When Best Friends Become More

Kirin Gupta wasn’t yet in love with Irfan Mahmud when she entered his number into her cellphone under the label “Future Husband.”

She wasn’t really in love with him when she met his father, who was visiting, and declared her intentions. “I literally told him, I’m in love with your son and I’m going to marry him,” she said.

She wasn’t in love with him even when she arranged for him to be serenaded on Valentine’s Day 2014 with a rendition of the Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat pop duet, “Lucky,” the refrain of which begins, “Lucky I’m in love with my best friend.”

But when the two finally had their first date, and their first kiss, she fell quickly. “I think, honestly, it was finding out that we had physical chemistry,” she said. “After that first kiss, I was like, OK, this works on another level. That was it for me.”

The two met in 2012, during a community-service week before their first year at Harvard. They sat next to each other on the first day, and were soon fast friends. (Both are now back at Harvard, as law students, and she is also studying for a doctoral degree in history there, having completed a master’s degree in the same field. In September, he is to begin also studying for an M.B.A., at Stanford.)

That first year, they both worked for the Harvard Foundation on Intercultural and Race Relations, and they also did less prestigious work — scrubbing toilets as members of the bathroom-cleaning crew — together.

“I wanted to quit after a week, but then started working with Kirin and I thought, ‘Oh, this is fun,’” Mr. Mahmud said. “I could do anything with this girl and have a wonderful time.”

In their second year, they were part of a friend group sorted into the same house, and ended up as next-door neighbors. It was then that Ms. Gupta arranged for the serenade.

“She was my best friend but I didn’t think about it as being ‘in love,’” Mr. Mahmud said. Though, he said, he “started developing feelings.”

“Kirin, since the start of college, was always like, ‘I’m going to marry you one day,” he said. “She was always very affectionate, very ostentatious, and I thought, maybe she’s kind of serious about this.”

Their relationship smoldered for two years. In October 2014, the two went on an actual date.

When it happened, Ms. Gupta found herself not quite sure how to act, and so the two spent 40 minutes talking about … gerrymandering, a practice used to establish an unfair political advantage for a particular party or group.

“I remember thinking, How do I talk to Irfan?” Ms. Gupta said. “How do I talk with someone whom I had already shared all of my things with?”

After that kiss, though, she didn’t hesitate. “It was just, like, OK. That’s it. I’m in love,” she said.

The couple were married July 24 at the Ledges of St. George, a golf club in St. George, Utah, in a ceremony that contained Hindu and Muslim elements. Leon P. Hammond, who was designated by the Salt Lake County clerk to solemnize the marriage, led the ceremony, which the couple had postponed in 2020 because of the coronavirus. They had 400 guests at the event, which was held both indoors and outdoors. (Most of the guests were fully vaccinated, the couple said, though masks and sanitizing stations were available.)

For Mr. Mahmud, the transition from friendship to romance was easy. He said the two approached their new status intentionally, aware of the effect it might have on their mutual friend group, but while he could see potential pitfalls, he ultimately followed his own advice.

“I’m a big proponent of always dating your best friends,” he said. “Luckily, it worked out.”

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