Love: MELISSA RAGAN & FORREST JOSEPH HARTMAN IV

May 6, 2011, in Bensalem

Posted: June 29, 2011

Hello there

Melissa could not believe her eyes. She was one of a dozen high school soccer goalies participating in a 2000 summer camp at Holy Family University, and there on the same field was Joe - the hottie friend-of-friends she'd seen at a few parties, but never got to talk to.

With just a few hours of intense drills each day, there was no time for conversation at soccer camp, either. But Melissa, a rising junior at St. Hubert Catholic High School for Girls, would sometimes watch Joe, on the cusp of his senior year at Penn Charter, practicing. And since Colleen, their closest mutual friend, had told Melissa that Joe thought she was cute, Melissa wondered if he was also stealing glances.

Still, Melissa managed to keep the butterflies in her belly mostly under control and focus on her footwork. Then, at the end of the last day of camp, Joe was standing just feet away.

They were paired up for a drill. Joe was going to kick the ball at Melissa, who was lying on the grass. It was her job to arch her body upward and keep the ball from going past her - a skill goalies need.

Joe was so close.

Melissa was so distracted.

THWACK! The ball hit her square in the face.

It stung, and then her face went numb. But nothing felt as bad as her embarrassment.

"Are you OK?" Joe asked. There was no permanent damage, Melissa assured him. Joe burst out laughing.

They walked together to the parking lot that day. They talked about the new school year coming up, and their mutual friends and common interests. They exchanged phone numbers.

When school began, Melissa went to Joe's soccer games, and he came to hers. They hung out at friends' houses sometimes. But two athletes at different schools didn't get to see each other very often, and things stayed pretty casual until that summer, when neither of them had many responsibilities. By the time Joe entered Drexel University that August, they were boyfriend and girlfriend.

Joe graduated with his bachelor's degree in business in 2007 and was hired by Dave & Mike's Used Cars, where he had interned. (He recently became a partner when the dealership expanded and moved to Bridgeton, N.J.).

Also in 2007, Melissa, who earned an associate degree in business from the Community College of Philadelphia, finished her certificate in cosmetology from Jean Madeline and got her license. Melissa is a makeup artist who often beautifies brides on their wedding day. She also works at Barber on 24th Street in Philadelphia.

In spring of that same busy year, Melissa, now 27, and Joe, now 28, got an apartment together in the Northeast, where both grew up.

And that October, their son, Forrest Joseph V, was born.

How does forever sound?

One evening in September 2009, Melissa, tired from working late, crawled into her bed to watch a movie and snack on the cookies she keeps in her nightstand.

Joe was working even later than usual - or so Melissa thought.

He walked in about 11 p.m., carrying two fancy goblets filled with ice cream - an even better treat than cookies! But when he got closer, Melissa forgot all about snack time. Tied to her glass was an engagement ring.

It was so them

If Melissa's father, Paul, were a little more comfortable with air travel, the couple would have had a destination wedding someplace tropical. Instead, they used palm trees, orchids, Bob Marley's music, and an orange, yellow, and coral color scheme to bring a tropical vibe to Belle Voir Manor in Bensalem. They served their 180 guests South Pacific-inspired appetizers.

The weather was perfect, so the ceremony was held outside next to the Delaware River. Forrest was ring bearer, but if you ask him about it, he'll tell you he was the prince.

The bride's mother, Kathleen, surprised the couple with a three-piece band.

Joe's mother, Debora, passed away a year ago. She was remembered during the ceremony, and also with a memory table bearing a photograph of her and a candle.

His stepmother, Kerry, and father, Woody, took part in the procession, as did Melissa's parents.

This didn't happen at rehearsal

After dinner, a group of hula dancers not only performed, but taught the guests how to hula. "We had a bit of audience participation," Joe said. It was a surprise from Melissa's mother.

Awestruck

Ever since they started dating in high school, "Love Song" by the Cure has been their song. "Every time I hear it on the radio, I always turn it up and think of her," Joe said. A more acoustic version by the band 311 played during the couple's first dance. "It felt like no one else was in the room," Melissa said. "It made everything real," said Joe.

Discretionary spending

A bargain: The couple met with four photographers to find out what each could do within their budget. Michael Jachimski offered the most for their money, and his work was their favorite.

The splurge: Not only did Melissa's parents pay for most of the reception as a gift to the couple, but they also watched Forrest V for 10 days while Melissa and Joe honeymooned in Hawaii. The couple sent them on a five-day cruise to Bermuda as a thank you.


Love: BEHIND THE SCENES

Officiant

Pastor Al Rossi of Bethel, the Church at Franklin Mills, Philadelphia

Venue

Belle Voir Manor, Bensalem

Catering

Belle Voir

Photography

Michael's Photography, Bensalem 

Videography

Martin's Video, May's Landing

Music

John Estrada, Best of Times Professional Disc Jockeys and Entertainers, Delaware Valley and Lehigh Valley

Dress

Bridal Garden, Marlton, N.J.

Invitations

Jamie McMullan, Custom Graphic Design, jamiemcmullan@gmail.com

Flowers

Precious Petals, Huntingdon Valley


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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