The Sweet Life in D.C.

(Kir Tuben)

Haley Raphael and
Jesse Mates

First Date:
March 2014

Wedding Date:
June 2019

The Andrew W. Mellon
Auditorium in Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C.

Favorite Activity:
Trying new restaurants, traveling, spending time with friends and family, attending Terps games and sporting events


For Haley Raphael’s birthday, her boyfriend of four years, Jesse Mates, planned a New York City extravaganza: tickets to the Broadway show “Hamilton” followed by dinner at her favorite sushi restaurant, Catch NYC. Those efforts would have made for “an amazing birthday adventure,” Haley said. But Jesse had bigger plans for this Feb. 24th.

After dinner, Jesse brought Haley up to the rooftop of the restaurant “for dessert,” Jesse told her. Sure enough, a table was laid out for the two of them.

“The restaurant had a signature dessert,” Haley said. “And in the dessert was Jesse’s marriage proposal: ‘Haley, will you marry me?’ written in chocolate.”

But that, Jesse said, was only the first half of the surprise. Jesse had contacted “30 or 40” of their friends and family, asking them to meet the couple for a post-dinner engagement celebration at Buddakan, a restaurant and club in Chelsea Market.

Haley, thrilled over her engagement, tried to text, call and FaceTime her parents and twin sister, Aly, who were all waiting to surprise Haley at Buddakan.

“I couldn’t figure out why they were ignoring me,” Haley said. “I’m texting: ‘We’re engaged!’ and nothing, no response.” Haley said she was stunned when her father finally sent a text back that said, “We’re watching a movie, we’ll call you later!”

Of course, Haley’s parents (Rachel and Michael Raphael, featured in a previous “Beshert” column) were doing no such thing.

Haley said she was surprised Jesse was able to keep the proposal plan a secret. “He usually can’t buy me a Chanukah gift without breaking down and giving it to me a month early,” Haley laughed.

Jesse said the plan took four to six weeks to put together, between flying to Miami to get the ring to booking the rooftop photographer who captured the proposal on film.

With Jesse’s obvious propensity for planning and Haley’s work in catering and event design, it’s no surprise they’ve already nailed down key features of their wedding, which is more than a year from now.

The pair will wed in June 2019 at the historic Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium on Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C. Haley said she knew she wanted the venue based on previous events she’s planned there. “I’m obsessed” with the venue, she said. Jesse added that it’s large enough for the wedding they want, predicting they’ll invite around 250 guests.

“We’ve got the venue, date, photographer and band booked,” Haley said. And when Haley and Jesse visit Haley’s hometown, Baltimore, for a wedding, “I’m going to look at wedding dresses for the first time with my mom and sister.”

Haley, an Owings Mills native, and Jesse, who grew up in Potomac, met at University of Maryland, College Park, when Haley was a senior. Jesse had already graduated and was getting his master’s degree at Georgetown University. He is the son of Paula and Alex Mates, whose family owned and operated Katz’s Kosher Supermarket in Rockville for more than 60 years. “We never met” when they both attended University of Maryland, said Haley. “But we had a million mutual friends.”

In March 2014, Jesse asked Haley out. “I was on spring break,” Haley remembered. “But I was still in College Park [because] I had an internship with Sweetgreen, planning the Sweetlife Festival. So I agreed to go out with him.”

“I think right away I knew there was a connection there,” Haley said. Jesse concurred: “When I met Haley, it was ‘game over.’”

After graduation, Jesse embarked on a career in commercial real estate and Haley pursued catering and event planning. She and Jesse even started a cake pop company together, Pops by Haley, which, Haley said, she unfortunately doesn’t have time to continue.

The couple has learned to compromise over their separate interests. “Jesse doesn’t eat raw fish, but I love sushi. He’ll still go out for sushi with me. He’ll order cucumber and avocado rolls,” Haley said. Meanwhile, Haley doesn’t share Jesse’s passion for Terps basketball, but Jesse can convince Haley to go with him to at least one game per season, “out of pity,” he joked. The two both enjoy Washington Nationals games: Jesse loves — and in college played — baseball, while Haley enjoys “eating and drinking outside in nice weather.”

“She’s the girl version of a mensch,” Jesse said. Haley loves Jesse’s drive, and sense of humor, plus “I found a nice Jewish boy from a nice Jewish family.”

The signs are there: With a cake-pop startup after graduation, and a proposal written in chocolate, Haley and Jesse have embarked on the next chapter in a sweet life together.

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