Nicola DeAntonio and A.J. Casale
For Nicola DeAntonio and A.J. Casale, love bloomed at the White House.
In the fall of 2007, A. J. Casale was tasked with welcoming the new interns to the White House.
At 23, he was the same age as most of his new charges, but he’d been through the internship program the previous year. As an associate director in President GeorgeW. Bush’s political affairs office, it fell on him to goover the protocol: a list of security measures, the importance of confidentiality, the need to shred documents immediately.
“I was just like, ‘ What is this guy telling me? Whoa, this is so weird. It’s overwhelming,’ ” recalls Nicola DeAntonio, who had recently graduated from West Virginia University and planned to apply to lawschool after the internship.
She was shellshocked by the intensity of their 12-hour workdays and went home exhausted each night. But to Casale, it seemed the exuberant blonde never stopped smiling.
“She always had energy,” he says. “It was a lot of early mornings, but she was always happy and fun to be around.”
Casale, who’d recently graduated from George Washington University, is more serious and reserved, and the two spoke very little during DeAntonio’s fourmonth stint. But as Christmas approached, he heard her making plans to watch a WVU basketball game at a bar and mentioned that he might stop by.
It wasn’t a full-blown crush then, Casale says, but he was drawn to DeAntonio’s chatty vitality and wanted to spend more time with her.
DeAntonio was happy to see Casale in a more casual setting but didn’t think much of it until he left and her friend, Kelly McNeil Andreycak, chimed in.
“She was like: ‘You really need to go out with him. I think you’d be a good match,’ ” DeAntonio remembers. “And she was in my ear about it after that.”
“I was just really impressed with him,” McNeil Andreycak says. “And I could tell he kept kind of glancing at her. It was really cute.”
DeAntonio always demurred. She thought of Casale as her supervisor, not a romantic prospect, and an interoffice relationship didn’t seem appropriate.
After her internship ended, however, the two met up a few more times with mutual friends from the office. Casale started to admit to himself how much he liked DeAntonio, and the attention she gave him whenever they were together made him suspect the interest was mutual. When they discovered that they’d both be in town for New Year’s Eve, he suggested they have dinner with McNeil Andreycak and her boyfriend.
Casale made plans for the foursome to go to Oceanaire. And although it seemed to DeAntonio that this was a double date, she followed her father’s advice and brought cash to pay for her portion, just in case she’d misunderstood. ( When the bill came, she texted her parents under the table: “He paid!”)
After an easy meal that was full of laughs, they rang in 2008 with a first kiss.
Soon the two were meeting up after work and spending time together on weekends. Similarities emerged one after another, such as their shared Italian heritage and strong sense of family. Both are driven, exacting and incredibly neat. “If he was dirty,” she says, “I would’ve died.”
DeAntonio was homesick for Philadelphia and unsure about staying in Washington, particularly as the thought of law school became less appealing. But Casale became her best friend and support system, talking through career possibilities and making D.C. life more palatable.
And he found the guard that he often put up with others seemed to disintegrate in her presence. “Neither of us had to try hard. It wasn’t any of that backand-forth ‘Should I call her now?’ We never had that,” he says. “It just kind of happened.”
By March, when they traveled to Morgan town to watch a WVU basketball game with her family, she thought he might be the one for her. “You just have a feeling,” she says. “He was so different from all the other guys I dated.”
McNeil Andreycak saw it, too: “ The way she acted around A. J. was different. She just seemed comfortable,” she says. “I felt like she was more herself around him than anybody else.”
The following December, after a year of dating, they sat down to tell her very conservative parents that they planned to move in together. DeAntonio’s parents were initially skeptical, but by that point she was able to tell them “we know we’re going to get married.” Besides, both were ready for a roommate who could match their high standards of cleanliness.
Casale was supportive when DeAntonio threw out her plans for law school and instead enrolled in an interior design program at the Corcoran College of Art and Design. Her taste for politics waned after her time at the White House, but the internship allowed her to understand the long hours Casale was now putting in at a public affairs consulting firm. Plus, he adds, “it’s nice to have somebody to spend time with who’s not all about politics.”
By 2009, DeAntonio was leading Casale to jewelry stores and leaving bridal magazines around the apartment. In early fall, while they wandered through Tysons Corner Center, she pointed out an engagement ring she loved.
Two months later, Casale took her to New York City and hired a photographer to surreptitiously follow them around Central Park, where he gave her the ring. Within a few months of that first New Year’s Eve kiss, Casale had known this moment would come.
“I never remember having the feeling like, ‘Oh my God, is she the one?’ ” he says. “I never really had to think about it. It’s just been very natural.”
On Dec. 18, they were married at Holy Trinity Catholic Church. A year-and-ahalf earlier, DeAntonio, who had been baptized Catholic, was confirmed there, with Casale acting as her sponsor. After the wedding, their 146 guests gathered for a reception at the Willard Hotel, two blocks from the famous building where the couple met.
In a toast, Casale’s older brother, Vince, joked that the pair “are literally a match made in heaven.”
“In our family,” he continued, “we call it a Republican White House.”
After the wedding, McNeil Andreycak reflected on the strength of the connection she first noticed three years ago.
“When one of them talks, the other is listening, no matter who else is in the room,” she says. “ They’re very captivated by each other.”
A WHITE (HOUSE) WEDDING: Nicola DeAntonio and A.J. Casale were married atHoly Trinity Catholic Church and celebrated at the Willard.