All Systems Go After a Relationship Check-In

Every month, Millie Tran and Brian Rosenthal sit down for a relationship check-in to go over chores, finances and other matters. During one check-in, marriage plans took off.

In July 2020, after a mutual friend told Brian Martin Rosenthal that Millie Minh-Diep Tran was single and in New York, he took a chance and reached out to her on Twitter. When that chat fizzled out, he tried again on Instagram, with more success.

“I knew of him, but I didn’t know him,” Ms. Tran, 34, said. The two had been colleagues at The New York Times, where he was an investigative reporter on the Metro desk, and she was an editor focusing on social platforms. “We orbited each other,” she said. Ms. Tran left The Times in March 2020 to become the chief product officer at The Texas Tribune in Austin, Texas.

“I just assumed I’d never see her again,” Mr. Rosenthal, 34, said.

As colleagues at The Times, the two had occasionally crossed paths. In May 2019, Ms. Tran gave Mr. Rosenthal feedback on tweets he had drafted to help promote his exposé on predatory lending in the taxi medallion industry. His series won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting.

“Honestly, I had a big crush on her,” said Mr. Rosenthal, who graduated cum laude from Northwestern University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science. Ms. Tran received a bachelor’s in global studies and graduated with honors from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Ms. Tran’s previous relationship had ended in January 2020, and because of the coronavirus pandemic, she was stuck working for The Tribune from her apartment in Astoria, Queens. So when Mr. Rosenthal messaged her on Instagram, he suggested that they hang out.

“I don’t think she realized I was asking her out on a date,” he said.

He was right. She wanted to be collegial, so she invited him to join her usual Saturday morning bagel run at 8 a.m. “As a general rule, I try not to drink at 8 a.m.,” he replied, before playfully proposing that they meet in the evening instead.

His counteroffer took her by surprise, but she remained open-minded. A night out with Mr. Rosenthal “literally never crossed my mind,” said Ms. Tran, who had not been on a first date in about a decade. “Plot twist.”

On Aug. 1, 2020, Mr. Rosenthal rode his bicycle from his apartment in Hell’s Kitchen to Astoria. He dropped his knapsack off at Ms. Tran’s place and they grabbed a pizza — broccoli rabe and spicy sausage — from Macoletta, a pizzeria. They brought the pie, along with red wine and a picnic blanket, to Astoria Park.

“I felt an instant connection,” Mr. Rosenthal said.

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

Their conversation was nonstop — she shared that she had immigrated with her parents to Northern California from Vietnam when she was 3 years old, and he talked about growing up in West Lafayette, Ind., with his twin and two other brothers.

“We were born 12 days and 8,800 miles apart,” they both said.

At sundown, they headed back to Ms. Tran’s home. On her balcony, they opened another bottle of wine and shared their first kiss. Around 3:30 a.m., they agreed it was too late for him to go home.

Simone Miglietta

The next morning, they bicycled around Astoria and stopped for bagels. “I didn’t want to leave — I felt like something very important had happened,” Mr. Rosenthal said. “I had never had a date like that.”

They quickly became inseparable after that, and in November 2020, he moved into her apartment. In their spare time, they learned to cook together and explored the city. “We did everything together,” he said.

On Dec. 1, Ms. Tran suggested starting monthly relationship check-ins to discuss chores, finances, family and other matters. “It was a way to have an emotional space and feel safe,” she said. “We paired it with a fun thing — it was not all drudgery.”

In January 2021, they moved into a condo in Central Harlem, and a few months later, Ms. Tran stepped down from her post at The Tribune. Later that June, she started a new role in New York as the vice president for content strategy and growth at Condé Nast.

The couple began taking trips around the globe together, visiting Aruba, Mexico and Europe. In November 2022, they traveled across Vietnam, making stops at Ho Chi Minh City, Phu Quoc and Hue, where Ms. Tran’s father is buried. They also visited Mr. Rosenthal’s hometown.

On June 1, 2022, Mr. Rosenthal surprised her by bringing up a new topic for their monthly check-in: the future. That day they made the joint decision to become engaged.

On Sept. 1, Guohuan Zhang, an acting city clerk, married the couple at the Manhattan Marriage Bureau. David J. Rosenthal, the groom’s twin brother, served as a witness.

The next day, the couple left for Italy. On Sept. 9, Stacy-Marie Ishmael, Ms. Tran’s friend and former colleague at The Tribune, led them in their vows before 22 guests at Castello di Celsa, a medieval castle in Sovicille, outside Siena. On Saturday, they plan to celebrate with about 190 guests at Bogart House, an event space in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with Vietnamese dishes and pizza from Macoletta — a nod to their first date.

“New York really brought us together,” Ms. Tran said.

“And now,” Mr. Rosenthal added, “we can also explore the world together.”


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