Finding Love From Studio 1A in Rockefeller Plaza


Round Valentine’s Day final 12 months, Jenna Bush Hager, a bunch of NBC’s “Today with Hoda & Jenna,” launched into a mission: to assist her good friend and colleague Elizabeth Harrington Leist, who goes by Libby, discover romance.

“Jenna was reporting on love in the pandemic and how people were finding each other,” Ms. Leist, the senior vice chairman of “Today” and a senior vice chairman of NBC Information, mentioned. “I was looking to meet someone.”

Ms. Leist, now 43, had by then been single for years — “since my 30s,” she mentioned. “I’d been fixed up with a million people who didn’t work out.” She had additionally lately been promoted from her earlier place as a senior govt producer of “Today,” which meant she now not needed to get to mattress early and get up at 3:45 a.m. The life-style change opened her as much as new relationship prospects. “I was transitioning and gaining a new perspective,” Ms. Leist mentioned.

Although she had mentioned her relationship life with Ms. Bush Hager, Ms. Leist had by no means earlier than been arrange by her. To supply potential suitors, Ms. Bush Hager contacted her fraternal twin sister, Barbara, and two pals. Considered one of them was Emily Fisher, a superb arts photographer, who had met Ms. Bush Hager years in the past via Willie Geist, the host of “Sunday Today.” Ms. Fisher shortly replied with a suggestion: Sayan Ray, her husband’s greatest good friend.

Like Ms. Leist, Mr. Ray, 48, was experiencing a interval of transition. In the summertime of 2020, his earlier marriage of 12 years resulted in divorce. However he wasn’t as involved with assembly new individuals. A father of two — his daughter, Shailey, is 12 and his son, Kieran, is 9 — Mr. Ray mentioned that, following his divorce, “making sure my children were OK was my priority.”

His first response to Ms. Fisher’s overture was that he wasn’t prepared. “Then she sent me a picture of Libby and I thought, she’s really nice looking and had a nice smile and I could tell she was a good person,” he mentioned. “So I agreed.”

After Ms. Hager Bush launched the 2 through e mail, Mr. Ray, the inventive director at Harrison and Star, a well being care advertising and marketing company in New York, invited Ms. Leist on a date. She recommended they meet just about, on Zoom, however he persuaded her to get collectively in particular person. “I wanted to get out of the house,” he mentioned.

Their first date, on Feb. 21, 2021, started at Central Park, the place they strolled across the reservoir. Espresso at The Consulate, a restaurant on the Higher West Aspect of Manhattan, adopted.

As they talked, Mr. Ray mentioned he discovered Ms. Leist to be “smart, solid and down to earth.” When he introduced up his divorce, “she just listened,” he added. “I found that comforting.” Of her impression of Mr. Ray, Ms. Leist put it this manner: “Jenna really delivered.”

Weeks later, they met for a second date on March 6. Ms. Leist traveled from her Manhattan condo close to Gramercy Park to spend the day with Mr. Ray, who had deliberate an itinerary of actions for the 2 close to his residence in Danbury, Conn.

The nine-hour tour started with espresso and pastries at Hayfields Cafe & Florist, in North Salem, N.Y. Then got here a two-hour stroll. Afterward, they visited The Aldrich Up to date Artwork Museum, in Ridgefield, Conn., and went looking for antiques. Their final cease, in North Salem, was for dinner at Purdy’s Farmer & the Fish, Mr. Ray’s favourite restaurant.

“It was a lot to commit to, but it was sweet of him to show me” his space, Ms. Leist mentioned. “He put a lot of thought into everything.”

Mr. Ray was thrilled to see Ms. Leist, whom he described as “a busy city girl in a busy job,” admire his slower-paced life. When the 2 turned acquainted, he had questioned concerning the compatibility of their completely different life. “But showing her around and her being receptive to my area” made him extra assured {that a} relationship would work, mentioned Mr. Ray, who had begun to fall for Ms. Leist earlier than their second date ended.

It took Ms. Leist three extra outings to have an identical epiphany. Following their fifth date in late March, she recalled considering, “Wow, I’m going to marry this man.”

That summer time, Ms. Leist met Mr. Ray’s youngsters at a Fourth of July barbecue hosted by Ms. Fisher and her husband, Murray Fisher. “I knew in my heart he was a great dad,” Ms. Leist mentioned, “but now I got to see it.”

“It became very clear that Sayan had a whole life that existed before me and that I would have to figure out how to be a part of it,” she added.

As they continued to spend time with one another, slowly, a household unit fashioned. “I’ve always wanted children,” Ms. Leist mentioned. “The more we got together, the closer I felt to gaining that.” Her weekends, which have been beforehand spent going to SoulCycle and occasional with pals, as she put it, quickly turned devoted to actions with Mr. Ray and his youngsters.

