Alex and Molly Severn held hands near the front of an Iowa church a few years ago, excited for the pastor to pronounce them husband and wife. But for a moment, Molly thought the pastor was going to ruin her wedding.
“Here, yet again, we have another couple who met through that popular dating site,” the pastor said.
Alex and Molly had started dating while they worked at Sen. Charles E. Grassley’s D.C. office in 2016. They did not use a dating website, so Molly was terrified their officiant was about to share false information.
But after pausing for a second, the pastor clarified what kind of site he was referring to: “Sen. Grassley’s office.”
Since Grassley, an Iowa Republican, was elected to the Senate in 1980, his D.C. and Iowa offices have become matchmaking hot spots. After his chief of staff married a former legislative correspondent on Saturday in Iowa, Grassley said 20 couples who began dating in his office have since married.
Grassley, 90, who himself has been married for 69 years, told The Washington Post that he often doesn’t know his employees are dating until they announce their weddings. He can’t pinpoint a reason his office produces so many couples, but he said many of his employees are from Iowa and share similar values and religious beliefs.
Plus, his employees spend the bulk of their days working, so they have ample time to be around each other.
“When you get married, you’re considered part of the Team Grassley,” he said. “ … You never leave the team.”
Grassley said the first married couple from his office met during his 1980 Senate campaign. Since then, he said more have married every few years. A spokesman for Grassley said the senator has turned down some invitations because of scheduling conflicts, but he has attended about five of his employees’ weddings.
Grassley, who’s the longest serving Republican senator in U.S. history, proudly said that only one couple from his office has divorced.
Grassley’s office isn’t the only one that has produced double-digit marriages. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) told Roll Call in 2016 that 13 couples from his office have married.
“They work so hard they don’t have a chance to meet anybody,” Schumer told the news outlet.
Kathy Nuebel Kovarik and Kurt Kovarik told The Post that they met in Grassley’s D.C. office in the summer of 1998. Kathy, from Le Mars, Iowa, had just joined as an intern, and Kurt, from Decorah, Iowa, was a mail coordinator. They bantered over whether west or east Iowa was the better place to live and blossomed into close friends.
In May 1999, Kurt won two tickets to watch David Letterman live in New York. The only people he knew in D.C. were the roughly 20 people he worked with, so he invited Kathy, partly because she owned a car. But the weekend trip turned into a first date. They saw Letterman interview singer Harry Connick Jr. and watched “Rent” on Broadway.
At that point, Kathy and Kurt were both legislative correspondents, with adjacent cubicles. They didn’t know the office’s dating policy, so they tried to hide that they were together.
But in May 2000, Kathy and Kurt were flying to attend one of Kurt’s friend’s weddings in Iowa. They ran into Grassley at Reagan National Airport, and he was confused why Kathy and Kurt were together, Kurt said.
Grassley figured out they were dating, Kurt said, and called his press secretary to share the news.
“He was just absolutely tickled that he was the first one to discover it,” Kurt said.
Kathy and Kurt continued sitting next to each other when they were promoted to legislative assistants in 2001. The next year, Grassley’s wife, Barbara, approached Kathy’s desk. With Kurt sitting in the adjacent cubicle, Barbara joked with Kathy that she needed to get engaged or leave him, Kurt said. When Kurt proposed later that year, Barbara took credit, Kathy said.
The newlyweds took only one day off work the week after their October 2003 wedding in Le Mars, Iowa. They enjoyed working together, but they also grew envious when one had an opportunity to speak with Grassley and the other didn’t.
Kathy, now 47, and Kurt, 48, have had three children — 14-year-old and 12-year-old daughters and an 8-year-old son. Their co-workers often heard their discussions about what to have for dinner and who would pick up the kids from school.
But that wasn’t unusual — they said there were two other couples in the office. Plus, they said Grassley left tips for long-lasting marriages on their legislative memos.
Kathy and Kurt left the office in 2017 and 2018, respectively, for new jobs. By then, even more couples had emerged.
Alex Severn, from Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Molly Severn, from Huxley, Iowa, started dating in 2016 while they were staff assistants in Grassley’s D.C. office. They grew close during their free time cheering at Iowa State football watch parties, playing on the office’s softball team and grabbing post-work drinks at Hamilton’s Bar & Grill and Capitol Lounge. Their first date was at Cups and Company in the Russell Senate Office Building’s basement.
Alex and Molly didn’t want their colleagues to know they were dating, but they found excuses to see each other. Alex worked at the front desk, and Molly often said she needed to pick up Senate floor passes just to see him. They’re not sure when, but they think Grassley discovered their relationship soon after it began.
Alex and Molly left the office in 2017 and 2018, respectively, but that didn’t hinder friendships with their colleagues. They invited almost all of their co-workers to their wedding in a Huxley church in October 2020, when the pastor joked about Grassley’s office being a dating site.
Molly said she and Alex attended another wedding for former colleagues in May 2022. Two more former co-workers, chief of staff Jennifer Heins and former legislative correspondent Nick Davis, began dating after Alex and Molly accepted new jobs in Iowa. Alex, who’s now 30, and Molly, 31, attended their wedding Saturday in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where three married couples from Grassley’s office gathered. While Grassley missed the Kovarik and Severn weddings, he attended the latest ceremony.
If the office is similar to what she experienced a few years ago, Molly said wedding No. 21 might not be far off.
“There’s still an opportunity for young Iowans, or non-Iowans, to be in that office and to also find that sense of community,” Molly said, “and maybe find their future spouse.”