Laughter the Key to a Winning Strategy
Melanie Cleo Graf and Andrew Simeon Gounardes were married Dec. 7 at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in New Rochelle, N.Y. The Very Rev. Nicholas Anctil performed the ceremony, with the Rev. Alex Orphanos taking part.
The bride, 30, is taking her husband’s name. She is an associate vice president at Prosek Partners, a strategic communications firm in Manhattan that specializes in financial services. She graduated from Boston College.
She is the daughter of Denise M. Graf and Evan M. Graf of Harrison, N.Y.
The groom, 34, is a state senator in New York, representing the 22nd district in southern Brooklyn. He graduated from Hunter College and received a law degree from George Washington University.
He is a son of Dianne V. Gounardes and Steven Gounardes of Brooklyn.
The couple met in November 2017 through a mutual friend.
Ms. Graf, who helped a number of Greek and Greek-American organizations with pro bono communications work, thought she could offer similar assistance to a fellow Greek-American who was about to run for the New York State Senate.
“We talked about media strategy at a very high level,” she said. “I was impressed by his intelligence and ambition.”
Mr. Gounardes was more than impressed with Ms. Graf. “I was completely taken by her,” he said. “I thought she was beautiful and intelligent and I admired her deep appreciation for our shared Greek culture.”
The next day, Mr. Gounardes sent Ms. Graf cookies and a card thanking her for all she had done, and took the opportunity to ask her out on a date.
Ms. Graf, who said she was ”completely clueless,” that Mr. Gounardes was attracted to her, politely declined. “I was so confused,” she said. “He seemed like someone I couldn’t possibly date because he was so smart and serious.”
Mr. Gounardes was disappointed, but not for long. After thinking on it during the ensuing weekend, Ms. Graf reconsidered and sent him a message telling him as much.
They went on a first date a few days later to the Greek Tribeca, a restaurant in Manhattan, and then to a nearby bar.
“Things started off a little bit stiff, but we started drinking Scotch and as the night progressed the mood became much more lighthearted and fun,” Ms. Graf said. “We talked about our families and our love of Greece, and I found out that night that Andrew has a great sense of humor.”
Their laughter continued into the early morning. “She was this amazing person who laughed at all of my jokes,” he said. “All I kept thinking was ‘I hit the jackpot.’”
A few days later, Mr. Gounardes went to Greece to participate in the running of the Athens Marathon. When he returned 10 days later, he and Ms. Graf were inseparable, and with each passing week, she became more involved in his campaign.
On Election Day 2018, Mr. Gounardes, who won the election, celebrated his one-year anniversary with Ms. Graf. “That date would have held special meaning regardless of the outcome of the election,” Mr. Gounardes said.
This past Memorial Day weekend, at a winery in Greenport, N.Y., Mr. Gounardes proposed.
“Life with Andrew is going to keep me laughing every day, as he has the ability to turn every terrible thing into a hilarious situation,” Ms. Graf said. “He’s not the only one who hit the jackpot.”
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