Amal Clooney Was Befriending Some Giraffes When George Decided He Wanted to Marry Her

“I always hoped there could be love that was overwhelming.”

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Though Amal Clooney wasn’t certain she’d ever get married, she knew that if she did, it was non-negotiable that that person was the absolute love of her life. Luckily, when she was 35, she found that person in one George Clooney, who she married in Venice, Italy, in 2014, and with whom she welcomed twins Alexander and Ella last June. In Amal’s May 2018 Vogue cover story, the Clooneys describe how they met and fell in love—and how both of them realized they’d found a once-in-a-lifetime romance.

It all began when Amal joined a friend for dinner at George’s Lake Como, Italy, home one night a few years ago. “Of course she was beautiful,” George said. “But I also thought she was fascinating, and I thought she was brilliant. Her life was incredibly exciting—the clients she was taking on and the superhuman work that she was doing. I was taken with her from the moment I saw her.” As he’s previously recounted, they kept in touch over the following months via email, with George often writing in the voice of his late dog Einstein, who often found himself in need of legal advice from the human rights lawyer.

The notes from “Einstein” did the trick: Amal’s cousin Tarek Miknas told Vogue that when he met up with her a few months after she’d first met George, Amal was completely smitten. “‘I don’t know what to make of it,'” Miknas remembered Amal saying. “‘The worst part is, I really like him. And he’s coming tomorrow!'” Miknas continued, “I said, ‘What are you going to do? It’s not like you can meet in Starbucks and have a chat. It’s not going to be that easy.’ She’s like, ‘I know.'”

In fact, it actually was that easy. “It felt like the most natural thing in the world,” Amal, 40, said of falling in love with George, 56. “Before that experience, I always hoped there could be love that was overwhelming and didn’t require any weighing or decision-making.” She added, “It’s the one thing in life that I think is the biggest determinant of happiness, and it’s the thing you have the least control over. Are you going to meet this person? I was 35 when I met him. It wasn’t obvious that it was going to happen for me. And I wasn’t willing or excited about the idea of getting married or having a family in the absence of that.”

George shared that he, too, had concluded that he wasn’t going to get married to anyone who wasn’t the hands-down perfect person for him. “If you know anything about my crazy life, you know that I’d pretty much committed to the idea of never marrying again,” the Oscar winner, who was married to actress Talia Balsam from 1989 to 1993, said. “But I started dating Amal, and I immediately knew that something was very different.” While they were on a safari in Africa with a few friends, George came to a realization. “Some giraffes walked up to her. They just came out of the blue,” he said. “I took a picture of her, and she was smiling. I said to my buddy Ben, ‘You know, I think I should ask her to marry me.’ And Ben said, ‘I think that’s a good idea.'”

Amal, apparently, liked that idea as well, and the rest is history. And while she’s had to give up some semblances of a “normal” life as one half of one of the most successful (and photogenic) couples in the world, Amal told Vogue that it’s all been worth it. “We definitely do more things in our home to ensure privacy in a context where we can’t otherwise get it,” she said. “But that whole side—invasions of privacy and paparazzi, all of that—has happened because of something so happy and so important in my life.”