"The same credit card. The same last name. All that little stuff. There’s a richness to that."
Will Castner (W ‘21) described himself as someone who would never settle down, that is, until the day he met Max Grove (W ‘20) in Penn’s Student Government (PSG) his first year of college. Meanwhile, Max proudly displayed a "serial monogamist" pillow on his bed, having been in relationships all his life. However differently the couple viewed love before they met, neither expected to be engaged during their time at Penn. They certainly didn't expect to be setting out on 12–hour kayaking trips or stocking shelves at a Walmart during a global pandemic together.
The book The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most Out of Them influenced the couples' decision to settle down so soon.
"There’s this whole chapter about the detriments of people not committing and all the benefits of committing to one person—people in their 20s generally don’t commit until they’re in their 30s and then when people are in their 30s they feel like it’s way too late," Will remarks. "I have the perfect person now, so why wouldn’t I do it? I was reading that chapter and I was like, it’s the time."
Far from the pre–professional norm now, Max jokes that the relationship began "in a very Penn manner." What started as sitting next to each other in PSG meetings led to spending their days putting one another through mock finance interviews. The two quickly became close friends, and then more than that.
"I wouldn’t say there was an exact moment where I knew that I was in love with Will. I would just say I knew from the beginning," Max reflects.
By the February of their junior and senior year, the now established couple were featured in “Street’s Sweet Nothings” sharing their quickly–evolving love story.
The following summer, the couple took their relationship long–distance as Will started an internship in San Francisco and Max started one in New York before going abroad to Barcelona, Spain for the fall semester. For eight months, the two set a time each day to talk, whether for hours of reflection or a five–minute check–in.
“We didn’t miss a single day,” Will boasts.
“Abroad is the best. Will totally got that and I knew too that Will was living a great life at Penn,” Max explains. “We were so excited for what each other was experiencing, and that was such a special indescribable emotion that really makes a relationship strong.”
Will describes visiting Max in Barcelona as “basically the best week of my life.” He recounts that as he boarded the plane to return home, he knew that he wanted to commit to Max for the rest of his life.
“The real richness in life comes from experiencing it with someone else and I definitely found that to be the case over these past two years,” Will says.
This past March, as campus shut down, the two lived in Max’s hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Their quarantine story was far from monotonous. “We would go on thirty mile bike rides everyday, we would go on hikes and see all these sites.” Will continues, “We went on the world’s craziest adventures in Central Pennsylvania.”
While there, Will called a jeweler in New York and ordered an engagement ring.
In mid-May, the two embarked on another great adventure together: a road trip to visit a friend in California. On a beach in Oxnard, Will proposed.
“He’s inspired me to always take advantage of literally everything that life offers you.” Max says. “I’ve learned that if you want something, go for it.”
Just a few days ago, the two moved into their new apartment in New York City, where Max is currently working in investment banking and where Will will be completing his senior year of college and begin working in July. “Will is my boyfriend and now my fiancé, but he’s my best friend,” Max says. “That’s what it’s all about. Spending life with your best friend.”
The couple is planning a wedding for Memorial Day 2021 in Lancaster. They will be married by Reverend Fritz Fowler of University Lutheran Church, who is also a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
“I think us getting married and having such a strong relationship is a showcase … two young gay kids who don’t necessarily know where life is going to take them. I’m just really excited that we can get married,” Will adds. “The progress the LGBT community has [made] in the past few years makes it even more exciting to have this commitment and to be able to do what the generation before us absolutely could not.”
Through long–distance, a pandemic, the pressure of Penn, and demanding career goals, Max and Will remain steadfast in their commitment to commit.
As Will always says (and Max sarcastically recounts), “Our relationship is like a stock market, there’s ups and downs but if you invest in it for the long term, the rewards are endless.”