Two alumni marry in the place they met: The Duane G. Meyer Library
Both were studying at Duane G. Meyer Library when nature called for Hongduo Li, an international student from the city of Luoyang in China’s Henan province.
The bathroom closest to her was closed, so she trekked across the library in search of the next nearest loo.
On her way, she saw Ryan Knuckles, who had weeks earlier impressed her with his fluency in Mandarin Chinese.
“He came to a table I was sitting at with a group of my friends. We were surprised that an American spoke such fluent Chinese,” Hongduo said. When she saw him for that second time, she properly introduced herself and “the rest is history,” she said.
She would learn that Ryan lived in China for seven years before pursuing a business degree at Missouri State.
He would learn of Hongduo’s struggles in the classroom to keep up with conversational English.
They leaned on each other as they worked to finish their respective degrees, a master’s in business administration for her and a bachelor’s in international business administration for him.
And when it came time to propose — at a Chinese New Year celebration in her hometown surrounded by her family and fireworks — they decided to memorialize their “meet cute” forever with a summer library wedding.
Missouri State’s event and meeting services helped finalize the couple’s arrangements and the date was set: June 6, 2015.
Debbie Letterman, assistant director of event and meeting services, said the University has hosted a few campus weddings, but not as many as she’d like.
“A lot of people don’t think of having a wedding on our campus because we don’t have a regular chapel,” she said. “It takes people that have a vision, like Hongduo and Ryan.”
The Knuckles-Lis were actually legally married in a small service in June 2014, but they wanted a ceremony on campus and a gathering of friends and family in Springfield.
And although Chinese women and American men don’t usually take their spouse’s last name, they bucked tradition and combined their names: “So when we have a son, we’ll name him Bruce … Bruce Knuckles-Li,” Ryan joked.
In 2013, after both had graduated, the couple moved to St. Louis, where she is a marketing specialist at Quaker Windows and Doors, and he is a stockbroker at Scottrade. Despite the distance from Springfield, they were resolved to marry at their alma mater.
“Nobody had married on the library steps before, so I didn’t expect I could get so much support (from MSU),” Hongduo said. The day was nearly perfect, she said, thanks in part to Letterman, who acted as wedding planner throughout the couple’s time on campus.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better coordinator. Debbie did such a great job. And we feel very blessed to have had so much support from the University.”
With the carillon towering above them and soft roar of the fountains behind them, Hongduo said the moment she walked toward Ryan was touching.
“The bells rang 11 times, and then we began the ceremony,” Hongduo said. “The feeling was so sacred because that’s the first place we met.”
Later that evening, the wedding party moved to a Springfield hotel where the couple joined their families in a reception celebrating Hongduo’s Chinese heritage.
Hongduo and Ryan wore traditional Chinese wedding attire: a red qipao dress her mother bought for her in China, and red and gold changshan for him. As is custom, Ryan led the veiled Hongduo into the ceremony where they served tea to their parents. Ryan’s family even learned a little Chinese to participate fully in the ceremony.
“That’s actually very meaningful to me and to my parents because that’s where we come from. That’s our culture,” Hongduo said.
The couple said they look forward to more years supporting Missouri State.
“We are both proud to be Bears, and we’d like to express our thanks to MSU … and the out-of-service restroom!”
Want to plan a Missouri State wedding?
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