Trevor Jovan Bates knew Shahnaz Singh-Kandah would be his wife even before he asked her out. “I heard the Holy Spirit say Shahnaz is your wife, and I heard it very clearly,” he said.
Mr. Bates and Ms. Singh-Kandah, who became friends after meeting at the church they both attend, were at a worship event in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., on July 2, 2022 when their relationship shifted. They both had a secret crush on each other, but their friendship remained platonic for months — until that evening, when Mr. Bates confessed his feelings to Ms. Singh-Kandah.
Mr. Bates, 30, grew up in Westbrook, Maine, and graduated from the University of Maine in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology. He was drafted to play for the Indianapolis Colts in 2016, achieving his childhood dream of playing in the National Football League. He continued to play football professionally until 2019, when, he said, he suffered a bipolar manic episode, which led to an altercation with the police and formal diagnosis.
“I went through a very dark and depressing time in my life, and I lost my career because of it,” Mr. Bates said. He moved to New Jersey in 2021 and currently works as a sales representative for Stryker, a medical equipment manufacturer based in Englewood, N.J.
Born and raised in Lakewood, N.J., Ms. Singh-Kandah, 35, received a bachelor’s degree in behavioral neuroscience from Northeastern in 2011. After the sudden death of her older brother in a pedestrian accident in 2014 (their mother died seven years earlier after battling sarcoidosis), “I realized my dreams have an expiration date,” she said. Inspired by her mother’s work as a nurse, Ms. Singh-Kandah received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing from Columbia. She works as an oncology nurse practitioner at Columbia University Irving Medical Center.
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Mr. Bates and Ms. Singh-Kandah first met in October 2021, when Mr. Bates moved to New Jersey and joined Tapestry Church in Jersey City, N.J. They became friends in March 2022 when they volunteered to host a youth game night at their church, and stayed in contact afterward. Though both found the other interesting and attractive, neither was interested in a romantic relationship at the time, as both were focused on personal healing journeys.
That changed for Mr. Bates, however, when he and Ms. Singh-Kandah hadn’t seen each other for a few months, then ran into one another at a weekday prayer service that June. “I got a tap on my shoulder, and I looked over at her and I got hit with so much joy,” he said. “I just realized that there was something there, because when I saw her, I wasn’t used to the emotion I felt. ”
Ms. Singh-Kandah also sensed a spark. “We had really deeply connected in a place where we both had known suffering, we both had known loss, but we’ve also known seeing the heart of God in our loss,” she said. “It was just like, ‘Oh, I get you as a person. I understand what you’ve been through’, and vice versa.”
Ms. Singh-Kandah was apprehensive, though, when Mr. Bates shared his feelings for her a month later. “It was a little scary because I hadn’t gone on a single date in three years,” she said. “I was so rusty. But also it was a protective mechanism. I wanted to be sure he was the person for me, so I gave him a hard time as he was pursuing me.”
Mr. Bates eventually won Ms. Singh-Kandah over with his consistency in showing up for her. “His intentions were so clear,” she said, adding that their relationship with God and their community’s approval of their relationship confirmed that they were meant to be.
She agreed to officially be his girlfriend on Oct. 2, and before the end of the month they were already discussing getting married.
“I don’t think there was a defining moment where I fell in love — I grew in love,” Ms. Singh-Kandah said. “It was just time and time again of seeing him and his heart.”
Mr. Bates surprised Ms. Singh-Kandah with a proposal in front of her family and friends on May 6, 2023.
On Nov. 2, they were married at the View at Lincoln Park in Jersey City. Markus Robinson, the executive pastor at Tapestry Church, officiated.
As a nod to Ms. Singh-Kandah’s mother, who loved to host big, elaborate parties, the couple’s wedding events spanned three days, to which all 200 guests were invited.
Mr. Bates and Ms. Singh-Kandah are excited about creating a home together as a married couple.
“We both grew up in homes with single moms,” Ms. Singh-Kandah said, “and so being able to have a family and kind of rewrite that story for our kids in the future, it feels like God has almost given us a second chance in a way.”