Love: AMBER KEALEY & W. KIRBY MALLON III

April 16, 2011, in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico

Posted: June 15, 2011

Hello there

As a child, Ohio native Kirby and his family moved wherever the Mrs. Paul's seafood company needed his father. But by his 30s, Kirby thought he was firmly rooted: He, his wife, and two daughters, Morgen and Devon, lived in a big house in Yardley, Bucks County. He commuted to Philadelphia for work at his family's business, the commercial food equipment supply and service company Elmer Schultz Services Inc., where he has worked for 25 years and is now owner.

But after 15 years, his marriage came to a "surprising halt," Kirby said. He didn't want it to end, but in late 2006, he filed for divorce and threw himself even more fully into his job.

The following spring, Kirby decided it was time to try dating again. "I quickly discovered I didn't have the faintest idea how to talk to a woman, let alone pick one up," he said.

On a warm March day after work, Kirby walked to North Third Bar and Grill and ordered a beer.

He was sitting by himself at the bar, his eyes going back and forth between his beer and the messages on his phone, when in walked a beautiful woman with two men. One guy was about to sit next to Kirby, when a switch was made. "The beautiful woman was next to me," Kirby recalled.

That was Amber, an Ohio native and public relations consultant who orchestrated the seat switch because she found Kirby beautiful, too.

Her friendly, outgoing nature put Kirby at ease, but he stumbled as he told her he was going through a divorce.

"Well, I'm divorced!" Amber said. Her two-year marriage had ended in 2003. "Listen, divorce is one of the hardest things I've been through," she told him. "But thank God I got out of that marriage. I wasn't happy. And I absolutely love my life in Philly with my friends."

Her words gave Kirby hope. "I looked at this woman . . . and I thought, 'Here's living proof that there is life after divorce.' "

Amber invited Kirby to join her and her friends for dinner. That's when he panicked, and said he had to go.

But by the time he reached his office, Kirby changed his mind. He knew he wasn't ready to start a relationship, but here was Amber.

He changed out of his work clothes into jeans and a T-shirt that were in his car, and walked back to the restaurant.

How does forever sound?

Within a few months, Amber, who is now 36, and Kirby, now 45, decided to live together. He was already in love with her. City-girl Amber set out to make him fall hard for Philadelphia, too. And she knew just how to do it: Saturday errands at the Italian Market.

Kirby's job had taken him to restaurants in the area before. But he was always just passing through. Now, he was sampling and selecting cheese at DiBruno Bros. and having brunch at Sabrina's. "We walked into Fante's Kitchen Shop to get him a fishing knife, and his head exploded," Amber said.

Then came the parade of restaurants - which continues. Kirby and Amber have become friends with some of Kirby's restaurateur clients.

Kirby moved into Amber's brownstone apartment in the Art Museum neighborhood. They now own a home a few blocks away.

In fall 2009, Kirby asked a jeweler to help him find the right diamond, then build a ring around it. On Christmas Day, he took Amber to 10 Arts at the Ritz. Hidden in his pockets were the ring and a camera, which he slipped to a waiter.

"We ordered cocktails. I got on my knee, and without hesitation, told her how much I loved her, and that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her," Kirby said. Her yes brought glasses of champagne.

It was so them

The couple married before 33 guests on the beach at the Las Ventanas al Paraiso resort. They saved for a year and a half to make it happen.

As a surprise for Kirby, Amber purchased compasses to use as place markers. Each bore a sticker with the guest's name and the longitude and latitude of the wedding.

During her vows, Amber pledged to make their new home the best possible home for Kirby's daughters, Morgen, 14, and Devon, 13. It was one of Kirby's favorite moments.

Amber's mother, Catherine, read a parable from the TV show The West Wing: A man falls into a hole and yells for help. A priest throws in a prayer. A doctor throws in a prescription. A friend jumps into the hole with him. The man asked his friend why he did that, because they were both now in the hole. The friend says he's been in the hole before, and knows the way out.

"Here's to you both being each other's compass," Catherine said.

The couple's first dance was choreographed to Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance."

At the reception, the couple displayed a photo of a family member who couldn't attend: Bud, their cat.

This didn't happen at rehearsal

Kirby cries over greeting-card commercials, and he and Amber just knew he wasn't going to make it through the ceremony, especially the vows they wrote.

"He was a total rock," Amber said. "I sobbed my way through every aspect of the ceremony, to the point where I haven't seen it on video yet, because I'm a little mortified."

Kirby gave Amber his handkerchief to wipe her tears. He then put it back in his pocket, next to his vows. "They got smudged with Amber's tears," he said. "I'll save that for the rest of my life."

Awestruck

After the ceremony, the couple and their guests sat at a single long table on the terrace. "Amber and I were at the head of the table, looking toward the ocean," Kirby said. "As the sun set, up came a full moon, right up the middle of the table," Kirby said. For a fisherman/sailor who navigates by the skies, it was an auspicious sign.

Amber felt an amazing feeling when she was talking to her new husband at dinner, and saw the wedding ring she had given him on his hand.

Discretionary spending

A bargain: The compasses were less than $5 each.

The splurge: Kirby, an avid fisherman, chartered three, identical, 31-foot Bertram fishing boats the morning of the wedding. He said it was well worth the $3,000 to see three people on his boat catch - and release - their first striped marlins. "Most fishermen will fish their entire life without ever catching a striped marlin," he said.

The getaway

The couple had a "reverse honeymoon," having arrived in nearby Cabo San Lucas a week ahead of the wedding.


Love: BEHIND THE SCENES

Officiant

Rev. Jorge Arechiga, Los Cabos, Mexico

Venue

Las Ventanas al Paraiso, Los Cabos, Mexico

Catering

Las Ventanas al Paraiso

Photography

Dino Gomez Photography, Los Cabos, Mexico; Kelly Hennigan Photography, Cherry Hill

Music

Arturo Sotomayor Tamariz, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Flowers

Arete Flower Design, Los Cabos, Mexico

Dress

Kleinfeld Bridal, New York

Invitations

Alexandra Doyle, Philadelphia


Love: DO YOU HAVE THE DATE?

Tell us in a short e-mail – at least six weeks before your ceremony – why we should feature your love story. Send it to weddings@phillynews.com. Unfortunately, we can't personally respond to all submissions. If your story is chosen, you will be contacted in the weeks before your wedding.

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