Winning With Bingo, and Then Bringing Her the Stars

After what seemed like light years, Stephen Daniel Sullivan grabbed Alexandra Lauran Ullman Wagner’s hand in March 2018 under the stars projected onto the dome of the Grainger Sky Theater at Chicago’s Adler Planetarium.

“I was crazy nervous,” Mr. Sullivan said.

The two had met about a year and a half earlier, in August 2016, when they began working at a math-tutoring center in the city. For months, Mr. Sullivan had barely uttered a word to Ms. Wagner, except for a perfunctory “hello” or “how was your weekend.”

In March 2017, their boss threw them into a project: Each week, they had to create a different game integrating math problems for students. Their inventive games, including giant Monopoly and Bingo boards set up in the gym, turned out so well that their tutoring center won top prize in a companywide regional competition.

By then, they felt comfortable enough to confide in each other about life outside of work. Mr. Sullivan was married at the time, but having relationship problems, which ultimately led to his marriage ending in divorce in October 2019. Both were also pursuing higher education.

Mr. Sullivan, 36, who had graduated from Concordia University Chicago in River Forest, Ill., was completing a graduate program at the university, where he later earned a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling.

Ms. Wagner, 28, who graduated from Northwestern, was applying to graduate programs in education. In June 2017, she left for the University of Michigan, where she later received a master’s degree in educational studies and an E.S.L. certificate.

“I thought we would never see each other again,” she said.

The following February, Ms. Wagner realized that she missed talking to Mr. Sullivan. She texted him one evening, and he replied as soon as he saw her message.

“I missed not having her to vent to,” he said. “I didn’t have an Alex.”

A month later, during her spring break in March 2018, Ms. Wagner visited her sister in Chicago. While there, she took Mr. Sullivan, who considers himself a cosmic geek, to the Adler Planetarium for his birthday, where the two reached the relationship milestone of holding hands.

Later, they went out for bubble tea and then he cooked tilapia tacos for dinner at his apartment. There, they hit another milestone: their first kiss.

After earning her master’s degree, Ms. Wagner moved back to Chicago in July 2018. Mr. Sullivan often went to her place, where he cooked his specialties like sausage and chicken gumbo and shrimp with grits. She baked coffee cake and brownies.

In July 2020, she met Mr. Sullivan’s son, Logan, now 6, and daughter, Sydney, now 4, from his previous marriage. Both took to her right away. “My son was smitten,” Mr. Sullivan said.

That October, Mr. Sullivan moved in with her. He is now a licensed professional therapist at Inspire Counseling center, a mental health clinic in Northbrook, Ill. Ms. Wagner is a third-grade teacher at Peirce Elementary on the North Side of Chicago.

They became engaged in March 2021, after he proposed while they took a bubble bath. Earlier that day, before heading to work, Mr. Sullivan left sparkly plastic engagement rings and notes around the apartment, including one in the kitchen that read, “Do you promise to cook dinner with me?”

The couple were married April 9 at Cheney Mansion in Oak Park, Ill., before 125 guests, most of whom were vaccinated. Loren Jones, a cousin of the groom who was ordained an American Marriage Ministries minister for the occasion, officiated.

As a playful acknowledgment of their interracial relationship — Mr. Sullivan is Black and Ms. Wagner is white — they chose a black-and-white theme for the wedding. It included the décor and black-and-white cookies for guests to take home. There was also a nod to outer space.

Their seven groomsmen and one groomswoman each wore cuff links of a different planet. Mr. Sullivan wore sun cuff links; his son, the ring bearer, the moon. His daughter, the flower girl, sparkled as the bride’s “mini-me,” Ms. Wagner said, in a fluffy white dress.

As for the bride, Mr. Sullivan said: “Alex is my stardust.”

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