Josh Muckenhirn first saw Katie Fletcher at a bar in the winter of 2015.
He was a friend’s guest at an aviation department Christmas party at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. Katie came to the same party with one of her friends, and when Josh spotted her after at Playmaker’s bar, his friend noticed his interest and nudged him to start a conversation.
Talking to Katie was easy. They shared an affinity for travel, food, Star Wars and dark beer.
At the end of the night, he awkwardly asked for her number. She gave it to him.
Neither of them left the bar knowing they’d met their future spouse, but both left knowing they’d found a friend.
“I was immediately thinking, ‘How and when can I meet her again?’” Josh said.
Josh and Katie’s path to marriage wasn’t a straight line. It would take another two years after that first meeting before their lives really came into alignment.
When they met, Katie was seeing someone else, but that didn’t stop Josh from finding excuses to see her anyway, as friends.
He invited her to events with the local young professionals group. He got an “extra” ticket to a TedX event in Grand Forks, and just couldn’t seem to find anyone but Katie to accompany him.
Then, he got a job in Sioux Falls.
He had to find one more excuse to see Katie, to let her know he was moving away. He invited her to a casual lunch, saying he had an expiring two-for-one lunch coupon, and as they ate, he broke the news.
She was happy for this new opportunity for him, but selfishly, deep down, she wished he would stay. She loved spending time with Josh.
“I just had this pit in my stomach,” Katie said.
Josh left that lunch with a different feeling.
“It wasn’t like a pain,” he said. “Something in me was like, this is not the last time we’re going to see each other. I was calm. Something was like, the story’s not over.”
The two lost touch for several months.
In early 2017, newly single, Katie got a job offer with a company based in Sioux Falls. It felt like fate.
“The whole time, he was just the guy I should’ve been with,” Katie said. “And I think I didn’t realize that until he left Grand Forks.”
She texted Josh. He was walking across the street, but as soon as her name popped up on his phone, he stopped dead in his tracks. She had asked him about Sioux Falls — was it a good place to live?
Josh turned on the sales charm. He sent her paragraphs of recommendations, where to eat, get coffee, hang out, but she already knew Sioux Falls’ biggest selling point.
“It kind of reignited the feelings I had for him,” Katie said.
In Sioux Falls, the two didn’t jump right into a relationship. They started by renewing their friendship. Josh would invite Katie to Young Professionals Network events, and he showed her the local hotspots like C.H. Patisserie, Plum’s and Fernson.
About a month after she moved to town, Josh invited her and a few others over to celebrate “Pi Day” — the March holiday in which the date matches the first three digits of pi. It was a small gathering, Josh, Katie and a couple other friends, but by the end of the night, it was just Josh and Katie, what Josh had actually been hoping for all along.
Josh knew it was his opportunity to clear the air. He had been burned in Grand Forks when he found out Katie had a boyfriend, and he didn’t want to play the same game twice. He had to be honest about his feelings.
“We’re either going to try this, or we’re not,” he said. “We decided, let’s give it a shot.”
Then, in a move that surprised even Josh, he kissed her.
Their love continued to grow. They started going on real dates, not just professional outings, and Katie became the first girl Josh brought home to meet his family.
“It was the easiest relationship I’ve ever had,” Katie said. “We became best friends before we fell in love.”
The couple moved in together in February 2019, and soon after, Josh started planning the proposal.
He popped the question on July 20, 2019 at Katie’s family’s farm in her hometown of Courtenay, North Dakota. He left a letter on her bed describing why he loves her and where he sees their relationship going. Then, it directed Katie to go to the back patio, where he was waiting with a ring.
She said yes.
“He couldn’t have done it any more perfect,” she said.
Their wedding is set for Oct. 24, 2020 in Sioux Falls.
Looking ahead to the future, both Katie and Josh said they’re most excited about all of the experiences they’ll get to have together as a married couple from travel to trying new foods to starting a family.
“I want to share everything,” Josh said.
They love doing things together like cooking, going to the gym or trying a new cocktail, but their life together is built on a foundation of mutual respect, shared values and, ultimately, friendship.
“I don’t feel like I ever need to worry,” she said. “I know I can always lean on him.”