Fay Leshner and Andrew Ousley have survived some ups and downs over the years. The pandemic helped them appreciate the life they built.
Andrew Douglas Ousley and Fay Eva Leshner met through mutual friends on Aug. 9, 2014 while having cocktails at the now-closed Portuguese restaurant Pão! in SoHo. They bonded instantly, as creative New Yorkers often do.
Ms. Leshner, 35, is a freelance fashion stylist and designer from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Mr. Ousley, 40, who is from Midtown Manhattan, owns Unison Media, a publicity and branding agency for classical musicians. He also runs Death of Classical, a New York-based nonprofit group that presents classical music concerts in crypts, catacombs and cemeteries.
“Fay was charismatic, had a fun presence and a passion for life that came out immediately,” Mr. Ousley said.
Ms. Leshner said she was “so comfortable being with him, I became my inappropriate silly self.”
A first date took place four days later at the Amor y Amargo, Mr. Ousley’s favorite cocktail spot in the East Village. Although Ms. Leshner arrived an hour late, Mr. Ousley remained unfazed. The pair had a drink, then went to Raoul’s bistro in SoHo for dinner.
A second date followed, then a third. The couple moved swiftly, creating a relationship rhythm involving New York nightlife, cooking, music, friends and parties.
Their first major bump happened in February 2017, when Mr. Ousley accepted what he called “a once in a lifetime gig” performing guitar and singing on a six-week cruise to Antarctica. With little Wi-Fi available and few opportunities to talk, each felt disconnected.
“We really struggled,” Mr. Ousley said. “I had to forgive myself for taking this crazy trip and for not being there when Fay needed me, because she was going through some family issues, and to forgiving her when she got angry at me for not being there.”
Ms. Leshner’s father was ill and she said, “I wished Andrew was there with me, rather than far away. I missed him deeply and realized he was worth fighting for.”
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When Mr. Ousley returned at the end of March, the couple quickly closed the gap created by their separation, and in July 2017, moved into their first apartment together, a two-bedroom in Long Island City, Queens. For 18 months, their relationship thrived. But then Mr. Ousley fell deeper into his work, and their relationship began declining.
“I lost sight of us and the life we were sharing,” Mr. Ousley said. “I realized I’d been prioritizing the wrong thing, and refocused on Fay and myself.”
Ms. Leshner said she had felt secondary to Mr. Ousley’s work. “When I brought that up, he shut down,” she said. “He felt lost but not gone. I didn’t want to abandon him and gave him the chance to change, which he did. He made time for me, surprised me with plans and flowers. I felt important and noticed again.”
The pandemic brought an appreciation for their shared isolation and the life they had built together, then a move to Greenpoint, Brooklyn, in July 2020 offered the couple a fresh start.
Mr. Ousley proposed in Monsignor McGolrick Park in Greenpoint on Aug. 13, 2021. As the couple strolled, he steered Ms. Leshner past a musician who was playing a song he had written years ago for Ms. Leshner on a guitar and had secretly hired. Mr. Ousley whistled along, then sang and danced. A videographer, photographer and a trumpet player, who were hiding in the bushes, then appeared.
“We never talked about getting married or if we wanted to,” said Ms. Leshner, who replied yes, and was “blown away with good emotions. I was crying and dizzy and overwhelmed with joy.”
The couple were married June 1 at the Church of the Holy Trinity on the Upper East Side, with 50 family members and close friends attending. Mr. Ousley’s father, the Rev. Canon John Douglas Ousley, an Episcopal priest and an honorary assistant priest at the church, performed the ceremony.
Two days later, around 270 guests hailed the newlyweds at the Great Hall, an underground space in St. Mary’s Catholic Church on the Lower East Side. They celebrated with a cabaret-style wedding ceremony complete with a swing band and theatrical performances. Everyone danced until 1 a.m. while enjoying Manhattans and martini cocktails.
“Fay has opened my world deeper than anyone I’ve ever met,” the groom said. “She’s taught me how family works, and how to love emotionally and unconditionally.”
The bride spoke similarly. “We both learned how to be with each other and to be emotionally upfront,” she said. “I feel safe and loved.”