As far as wedding websites go, Jessica Hische and Russell Maschmeyer's sets the bar high. When we came across the couple’s intricately designed site -- which doubles as their wedding invitation -- we just had to get the story behind it. (Especially after the site was lauded for its gorgeousness by Glamour magazine and mocked for its hipster twee-ness by Gawker.)
We chatted with Hische, a freelance illustrator, and Maschmeyer, a product designer for Facebook, both 28, over the phone before their August 24th nuptials. Below, the incredibly artistic duo, who met online while living in Brooklyn, NY, share all the details of the romance that led to their stunning site. (As told to Natasha Burton)
Russ: A week after I joined Match.com in 2008, Jess messaged me. She was my first date from the site.
Jess: He was my first, too. Russ’ profile had this jokey picture of him staring wide-eyed into the camera with these tiny round glasses on. Any guy who would put that face forward was a guy I wanted to get to know. In my first message to him, I made a joke that I hoped the band he was in wasn’t emo because I’d dated a dude in a terrible emo band at one point.
Russ: I was just relieved I wasn’t in an emo band! Jess sent me a link to her website while we were still in the instant message stage, and I was impressed that she was such an amazing graphic designer. From the start I knew she was both dedicated and talented, and, at that point in my own designing career, I was very much feeling like a student without a real teacher –- I was excited to pick her brain. Plus, after she sent me a photo of herself, I thought she was totally cute. For our first “date” I invited her to a show I was playing with my -- non-emo -- band at the Cake Shop, a live music venue and record store in Manhattan.
Jess: Asking a girl show up at a concert alone was a risk. But Russ got to see the independent lady I am -- you can throw me in a room full of strangers and I can get along with just about anybody. And, as much as our first date wasn’t a “real” date, we probably spent six hours hanging out before and after the show. He didn't kiss me on the first night -- though I wanted him to -- and was extremely kind and gentlemanly. We parted ways on the subway and I couldn't have been more excited to see him again.
Russ: I knew Jess was right for me from the start -- the way she carried herself, what she talked about, the way she related to other people. But the morning after our “date” I left for a month-long tour. While I was on the road, I wrote her postcards; I wanted her to know that I was still really interested in hanging out with her when I got back.
Jess: The postcards would come at such weird times and he chose such funny ones with totally non-sequiter images on them -- one had a picture of Bruce Springsteen on it. As we wrote back and forth, we were discovering a lot about each other but I felt like I was corresponding with someone I already knew.
Russ: We started dating pretty much right when I got home and everything just progressed so naturally. Apart from the fact that Jess is smart, talented, kind, attractive, and sane, there were a thousand little things that made me fall for her. Like how we had the same sense of humor, and how we both loved and hated the same things; how easy it was to carry on a conversation, how easy it was to be silent.
Two months after I returned from touring, Jess wrote a note on a napkin and emailed it to me, asking if I wanted to make it official. The options were “Yes,” “No” or “Other:________.” It was adorable. I replied with an ornate sketch that read: "Sure, that sounds like fun" and emailed it back. One of the greatest things about our relationship is we both really love what we do, which we’ve always appreciated in one another.
Jess: When I’d dated people who weren’t in a creative field, they didn’t have my same passion: they didn’t have careers, they had jobs. My work isn’t work to me -- even when I’m on the phone, I’m doodling, I just can’t stop myself. I knew automatically that Russ was the same way with his career and I think that’s so important -- if you’re not passionate outside of your relationship, it puts too much pressure on you both.
When Russ first showed me his design work, I was totally surprised and impressed -- he had not really thought of himself as a professional designer, it was something he did to support the band, but his work was really great, especially for someone who had no formal training in design. He understands my enthusiasm and we both push each other to get better.
Russ: After about two years of dating, during which we'd moved in together, we started talking about marriage. But even the night we met, I was already thinking to myself, Man I could totally marry this girl.
Jess: Which is shocking to hear because when I started joking about marriage, Russ would behave in this perfectly aloof way of, “Oh, yeah, marriage, that’s something that people do ... when they’re adults ... sometimes.”
