll go with my friends,” she said. But there was no need.

On her first day there, they walked through the Atlanta Botanical Garden and got foot massages at Treat Your Feet Buckhead, which Mr. McCalpin had arranged in advance. When he drove her back to her hotel that night, after dinner at Atlanta’s Capital Grille, “I think we were both just like, OK, so how are we going to do this?” she said. “What does long distance dating look like to you?”

By summer, they were flying around the country to see each other at least once a month. In June, they declared themselves a couple. Ms. Carter’s best friend of 30 years, the writer and producer Jemele Hill, felt a sense of relief when she met Mr. McCalpin during a trip to New York for the ESPY Awards.

“Kelley is the type of person who is exuberant about love,” Ms Hill said. “Many times I told her to slow down, calm down, be a little more careful. But this was a case where I felt caution was not necessary. Moreno understood Kelley. He was thoughtful.”

Less than a year later, Mr. McCalpin sought Ms. Hill’s advice on an engagement ring. The one he presented on September 25, 2022, during a trip to Dreams Tulum, a resort in Mexico, was the ring of her dreams: a cushion diamond with baguettes on the band. Mrs Carter said a tearful yes before Mr McCalpin led her to a surprise. Mrs. Hill and her husband and a group of other friends and family traveled to Mexico to celebrate with them.

At an engagement party at the BAK’ Tulum steakhouse, congratulations rained down from the roof. “It was such a beautiful moment,” Ms. Carter said. Months later, Mr. McCalpin moved from Atlanta to Ms. Carter’s house in the View Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, known as the Black Beverly Hills.

On July 14, Ms. Carter and Mr. McCalpin were married at the Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa in Huntington Beach, California. Their chosen theme for the wedding was a vintage Hollywood Governor’s Ball. To set the scene, their 200 guests were asked to dress formally, in vintage Hollywood black tie. For Ms. Carter, the period elegance felt like a way to pay homage to classic Black actors and entertainers who never found mainstream success.

Guests cheered and wiped away tears as Mrs. Carter, in an off-the-shoulder, champagne-hued Katerina Bocci gown, was escorted down a winding aisle by her father. Mr. McCalpin, in a black tuxedo and white vest, met her at an altar covered in white flowers where Rodney Patterson, pastor at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago, was waiting for them. Standing on both sides of the official was a wedding party that included the actors Gabrielle Union and Deborah Joy Winans; Mrs. Hill was matron of honor.

After a short, traditional ceremony during which Chanté Moore, singer and songwriter, surprised guests with a performance of her song, “Love is Taken Over,” Mrs. Carter and Mr. McCalpin entered through a room lined with athletes and entertainers. But the spotlight was all theirs. “At that point, Kelley and Moreno were the only stars,” Ms. Hill said.

when July 14, 2023

where The Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa, Huntington Beach, California.

White Wedding to Black Reception At a reception at the Hyatt, guests were served a duet of seared salmon and cider lavender brined chicken before a nearly four-foot-tall black wedding cake decorated with pearl-like confections and lace was served. Mrs. Carter changed from her wedding dress into a crystal-filled, off-white dress.

Old School Glam After a late night snack of specialty pizza, the couple gave each of their guests a coffee table book, “Black Hollywood: Reimagining Iconic Movie Moments.” Inside the books, the couple bound a picture of themselves on the first page. Mrs. Carter wrote a personal thank you in each copy.

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