After a Picture-Perfect First Date, Love Quickly Followed

When Warren Anthony Whyte showed up at Starbucks to meet Khaleeqa Linda Rouse, he first mistook another woman for his date. “She didn’t look like her photo, and I thought maybe it was her in this age of editing,” he said.

Ms. Rouse turned up 15 minutes later, Mr. Whyte said, and she looked exactly like her photo. “Her striking beauty online to be replicated in real life — that really solidified my first impression,” he said. “And her personality was even more beautiful than her appearance.”

The two matched on the dating app Hinge on June 13, 2021, and scheduled a first date a week later, on Father’s Day, at a Starbucks cafe in Englewood, N.J.

Ms. Rouse, 39, was also impressed when she saw Mr. Whyte in person. “I was like, Wow, his pictures didn’t do him justice — he’s striking,” she said. “Warren is 6-foot-4 and has this presence.”

“I wore a coffee-brown polo and khakis, a brown loafer and my Tom Ford shades,” Mr. Whyte, 39, said.

As an only child and a self-described introvert, Mr. Whyte appreciated how easily their conversation flowed. “I was like, I want to hang out with her tomorrow,” he said.

The date, though, caught Ms. Rouse by surprise. “I admittedly only allotted an hour for the date,” she said. “I had low expectations, because I was in this season of just meeting new people. I remember seeing him and thinking, Damn, I played this all wrong. I was super casual, opting for sneakers and a skirt.”

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Ms. Rouse was also taken with Mr. Whyte’s kindness and warmth. “He has this wonder in his soul,” Ms. Rouse said. “I also felt very protected and safe around him, like I could, as my dad says, ‘put my cutlery away.’”

Their second date was on June 25, where they played tennis and then had lunch in Englewood. “He asked me out again the next day,” she said. “We went to brunch at De Novo European Pub in Edgewater, N.J.”

Their third date was an Italian cooking class, where they shared a first kiss. And by June 30, they were official.

On July 19, Mr. Whyte suddenly wanted to tell Ms. Rouse he loved her, he said. “But my nerves got the better of me, and instead I blurted something like, ‘I am beginning to fall for you,’” Mr. Whyte said. “She was relieved, because she sensed my nervousness and thought I was going to break up with her.”

In October 2022, Ms. Rouse moved into Mr. Whyte’s apartment in White Plains, N.Y., where they now live.

The couple marveled at the speed with which their relationship progressed. “At first, I was heartbroken from a relationship ending and scared to get back out there,” said Ms. Rouse, who eschewed dating for six years. “I found what made my heart sing, and I needed that.”

Mr. Whyte was wounded, too, after separating from his wife of three years in 2020; their divorce was finalized in 2022. “When Khaleeqa came into my life, I had done enough work on myself,” he said. “I felt ready.”

Mr. Whyte was raised in Miami until he moved to Amawalk, N.Y., at 13. He works remotely as a vice president at ConcertAI, a health care technology company based in Cambridge, Mass. He has a bachelor’s degree from Cornell and a doctorate from M.I.T., both in biology.

Ms. Rouse, who grew up in Englewood, is the founder and chief creative officer of Reel Well Media, an agency that produces social media content for personal brands. She has a bachelor’s in finance and global business and a master’s in business administration, both from Rider University in Lawrence Township, N.J.

On Christmas Day in 2022, Mr. Whyte proposed at Ms. Rouse’s family home. He had planned to pop the question when they opened gifts in the morning, but a late start caused the day’s plans to crumble. By the time they began opening presents late in the day, he had lost his nerve.

“I ended up confiding in Khaleeqa’s grandmother and mother, who started crying and agreed to help gather the family together to say a prayer and give me the opportunity to propose,” Mr. Whyte said.

But he froze again after the prayer. So Ms. Rouse’s mother forced everyone to come back together for a second prayer. “This time, she held my hand as she led the second prayer, and then squeezed my hand as a signal to take over,” Mr. Whyte said.

The couple married on Aug. 18 at Crabtree’s Kittle House Restaurant & Inn in Chappaqua, N.Y. The ceremony was officiated by Theodore N. Stephens II, who is the acting prosecutor for Essex County, N.J., and a Universal Life minister.

The wedding had 60 guests in attendance. It included a land acknowledgment to the Lenape people and the tradition of jumping the broom, which, Ms. Rouse said, “really meant something to us and really felt like we left a part of our lives in the past, and we’re moving into the future.”

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