Jeff saw what was happening. "I figured it out," he said. "But I enjoyed it."
Before long, it was Jeff sending Patti invitations. The two of them were always the last to leave.
After about eight months of this sort of thing came receptionist Yvonne's 30th birthday party. The waitress was a bit slow.
"I'm going to build a runway from the bar to our table so the drinks come in faster," quipped the guy who literally designs runways.
Patti thought Jeff might be the nerd of her dreams. Jeff had hesitated to ask her out on a real date because of the awkwardness of dating a coworker. But after the fun they had at Yvonne's party, he couldn't ignore his feelings. One night after work, Jeff asked her to dinner, all casual-like.
The couple were seated next to the bass drum at a blues club. They couldn't hear each other, but "Patti had a pad of paper and a pen," Jeff said, "and we filled a whole pad of paper with dinner discussion."
Jeff, who lived in Oaklyn, Camden County, and Patti, who lived in Lansdowne, kept their romance a secret from most of their officemates (the girls who had plotted to bring them together knew), until Patti left the company in 2005 for Urban Engineers.
She took her current job at Arora Engineers in 2007. Last fall, Jeff took a job with CH2M HILL.
How does forever sound?
It didn't take long for Jeff, who is now 39, and Patti, now 36, to realize they wanted to spend their lives together. But it would be eight years before they were engaged.
During most of that time, Jeff was not only working, but also finishing his studies at Drexel University. He wanted his degree before proposing. After graduation, Jeff, who doesn't like to buy things on credit, started saving for an engagement ring.
Patti, knowing Jeff's ways, tried to be patient. But once they bought and moved into their Lansdowne condo in 2009, patience proved difficult. "Cohabitation was supposed to be an impetus!" she said.
Jeff tried to buy a ring around Christmas of that year, but found his savings wouldn't cover what he wanted.
He also wanted to plan a proposal that Patti would enjoy talking about. "I knew that Patti was waiting awhile for this to happen, and I wanted absolutely the best thing for her," he said. "I wanted the whole engagement to be everything she ever wanted and dreamed of."
Fast-forward to Jeff's birthday weekend in June.
The couple were en route to St. Michaels, Md., to celebrate. Around Middletown, Del., Patti's fingers were coated with the bright-orange powdered cheese of Jax. "Don't you want a napkin to wipe off?" Jeff asked. "There's some in the glove compartment."
Patti didn't really see the need to waste cheese on a napkin, but the second time Jeff suggested it, she took his hint and excitedly opened the glove compartment.
Inside was a disappointingly large jewelry box. Patti put on the string of freshwater pearls.
"I started to cry a little," Patti said. Her tears made her feel horrible. "I'm sorry. They're beautiful," she told Jeff. "It's just that I was expecting a ring."
"You have to wait a little bit longer," he told her.
Patti quickly got back into the happy groove of the trip. Then, when they reached their hotel, Patti said, the room was "a dump."
But Jeff always has a way of making Patti calm and happy, no matter her freak-out. "I've got to restore your levels," he told her. He had brought the makings of a cheese plate.
"I had a ring in my pocket," Jeff said. Patti was so enjoying her snack that her eyes were cast heavenward, so Jeff popped the ring atop a baguette with blue cheese. "This one needs a special topping," he said.
His next words: "Let me be your husband."
It was so them
Patti and Jeff held their ceremony and reception at one spot for the convenience of their 142 guests, but Patti, a Catholic, incorporated an element of the Mass into the ceremony. "I wrote a petition - a request for prayer," she said.
"For Patti and Jeff, may they have a marriage filled with love and happiness," Patti's cousin Bernadette read. "Lord, hear our prayer," responded the congregants. The prayers continued: May their three cats always have as many treats as they want and comfortable places to lie down. May Jeff accept that Patti will never cook dinner. May Patti understand that Jeff needs to go on three-hour hikes with his father on the weekends.
On the table where guests picked up their place cards stood a vase with three sunflowers, in honor of Patti's mother, Kathleen, who passed away in 2001.
This didn't happen at rehearsal
Patti surprised her new husband with an ice sculpture of an airplane on a lighted runway. She surprised her father, Bob, with the Woodland String Band. "My parents were both from Southwest Philly,," she said, "and Woodland are the Mummers of Southwest Philly."
Since so many decisions were more important to Patti than her attire and makeup, she hadn't decided exactly what she would wear the day of the wedding, and brought everything with her - including multiple pairs of shoes. In her dressing room, all the choices, and an uncooperative crinoline, were stressing her out. "I was like a monster," she said.
At the last minute, she slipped on white sneaker mules and headed toward her groom. As soon as she saw Jeff, all was well. And nothing could have better restored her levels than the little back rub he gave her when she reached him.
Jeff says seeing his bride walk down the aisle was "the No. 1 moment for me."
A bargain: The flowers. When the price of their original wish list blew the budget, their florist came back with ideas to achieve the same look for less, and saved them about $1,000.
The splurge: Filet mignon, flounder with crabmeat, and chicken with champagne sauce were piled high on plates set on each table. Family-style dining got the conversation flowing. Offering three entrées upped the cost about 20 percent.
A seven-day cruise to the Bahamas.
BEHIND THE SCENES
The Rev. Graham E. Horn, Aldan, Pa.
The Old Mill,
Rose Valley, Pa.
Doughmain Baked Goods, Rosemont
Stone Gallery Photography, Palmyra, N.J.
Alfred Angelo Bridal,
Design by Bill Marcy of Reading; printed by Professional Duplicating Inc., Media
Rachael Feldman and
Sabrina Schwenger of
Michael Anthony's Floral Design, Springfield,
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Unfortunately, we can't personally respond to all submissions. If your story is chosen, you will be contacted in the weeks before your wedding.