Stranger with a familiar face heralds a classic love story
When Ashley Ee held out an engagement ring handed down from his grandmother, a young girl's dreams ended up coming true for Clarissa Leung
The first time Clarissa Leung clapped eyes on Ashley Ee, she was reminded of her beloved grandfather. Not that he looked old; there was just a familiarity about him, and that's what brought the couple closer together.
Today, software engineer Ashley, 25, and Clarissa, 24, a master's student in psychological education, are getting married in Toronto, and will celebrate with more than 200 guests at the Canadian city's Shangri-La Hotel. On August 26, they get to celebrate again - in Hong Kong, Clarissa's hometown, at the Truth Cornerstone Baptist Church.
The couple first ran into each other on the campus of Ontario's University of Waterloo when they were both students. Clarissa recalls: "He reminded me of a man I respected a lot - my grandfather, who was also an engineer."
As for Ashley's first impression, he said: "I remember she was very friendly and outgoing. A very popular girl. She seemed like the type that people love to be around because of her friendly and loving personality."
Despite taking an instant liking to each other, the pair didn't have much of a chance to get to know each other during their first two years at university.
But in their final year, they happened to bump into one another more frequently around campus. Then they started spending more time together studying in the library. Things changed during the few months before their graduation, when Ashley gathered enough courage to ask Clarissa out on a date.
Since they both love photographing nature, Ashley suggested they go on a "photo walk" in the park. It's now remembered as "the awkward photo walk".
"Actually, all I wanted was a walk with Clarissa, but I felt I should suggest some other activity first to make it less awkward," said Ashley. Clarissa could not help but notice his nervousness.
"Still, it was a time of bonding and laughter," she recalled.
A few weeks later over lunch, Ashley told Clarissa all the qualities he liked in her and asked if she would consider being his girlfriend. It took Clarissa two months to think it through before consenting.
"Since then, we haven't looked back and have been learning to love each other in ways beyond just in the moment," Clarissa said.
Ashley said: "I've always admired Clarissa in the years that I've known her, but I never thought that we would be together due to perceived personality differences.
"However, as we began to spend more time together, I realised that we were able to communicate with each other well and I felt comfortable with her."
After their graduation, Clarissa stayed in Canada to study for a master's degree, while Ashley moved to Ohio, in the United States, to work. Their long-distance relationship lasted almost a year, until Ashley decided to move back to Canada to be closer to Clarissa.
One morning last year, Ashley sat down with Clarissa and read a passage from the Bible about marriage and then proposed. He presented Clarissa with a ring that had been passed down from his grandmother, and she immediately said yes. As a child, Clarissa had secretly wished for an engagement ring that had been passed down.
Ashley said he was always amazed by Clarissa's love and care for both their families and friends. And Clarissa said of her husband-to-be: "Ashley is a very gentle, humble and selfless man."
The couple will honeymoon in Maui, Hawaii.