Shreyas Bendre & Colleen McGroarty
April 23, 2022, in Springfield, Delaware County
Photos of fun times with friends and travel abroad, an obvious love of college sports, and a beautiful smile drew Shreyas to Colleen, but there was something in her Coffee Meets Bagel dating profile he felt he had to challenge.
“That’s quite a claim that you make the world’s best chocolate chip cookies,” he wrote in his first message. “I’d like to try some.”
Colleen, who grew up in Glen Mills, stood by her bakes. She loved the witty banter that flew between them via the app. Then Shreyas, a native of Reston, Va., sent his number, and their phone calls were just as much fun. Both lived in Hell’s Kitchen in New York City. Within a week, he suggested they meet at a rooftop bar near Penn Station.
“We are both into college football, and we had both gone to the big state school in our home state [she to Penn State and he to Virginia Tech], so it was an easy first date,” Colleen said of that July 2017 evening. “It never felt awkward,” Shreyas agreed.
By October, they were exclusive. It was also about then that Shreyas walked into Colleen’s apartment and encountered the unmistakable scent of freshly baked cookies.
Colleen, now 30, works in corporate communications. Shreyas, 31, is a business analyst and a JPMorgan Chase vice president. They decided to delay telling their families about each other until they knew their relationship was The Relationship. Shreyas told his parents in December and nudged Colleen to tell hers. “They were like, ‘I can’t believe you have been dating someone for six months and we didn’t know!’ ” she remembered.
Colleen introduced him to her parents in March and he met the rest of her clan over a July Fourth weekend in Avalon.
That led to another of the couple’s important talks. “We are both very logical people, and we decided we should live together first,” said Colleen. “If it went well, we would get engaged,” said Shreyas.
In June 2019, they found a Jersey City apartment and began learning to compromise. Shreyas no longer stacks dirty dishes in the sink until there’s enough to fully load the dishwasher. Colleen now goes to bed before tonight becomes tomorrow morning. Their relationship grew stronger.
“What’s there not to love about Colleen?” Shreyas said. “One of the things I love is that she’s very independent. I come from a big extended family, as does Colleen, and I admire somebody who is able to hold her own ground, carry a conversation, roll with the punches.”
“I love Shreyas because he is a very caring and genuinely nice and good person,” said Colleen. “He is easy to be around, he laughs a lot, and he loves and accepts me for who I am.”
Shreyas and Colleen planned to join friends for drinks on Oct. 15, 2020 — a celebration of their third anniversary as a couple, he told her. Shreyas was getting nervous — his friend was running late. The photographer he had hired was not — he was running toward them. Thinking fast, Shreyas suggested a stroll along the boardwalk. The falling drizzle made Colleen less than keen on that idea. Shreyas knew this was no time for subtlety.
“Do you see that photographer over there? I hired him to take a picture for our anniversary,” he said.
Colleen started to ask, “You got a photog…” and then realized what was happening. For this, she would walk in drizzle. They didn’t walk long before Shreyas knelt. Back at their apartment was a second surprise: Both of their families had driven up to join them. Friends were there, too.
Ceremonies and celebrations
Colleen and Shreyas held a weekend full of events to honor her Catholic and his Hindu traditions and mix their families and friends together. They started planning on their own, but drowning in logistics led them to bring in event planner Randi Martin of Trilogy Event Design. “We chose her because she is an expert in multicultural weddings, and she was definitely a calming presence,” said Colleen.
Friday morning, Colleen’s father hosted the traditional McGroarty prewedding golf outing for the groom and about 40 other guys at the Springfield Country Club. “I picked up golf, and am now an avid golf fan who plays golf, because of her family,” Shreyas said.
A Sangeet was held on Friday night. “Think of it as an extravagant cocktail hour with food and drink and dance performances,” Shreyas said.
Because so many people had either not met previously, or had been separated by distance or COVID-19, the couple allowed plenty of unstructured time for mingling and hugs. “My mom is one of four sisters,” Shreyas said. “She’s in Virginia, and one sister is in India, one in London, and one in California. It was the first time in many years that their entire family was under one single roof — some of the cousins had not ever met.”
Colleen’s extended family surprised the couple with a choreographed Bollywood dance led by Shreyas’ sister Sanica and family friend Chirag, who sent everyone video lessons. “This dance will likely be performed at future weddings in my family,” said Colleen.
The menu featured Indian street food, but also biryani, the groom’s favorite dish.
Then at 9 a.m. Saturday, Shreyas made his entrance at the Hindu ceremony, riding up to the country club in the back of a convertible as family and friends paraded alongside him. The traditional ceremony was led by family friend Vivek Gore.
Afterward, the couple traded their wedding sari and kurta for a gown and tux and they and their 250 guests reconvened at St. Thomas the Apostle in Glen Mills, the church Colleen attended growing up, for a traditional Catholic ceremony led by the Rev. Stephen Shott.
“We have been married in front of all of the gods,” Colleen jokes.
Then at 5 p.m., everyone was back at the country club for cocktail hour and a reception featuring an American food buffet, a bevy of Italian desserts, and still more music and dancing — including an encore Bollywood performance.
The couple plans a minimoon in Portsmouth, N.H., this summer, to be followed in the fall by a Caribbean honeymoon focused on R & R. They look forward to house hunting, no longer having a wedding to plan, and watching Survivor on Wednesday nights.
After years of mixing and matching ingredients and techniques, Colleen landed on her go-to cookies: “It’s just the Toll House recipe on the back of the package, but made with Trader Joe’s chocolate pieces,” she said. “I refrigerate the dough before baking.”
“They are definitely the world’s best,” Shreyas said.