What brought Paul Camper and Xiaoming Gao to their courthouse wedding today began with a chance meeting on a Metro Center train platform not more than three months ago.
“We started talking about things we were mutually interested in, like China,” says Camper, who, as a consultant, has worked on Chinese affairs. “It was a very happy circumstance.”
Gao was visiting Washington while preparing for a United Nations conference next month up in New York as part of a large Chinese delegation on youth issues. “I wanted to see the country and visit a few places.” She’ll be visiting a few more spots now. “It was a very productive encounter,” Gao says.
And how: Camper, 59, remembers when he knew he’d have to propose—-over dinner at Dupont Circle’s legendary Nora restaurant, “just professing my love for Xiaoming and the difference she’s made in my life.” After realizing their “personal, professional, and spiritual” bond, he proposed soon after over another dinner in Ellicott City, Md.
Gao, 29, wasn’t expecting it; she thought it was just another date. “It took me a little longer…to know it was the right thing,” she says. “A few days more.”
But she knew it was.
Their union demonstrated many of the trappings of the modern American wedding. Camper bought her a sizable Tiffany diamond ring. (“I have to step back, it fills the screen too much,” said officiant Toni Gore, taking a picture of the rock.)
And there will be a big honeymoon: Before the end of the year, the couple plans to travel to China, visiting Gao’s family in Beijing to be followed by a retreat to Tibet. They’ll then repair back to the States and their new apartment in the Kennedy-Warren building in Cleveland Park.
About the only unorthodox thing might the setting for their vows. The couple was joined by Camper’s brother and sister-in-law, and their three young children.
Says Camper, “We talked about doing a family celebration, having my parents come from Oregon…but I guess it was really a matter of timing. Xiaoming has her conference coming up, and we wanted to move forward with paperwork, get her a work permit.”
Gao says she has no problem with the courthouse ceremony: “For me, like city hall is the center of the city. It’s like a symbol of becoming part of the city.”