All through their courtship, Ms. Leist and Mr. Ray all the time saved Ms. Bush Hager and Ms. Fisher abreast of any progress. “No detail was too small,” Ms. Leist mentioned.

Their matchmakers appreciated each replace. “There’s energy setting up two people, especially someone I love like Libby, who is funny, brilliant and a terrific friend,” Ms. Bush Hager mentioned. Ms. Fisher described the pairing as “one of my proudest achievements.”

Although she had no hand in introducing the couple, Savannah Guthrie, a “Today” anchor and good friend of Ms. Leist, additionally cheered on their creating romance. “We were texting at all hours of the night,” she mentioned of herself, Ms. Bush Hager and Ms. Fisher. “Everyone was hanging on every development. It was like high school.”

Ms. Guthrie had tried to set Ms. Leist up many instances, however by no means succeeded. “While giving birth I was checking out the anesthesiologist to see if he was good for her,” she mentioned. “It became my mission,” she added, however “Jenna beat me to it.”

By the autumn of 2021, Ms. Leist and Mr. Ray, who had begun discussing marriage months earlier, have been each able to take the following step towards it.

“It’s amazing how your mind can change,” Mr. Ray mentioned, describing how he went from considering “I’ll never get married again” to feeling like he couldn’t dwell with out Ms. Leist. “I needed her in a way I didn’t expect,” he added.

Of their bond, Ms. Leist mentioned, “It’s rare to find this, to have a deep trustworthy, honest connection with someone,” including, “I never knew I could feel this way.”

Mr. Ray proposed that November on the New York Metropolis marathon, which occurred to fall on his birthday. To execute the proposal, he had enlisted the assistance of Mr. Fisher and Mr. Geist from “Today,” who was operating within the race.

About two miles earlier than the end line in Central Park, Mr. Fisher handed Mr. Geist a bag of Dunkin’ munchkins. Inside was additionally a small field containing a citrine and diamond ring. Mr. Geist then ran 5 blocks with the bag, earlier than handing it off to Mr. Ray, who was ready with Ms. Leist and some pals close to an entrance to the park.

To maintain her from changing into suspicious, Mr. Geist mentioned he was not solely requested to ship the bag to Mr. Ray, but in addition a line: “Someone in the crowd gave this to me, can you throw it out?”

After the handoff, Mr. Ray and Ms. Leist walked via the park, returning to a spot that they had handed on their first date. Stationed close by to take pictures was Ms. Fisher, whose presence didn’t go undetected by Ms. Leist. “I didn’t get to finish everything I had to say because Libby saw Emily in the bushes taking photos and asked why she was there,” Mr. Ray mentioned.

Regardless of being rushed, he nonetheless had time to get down on one knee and ask her to marry him. Ms. Leist instantly answered sure, and the 2 later celebrated their engagement at Sona, an Indian restaurant close to Gramercy Park, with a small group that included the Fishers, Ms. Bush Hager and Ms. Guthrie.

On June 4, the couple have been married at Grace Church in Utica, N.Y., earlier than the Rev. Christine Williams-Belt, an Episcopal priest, and 145 company. Mr. Ray’s son served as the most effective man and his daughter was a junior bridesmaid. Following the ceremony have been a cocktail hour and seated dinner at Ms. Leist’s dad and mom’ residence in New Hartford, N.Y.

On the reception, Ms. Bush Hager and Ms. Fisher delivered a shock speech, throughout which they learn from a ebook that they had created. Its pages have been stuffed with the numerous textual content messages exchanged amongst their bigger good friend group through the couple’s courtship.

“There must be a thousand texts between all of us,” Ms. Bush Hager mentioned, earlier than quoting a message she had despatched to Ms. Fisher on April 19, 2021.

“I really think this is it,” she mentioned, including, “and it was.”

When June 4, 2022

The place Grace Church, Utica, N.Y.,

The Reception The bride’s dad and mom’ residence in New Hartford, N.Y.

Excessive Notes The ceremony featured music and vocals from a pianist, tenor and opera singer. Through the cocktail hour and dinner, company have been entertained by Troy Ramey, a singer, who carried out “My Love Is Your Love” because the couple had their first dance. The night concluded with a set from DJ Spider.

Simply Children On the dinner, the newlyweds sat at a desk with 13 youngsters, together with Mr. Ray’s and people of Ms. Bush Hager and Ms. Guthrie. “We feel very close to all these children — they feel like family,” Ms. Leist mentioned. “It was so joyful to watch them enjoy the wedding and it was a chance for us to connect during the wedding.”


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