Crystal Sanchez & Matt Zwicker
Oct. 9, 2020, in Lancaster County skies
After a long day of jumping out of airplanes at a July 2015 skydiving competition, Crystal and Matt found seats at the same table for the evening barbecue.
They had known each other’s names and had a slew of mutual friends, but that night was their first real conversation. When it ended, they exchanged numbers. Crystal liked what she heard about Matt from those friends in common. A couple of weeks later, he drove from his place in Huntington Beach, Calif., to hers in Pasadena for dinner.
“She asked me to pick out some wine, and on top of her wine rack was what I thought was one of the tacky replica Emmy Awards they sell at touristy places in L.A.,” Matt remembers. It was, in fact, a bona fide regional Emmy that Crystal won for her work as associate director of the 2010 Tournament of Roses Parade. She works in live television as well and was recently associate director of CBS’s Love Island.
The two ate, sipped wine, and smooched. From then on, Crystal and Matt — a parachute systems engineer — embraced adventure together.
“He is patient with me. He understands me. He’s kind. He’s cute. He’s very smart,” said Crystal, now 43. “I love his independence and his sense of adventure. Shortly after I met him, I just felt like he was the right one.”
“Crystal has this independence. She is motivated. She makes things happen,” said Matt, now 39. “We were both already complete before we met each other; we are together because we want to be.”
After six months of jumping out of airplanes, taking trips, and falling hard for each other, Matt was offered his dream job researching parachute systems for Airborne Systems in Pennsauken. Crystal cheered him on. “I travel and you travel [for work], anyway,” she said. “We can work this out.”
Matt moved to Philadelphia and Crystal splits her time between here and L.A. Their local place is near Penn’s Landing, but until this year, they were generally apart 50% of the time.
They got engaged in summer 2019 when Matt visited Crystal in Fiji, where Love Island was filming. Crystal loves a good helicopter tour, so he arranged one. They flew out to sea and then to a sandbar. The pilot banked, and she read words spelled out in rocks: Crystal, will you marry me?
They landed, and Matt knelt on the sand to repeat his question. Crystal said yes and the pilot handed them a bottle of champagne.
The couple planned to marry in Southern California in early 2021.
Then in February 2020, a job that was supposed to take Crystal to Spain was canceled. “After that, my gigs started falling like dominoes,” she said. In March, Matt was also assigned to work from home, where he stayed for nearly two months.
“We are people who feed off of change, off of adventure, from having all of this motion in our lives. And there we were, together all the time in a small space, isolated from everyone else because the world had fallen apart,” Matt said. “It was a great test of our relationship.”
Thankfully, his childhood in North Dakota and hers on Long Island had prepared them for this. Both grew up in families of five that shared a small house.
They crammed two work spaces into their 850-square-foot apartment. Matt figured out how to test parachutes in New Jersey instead of Arizona. Crystal bought an Oculus Quest so they could virtually kayak in Antarctica and take photos in Machu Picchu. They binged Game of Thrones. And they did a whole lot of talking.
One subject: When would life return to normal? Their conclusion that no one really had any idea prompted another question: Why were they waiting to get married?
Eight weeks later, the couple stood on a platform that Matt designed while a hot-air balloon rose 8,500 feet above Lancaster County. In its basket were Matt’s brother, Ryan, who officiated, Crystal’s brothers, Bobby and Ricky, Ryan’s wife, Ashley, and a friend, Cat.
Crystal tossed a bouquet of flowers and Ashley and Cat skydived out of the balloon after it.
Crystal promised Matt that she would be there for every adventure as well as in times of sorrow or struggle. Matt promised Crystal that her goals would always be as important to him as his own.