Russ: I started shopping for engagement rings after I left Brooklyn for a summer internship in San Francisco. At first, doing long-distance was nice, having my own space. But then I just really missed Jess and working together side-by-side. I stumbled upon a simple brushed gold ring online I thought she would be absolutely enthralled by from Conroy and Wilcox. And when I got back to Brooklyn in the fall it turned out that Jess was also looking at rings.
Jess: I was on Svpply, and rings just happened to start coming into my feed because other people were bookmarking them. And then I started bookmarking them...
Russ: And showing me that she’d bookmarked them.
Jess: For the record, I was showing Russ engagement rings with the same level of seriousness as if I, as an adult, was asking my dad for a pony. My parents divorced when I was 14 -- and the situation between them is still quite tense -- so growing up I didn’t so much fantasize about my wedding day as much as brace myself for it. But when I fell in love with Russ that anxiety subsided dramatically. I only bugged him because he made it so obvious that he wasn’t going to propose.
Russ: Since I was a kid, I’ve fantasized about making my proposal an amazing event: I wanted Jess to have that experience of sheer shock so I never let on that was thinking about marriage, too. I began scheming with my friend Jeff -- he worked at my grad school and was able to get a key to Gramercy Park in Manhattan, which is a private park. I thought it would be a beautiful and secluded place to propose.
The last piece of the plan was that Jeff’s wife, Cara, would ask Jess to work on a project with her the day I was planning to propose so she’d be free and Jeff would go early and sit in the park with the key. On the morning of, Cara called Jess while we were having brunch and canceled -- and of course I was right there to suggest that she meet me in Manhattan that afternoon after I’d finished working so we could walk around together.
Jess: It was a gorgeous, 80-degree day and I had it all to myself. I got a last-minute haircut at my salon and I bought a new outfit. I ran into one of my college friends and his girlfriend and we grabbed margaritas before I took the L train into the city.
Russ: I met Jess at 3rd and 14th and, when we got to Gramercy Park, I said something about how beautiful it was and how Jeff had told me the other day that he had a key. And then, I said “Hey, isn’t Jeff right there? What a coincidence!”
Jess: I am so gullible. I was in the most euphoric, this is the best day ever state of mind with my fresh haircut and new outfit. And I was also slightly “margarita-ed.”
Russ: We walked toward the east end where it’s more private. Sunlight was coming down through the cherry trees. All of a sudden, Jess spun around and said, “And this is where you ask me to marry you!” I thought, “Well, I guess that’s my cue” and I just got down on my knee and took out the ring. She was baffled.
Jess: I can sometimes be a surprise ruin-er with my deductive reasoning skills -- I watch a lot of “Law and Order.” But I totally thought he was joking.
Russ: The proposal was everything I’d ever hoped it would be as a kid. I loved that, when Jess realized what was happening, she never even looked at the ring. She just said “Yes!” and tackled me.
Jess: I dove at him and sat on his knee and hugged him while he was still down there. Afterward, I literally could not stand back up -- I kept falling. My pulse was racing and I had to sit for like 25 minutes.
Later, Russ surprised me again. He led me to 26 Seats, a nearby French restaurant, where our closest friends and family members were waiting for us to celebrate. Even my best friend from Philadelphia was there and it hit me just how much planning and preparation -- and love -- went into the proposal. I was a sobby mess. That day, I really understood just how generous and thoughtful Russ was capable of being and it made me even more excited to marry him.
Click through the slideshow below for photos from Jessica Hische and Russell Maschmeyer's engagement day and engagement shoot, as well as some snapshots of them with some of the people who helped them create their wedding website.
Hische posing with her ring post-proposal
Post-engagement celebration at 26 Seats
A photo from the couple's engagement shoot with photographer Michael O'Neal
The couple showing off their matching tattoos during their engagement shoot
At their friends' Chris and Jen's wedding in 2009 ("Chris and many of the folks in attendance made the artwork for our invite," Hische says.)
At Chris and Jen's wedding
At the reception
Click through the slideshow below to see stills from their wedding website.