Most people avoid eye contact on public transportation, but Marylee Williams and Armin Samii found love on a San Francisco train and returned for their themed nuptials
It wasn’t exactly love at first sight when Armin Samii wheeled his distinctive rainbow bike onto the San Francisco BART train car and was greeted by fellow passenger Marylee Williams loudly calling out to him, “Hey, Dude in the pink shirt!”
“A lot of people yell random things on BART and you kind of ignore it,” Samii tells PEOPLE. “I realized after a while she was talking about my maroon shirt. So I engaged.”
From their quirky first encounter, to discovering a shared passion for trains, the couple acknowledges it was the Bay Area Rapid Transit that was the catalyst for their relationship.
So what better way to celebrate than a wedding and reception revolving around BART and the Bay? The couple, who now call Pittsburgh home, decided to come back to celebrate the spot where their love first bloomed. They were married on May 27, seven years and one day since that chance meeting on the train.
“We actually got engaged on the train in Pittsburgh. It's called the T. That's where I proposed,” Samii says of his January 2022 proposal. “And so the train theme was kind of sprinkled throughout our relationship.”
It didn't start off being a BART-themed wedding. The couple wanted people to take public transportation to get to the wedding and searched for a venue where people didn’t need to drive from their homes or hotels.
“It felt fun and light hearted and colorful, which matches us,” Samii says. “Then we found out it has a train that runs in and we could use it for our grand entrance after the ceremony.”
Thus the train theme was set in motion.
It was Williams who came up with the idea of asking BART for 200 old tickets to use as escort cards to their tables. BART came through. And why stop at just labeling the cards with the guests’ names? They decided to give the tables names corresponding with BART stops: Guests coming from Pittsburgh would be at the Pittsburg/Bay Point stop, while San Francisco friends would be seated at various stops on that line.
“We had a lot of fun placing guests at the tables,” Samii says. “So we had the entrance on the Fairyland train, the escort cards, the tables and then went all out with the seating chart as a BART map and all the design elements based around it.”
The welcome sign was even a BART-inspired sandwich board.
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“Our officiant talked a lot about how we met, she told the whole story,” Williams says.
It was a Thursday night in 2016 and Williams was returning home after attending an Icelandic Film Festival in San Francisco. Samii had just spent the night playing poker with tech friends from a start-up company. Both were heading back to Berkeley.
“I was leaving the Mission, I just ran. It was one of those times when you run on the train and you barely make it before the doors shut behind you,” Williams says. “And then Armin moseyed on three stops later.”
She quickly noticed him and his bike covered in rainbow duct tape, which looked like the typical “burner bike” used at Burning Man. So she called out to him (“His shirt was pink,” she insists) and asked if he went to Burning Man. Samii countered with his standard line, “I haven't been yet, but maybe this year.”
“It was just a nice way to say, 'I'm exiting the conversation,'” Samii says. “But Marylee is nothing if not persistent.”
At the next stop, a person with a tiny dog boarded the train. Williams started petting the dog face to face on the ground.
“I was amazed,” Samii says. “I’ve never seen anyone who likes dogs enough to get on all fours on the floors of BART. That’s a level of bravery most people don’t have.”
Williams says she didn’t have a fear of the floor, and besides, she was wearing jeans and “didn’t even think about it, honestly.”
“I was actively thinking about it, about how gross your jeans were going to get,” Samii says. “But I was enamored. And I noticed she was wearing a cat shirt, so my interest was piqued.”
Both learned they were fans of a local podcast. Samii learned Williams worked in public radio and had done podcasts.
“From my perspective, she was an artist, my movie star,” Samii says.
Williams adds, “That was my move in the Bay Area, because most people work in tech and when they find out you are a journalist, they get really interested.”
They also discovered both were into challenge coin through a podcast called 99% Invisible. Samii says if you ask another 99% fan to show their coin and they don’t have it on them, they owe you a beer. And Williams didn’t have her coin on her.
“I coin-checked her and told her she owed me a beer,” Samii says.
Then Samii's stop came and he started getting off the train. Williams called out, “How am I supposed to buy you beer? You don’t even know my name. I told him my name and the door shut. I was like, 'Well, whoop, I’m never going to see that guy again.'”
She should not have ruled out the power of a techie. When Samii arrived home, he told his 10 roommates about the encounter. They held a council, set up a project in the common space, found her Facebook page and messaged her.
When she arrived home, the message was waiting in her inbox.
“I was impressed,” Williams says.
But there was a hitch. Samii was leaving for Sweden in three days to take part in Jugger games. So they packed a lot of dates and time into those three days before he left.
“[Jugger] is a super silly game, but people take it really seriously,” Samii says. “One of those games we won, and I was like, 'I want to share this good news with someone, and who's the person I want to speak with the most about it?'”
The duo talked about it and got together once Samii returned.
Williams completed journalism grad school at UC Berkeley and got a job in Wisconsin in 2017. The two had a long-distance relationship until finally deciding to move in together in 2019. After isolating together through COVID, Samii creating start-up Dash Cam for your Bike and the duo buying a home in Pittsburgh, they decided it was the right time to get married.
She tells PEOPLE that she had never been in a relationship that had lasted as long, and it always felt very natural and right.
“It was a collection of comforts and stability that kind of led me to be very excited to be married to this person,” Williams says. “It kind of felt like it wasn't that I made a decision to get married — it was just there's nothing better that I could ever imagine.”
As for their honeymoon, they're still in the planning stages. But they have decided to do a cross-country Amtrak trip.
“We're planning to buy a 30-day rail pass and then just take it across the country around to the west coast, visit with some people on the way and see some cities that we've never seen,” Williams says. “We just love traveling by train.”
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