In the spring of 2014, when Sumayah Rahman, a data scientist from Florida, and Doug Townsend, now a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin, were each selected as finalists at a big research competition, they had no idea they’d meet their soulmate. But during a networking session the two ended up talking the entire time, bonding over a love of innovation. Later that day, Doug was named the winner of the competition, and Sumayah came in second.
In 2015, the couple, who began dating shortly after the competition ended, visited Sonoma County to go on a tour of local wineries. In the years that followed, Sonoma became the place that they visited together for tastings, hikes, and, their favorite of all, picnics. “We were long distance at the time, so whenever we’d meet in Sonoma, we cherished that time together,” Sumayah says. “It became our place.”
The couple knew they wanted an intimate and simple wedding ceremony, so when they found Buena Vista Winery, a venue rich in history and beauty, the choice was obvious. “We didn’t go over the top with decorations because of the natural beauty of the venue,” Sumayah explains. “Sonoma is meaningful to us, so it was perfect,” Doug adds.
The weekend of the wedding, the couple and their families and friends took a laid-back approach to celebrating, kicking back for hours outside on the patio of their rental house, eating, drinking, listening to music, and simply unwinding. “My dad was the chef that day, so he kept the food and drinks flowing,” Sumayah laughs. “That was one of my favorite parts. I loved being around everyone. It was special.”
The ceremony itself was a joyous event that offered several nods to the unusual way the couple first got together. A friend read a passage by astronomer Carl Sagan about the cosmos and the endless mysteries of life and love. Later, during the reception, Sumayah and Doug displayed the same original research posters they presented at that competition back in 2014 — with a first-place ribbon on one and a second-place on the other. “That really underscored the origin of our story, of bonding through science,” says Sumayah.
Sumayah wore a traditional saree wedding dress and intricate Mehndi henna designs on her hands. “It’s for good luck,” she explains. “The darker the color of the henna, the longer the marriage.”
As the warm August light faded into dusk outside the historic winery, the DJ opened the dance floor with “Uptown Funk,” a song that was released the same year the couple first met. Family and friends danced the night away in the courtyard under arching trees and twinkling lights. The couple say their wedding was everything they’d hoped for: intimate, simple, and elegant. Doug may have taken home the blue ribbon that spring day back in 2014 — but in meeting each other, they both won.