My best friend’s wedding: Two Syracuse alumni turn friendship into lifelong love
This is not a love story. This is a story about two best friends, how they met as undergrads, found jobs together after graduation and now, seven years later, are engaged.
Binh took the big step on Oct. 15, 2011.
Julie was at work in Hinds Hall that Saturday when Syracuse University mascot Otto the Orange beckoned her outside.
“Singin’ in the Rain” was playing from a boombox as Otto danced on the Quad in the rain. Otto mimed to Julie that he had to get something, and rummaged through a bag hidden in the bushes. He came back with a box, got down on one knee and presented Julie with a giant tin foil ring.
“Otto,” Binh interrupted, appearing at Julie’s shoulder, “What are you doing? That’s not your job, that’s my job.”
An engagement ring Binh custom ordered had arrived the day before. Binh showed it to Julie, telling her he loved her and could not imagine being with anyone else.
“When we started dating, we knew this would be for life,” said Julie Walas, who will be marrying best friend Binh Huynh this May in a ceremony in Western New York.
They will join the 301 other couples with SU ties that Thomas Wolfe, former dean of Hendricks Chapel and current senior vice president and dean of student affairs, has married.
The bride, 28, hails from Fredonia, N.Y., and is a 2007 alumna. She is the undergraduate program manager for the School of Information Studies and is pursuing a master’s of science in school counseling at SU.
The groom, 28, is from Erie, Pa., and is a 2006 alumnus. He is the director of SU’s Summer College program and is pursuing a master’s degree in social sciences at SU.
Both have been campus tour guides, resident advisors and admissions counselors. Julie coaches the mascot team and Binh was homecoming king his senior year.
“We’re definitely ‘that Syracuse couple,’” Julie said.
But it took five years for them to become that couple.
Julie remembers meeting Binh in the winter of her sophomore year when he cooked lunch for her RA friends and she tagged along.
Binh didn’t really notice Julie until they were RAs for a summer program in 2005. He saw her reading Joyce Carol Oates’ “We Were the Mulvaneys” in a Haven Hall lounge and introduced himself.
When Julie went abroad to Spain that fall, the two kept in touch. By the time they graduated SU, they both considered the other their best friend. When they worked in the Office of Admissions together, Binh would roll his office chair out into the hall to talk to Julie, who was right next door.
Binh was always the person Julie could count on, said Liz Knickerbocker, a college friend of the couple. When the basement in Julie’s university neighborhood home backed up with sewage, Binh carried buckets of waste out of her basement.
Julie questioned if it was weird that her best friend was a guy. “Everyone told us we should be dating,” she said.
Secretly, Binh wondered what it would be like to date Julie. “But, like a lot of folks who are in that situation, I feared crossing that barrier and then jeopardizing our friendship,” he said.
In June 2009, Binh broached the subject. By then, they were working in separate departments at SU and both single.
“So,” he asked during a five-hour drive to Syracuse from a weekend visiting friends in Maine, “have you thought about us dating?”
The conversation lasted the rest of the ride home. They dated on and off for the next year. When Julie told Binh she didn’t think she could handle the relationship, Binh let her walk away.
He knew she would be back.
“I don’t think you’ll be happy to hear this, but I don’t think it’s over. I just don’t,” Binh told her.
Two weeks later, in July 2010, they were back together.
Binh’s childhood friend and fellow 2006 alumnus Matt Kendzior wasn’t surprised when the two became official. He sensed Julie was important to Binh when Kendzior first met her at a party his senior year.
“It just kind of seemed like an eventuality — they were really good for each other,” said Kendzior, who will be Binh’s best man.
To celebrate their engagement, Julie and Binh sat on the Kissing Bench for the first time last Valentine’s Day. The wedding will have a touch of SU. Julie has two pairs of orange shoes, heels for the ceremony and flats for dancing. The couple will play either the Alma Mater or SU’s fight song during the reception and take a photo with their SU guests.
Including a hint of SU in their wedding is a way to remember where they met and how the school shaped them as individuals and a couple.
“We kept each other here,” Julie said about why they both stayed in Syracuse.
“As much as I think it wasn’t planned,” Binh continued, “it was sort of — ”
“Destined,” Julie finished.
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