Patience and rewards

Patience and rewards

Dan and Molly Laufer dated for half a decade before getting married. Three of those years were spent in separate cities. Dan, 25, lived in Atlanta, where he worked at a business strategy-consulting firm; Molly, 24, lived in Jacksonville, Florida, where she was stationed with the Navy. (The first two years were spent together in Charlottesville, where they met at UVA.) It’s a five-and-a-half-hour drive between Atlanta and Jacksonville, which the couple endured at least twice a month.

Dan and Molly Laufer
September 12, 2009
Photograph by Sarah Cramer Shields

After so much long distance, they finally decided to close the gap by getting married this fall. But as wedding plans heated up over the summer, Molly, who is active duty in the Navy, had to transfer to San Diego, where she was expected to deploy to the Middle East (she’s had two prior deployments). The couple, who had hoped to dazzle their wedding guests with smooth moves on the dance floor, had signed up for a series of lessons at a Jacksonville dance studio. But the transfer cut the lessons short so they had to practice what little they’d learned in hotel rooms and hallways during the cross-country drive to California last August.

No sooner had the couple settled into their new digs on the West Coast, they had to fly back east again for their September 12 wedding at King Family Vineyard, in Crozet.

Molly, a Baltimore native, had been informed that she was to deploy a day after the wedding, which meant their honeymoon to Greece and Paris would have to be postponed. Luckily, plans changed at the last minute; she found out (during her bachelorette party, no less) that she was allowed to go on her honeymoon after all, but she was expected to ship out a mere three days after arriving back to San Diego.

With her deployment imminent, Molly and Dan did everything they could to ritualize their special day. On the day of the wedding, Dan, who’s originally from Charlottesville, decided it was bad luck to talk to his bride, a decision that can probably be explained by Molly’s description of him as “the most corny person I know but also someone who is deeply passionate about everything he does.”

“I was so excited to see him all day,” says Molly. “All I wanted to do was give him a giant hug.” At one point during the interfaith ceremony—Dan is Jewish, Molly is Episcopalian—the couple had to bless the wine. As Molly looked into her cup of wine, she noticed an insect floating in it. Her first words to her groom—even before “I do”—were “There’s a dead bug in there.” Dan’s hushed response: “It’s O.K.—it’s protein.” Molly whispered back: “O.K., I’m hungry.” No one understood why the 6’2" groom and his 5’2" bride shook with laughter as they stood under the chuppah.

For their first dance, the newlyweds twirled confidently across the dance floor—“probably more times than we were supposed to,” says Molly—to Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”

At one point, Molly stepped out of the reception hall to take a breather. “I closed my eyes and all I could hear were glasses clinking, the band playing, people talking. I thought this was the one chance in our lives to have everyone we know and love in the same place—the wedding was the best going away party I could have ever had.”

And now Dan, who just got a new job in his new city, tries to keep the home fires burning during his best friend’s absence. Molly is currently deployed with the NIMITZ Carrier Strike Group where she works as a surface warfare officer on the Al Basrah Oil Terminal, an offshore Iraqi oil facility in the North Arabian Gulf that, she says, “looks like something out of the Kevin Costner movie Waterworld.” To stay in touch, Dan e-mails her pictures from his iPhone nearly every day. And “We live on Skype,” she says.

It’s not easy being apart, but Dan says he’s “reminded that a lot of people have it worse than us.” For now, he’s just looking forward to the day she comes home so they can enjoy the little things together—and share the same ZIP code for once: “Cooking dinner together, taking day trips, walking around our neighborhood,” he says. “The reality is that I can do all of those things right now, but it’s just not as fun or as satisfying without Molly.”

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