She was only a pew away. Two summers ago, attorney Kedric Payne noticed a beautiful woman slip into the seat in front of him at church. It wasn’t his first time seeing her—CNN’s Aviation and Government Regulation Correspondent Rene Marsh—and even within such close proximity, Payne couldn’t introduce himself; Marsh only greeted the churchgoers seated in front of her.
That same week, Payne spotted Marsh again—this time at a party inside the Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C. The attorney, who works for the Department of Energy, saw a golden window to finally introduce himself, and dashingly asked the journalist if she would like to dance. Her response, though, was unexpected.
“I asked him, ‘If I dance with you, how would you dance to this song?’” Marsh recalls to The Knot in an exclusive interview. “Without missing a beat, he busted a move.” She complied, and the couple went on to date for two years.
“To this day, he jokes that I’m the first and only woman to make him audition before agreeing to dance with him,” Marsh laughs. “He actually didn’t tell me how he spotted me sitting in front of him in church until three months into our relationship. He didn’t want me to think he was stalking me, because I’d see him again just a few days later—at that party at Howard Theatre.”
In November, Payne proposed in that special place. “First, I had to find a saxophone,” Payne tells The Knot. “It took a week or so of me calling and visiting music stores to find [one].” The legal counsel eventually found one, and then tackled the next hurdle—sourcing sheet music of Johnny Gill’s “My, My, My,” which Marsh had previously mentioned in passing.
“I searched and couldn’t find [it] for this song anywhere,” he says. Stumped, he had one of his best friend’s write out the notes instead. Finally, practice.
For someone who hadn’t played the instrument in more than 20 years, Payne spent the next few weeks getting well-acquainted with the saxophone once again. When he wasn’t fine-tuning notes, he was crafting his master plan. “It took me a few weeks to think of the right moment and place to propose,” he says. “I had the ring with me one night while Rene and I were touring the monuments… I thought about proposing once or twice that evening, but decided that it was going to take more thought to make it special.”
Somehow, the idea came to him during a midday work meeting: Why not return to the Howard Theatre to ask her to be his wife? “Rene always said she wanted to hear me play the saxophone,” he says. “I knew then that I would play for her on stage.”
Payne arranged a date night for the Tuesday morning before Thanksgiving 2016, and told the CNN correspondent that he would swing by her office after work in a cab. Instead, a man was waiting outside and escorted her to a car. Payne, holding a blindfold, was in the back seat.
“Being the journalist I am, I asked a million questions,” she says. “‘Why? Where are we going? Why do I need a blindfold? What’s this all about? What’s the occasion?’ He didn’t answer a [single] question.”
Inside the theatre, Payne orchestrated an elaborate step-by-step proposal equipped with champagne. When he finally removed her blindfold, the CNN personality found herself in the middle of the space surrounded by lush pink and white rose petals and romantic candles. Her boyfriend, meanwhile, was holding a saxophone—and he played the instrument in the very same room where they had first met.
He got down on one knee and proposed—and of course, she said yes.
The sentimental evening continued with dinner at D.C. hot spot Fiola Mare, where the couple shared their first date. Payne had prepared an envelope that included print-outs of their first email exchange. The night didn’t end there. The car took the couple to their final stop: Their church in Alexandria, Virginia, where Payne first noticed his future wife. Inside the sanctuary, the couple prayed for their future.
“What I love most about Kedric is his positivity,” Marsh concludes to The Knot. “He sees the silver lining in everything and has taught me two life lessons: First, he pays attention to life’s small miracles… Second, he’s taught me to slow down and enjoy the journey.”
Payne, from his perspective, adds, “Although Rene’s striking beauty is what I first noticed, what I’ve come to love most are her exceptional values.” He elaborates of his fiancee: “Her family values, her work ethic, and her morals [come first].”
The two are still looking for their wedding venue, and are just getting to their guest list. “We’re both excited!” Marsh says. “We’re still stumped on where to have the wedding, although, we have a couple places in mind.”