They Knew From the Start (but the Dogs Needed Convincing)

Catriona Campbell Duncan and Sarah Gail Palmisano have no doubt that the popularity of the NPR game show “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” is well deserved. But they wouldn’t really know, even though their first date, in August 2018, was a live taping of the show in Chicago’s Millennium Park.

Ms. Duncan and Ms. Palmisano, both 36, met on Tinder about a week before their date. Ms. Duncan, an equity analyst at William Blair, asked Ms. Palmisano to meet her at the show for a picnic. Ms. Palmisano, a director of environmental, social and governance program management at Ulta Beauty, liked Ms. Duncan’s out-of-the-box thinking. “In the world of online dating, everybody wants to meet at a bar for a drink,” she said. “Cat wanted to be outside and do an activity.”

That neither was much of a news junkie — “Wait Wait …” quizzes contestants on their knowledge of current events — ended up not being an issue. When a sudden rainstorm caused picnickers to scatter halfway through the taping, they were deep in conversation. Ms. Duncan asked Ms. Palmisano to join her for dinner at Ramen Takeya, in Chicago’s Fulton Market District. After, they went to Ms. Duncan’s nearby apartment.

A first kiss, of a type neither saw coming, happened that evening. “One of our topics of conversation all night was our dogs,” Ms. Palmisano said. She wanted to meet Emmy, Ms. Duncan’s miniature dachshund. “We joke that Sarah’s first kiss was with Emmy,” Ms. Duncan said.

Ms. Palmisano grew up in Grand Rapids, Mich. In 2009, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies and social science from Michigan State University. Her move to Chicago in 2016 was to attend graduate school at the University of Chicago, where she earned a master’s degree in environmental science and policy in 2018. Ms. Duncan, who grew up in Lake Forest, Ill., earned an M.B.A. in 2014 from the University of Chicago. She received a bachelor’s degree in government and English in 2008 from Harvard.

[Click here to binge read this week’s featured couples.]

After the kiss with Emmy, and after saying good night to Ms. Palmisano, Ms. Duncan took to her phone. “I immediately texted everyone that I just got back from the best first date I’ve ever been on,” she said. “I knew right away, this is the person I want to be with.”

Ms. Palmisano, then living in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, knew, too. By the fall of 2018, they were a couple. But they weren’t often able to spend the night together. Ms. Palmisano’s dog, a mixed breed named Stella, did not share her affection for Emmy. “Let’s just say Stella’s selective about who she lets in her life,” Ms. Palmisano said. “When I rescued her, they told me she needs to be in a single animal household.”

The couple hired a combination dog trainer and therapist, and at the start of the pandemic, when Ms. Palmisano moved into Ms. Duncan’s apartment, the dogs arrived at an uneasy truce. Both women were working from home; the time freed up for extra walks instead of commuting helped.

On a vacation to Big Sur, on Dec. 28, 2021, Ms. Palmisano proposed to Ms. Duncan. Both knew Ms. Palmisano had wanted to do the asking. But after Ms. Duncan said yes, she hatched a plan of her own for a second proposal. On Feb. 3, 2022, they left the apartment they now share in Chicago’s West Town to return to Millennium Park for another taping of “Wait Wait …”

“Cat got tickets in the nosebleeds, in the same location we sat in on our first date,” Ms. Palmisano said. Again, they left halfway through for dinner at Ramen Takeya. This time, though, both had gotten the chance to say yes to spending the rest of their lives together.

Ms. Palmisano and Ms. Duncan were married March 24 in the Northfield, Ill., back yard of Ms. Duncan’s grandparents, Mary Ann and Paul Judy. Ms. Judy, who became a Universal Life Church minister for the occasion, officiated. “We call her Reverend Granny now,” Ms. Duncan said. “She’s a V.I.P. in both our lives.” Plus, “they’ve been married 69 years, so she’s qualified.” Mr. Judy, the ring bearer, was the only guest. The couple is to host a second, more formal celebration with 130 guests on April 8 in Point Reyes, Calif., both brides plan to wear white dresses.

Eventually, they plan to return to the park for a third viewing of “Wait Wait ….” They still haven’t listened to an episode from start to finish. But this time, they may pay attention. “What we have caught of the show is terrific,” Ms. Duncan said.