Love: Emily Brenner & Tom Caracciolo

Jeremy Messler Photography LLC
Jeremy Messler Photography LLC

May 15, 2011, in Voorhees

Posted: July 13, 2011

Hello there

In 1998, Emily's twin sister, Perri, was "eighth-grade dating" Tom's best friend, Chris.

"Chris would call Perri, but it would sometimes be that Tom was telling Chris to call, so he could talk to me," Emily said.

All were students at Beck Middle School in Cherry Hill. And Emily and Tom had one big thing in common: Both were soccer goalkeepers.

Eventually, Tom would call all on his own - under Emily's parents' rules, he could call only once a week, and she had to be finished with her homework to talk to him.

Emily and Tom hung out with other teens at friends' houses, which was allowed only if the parents were home, Emily said. They went as a group to movies, and Tom still has a ticket stub from The Newton Boys. "It wasn't much of a movie," Tom said. "But it has sentimental value."

Emily liked Tom, but she wasn't sure if she liked him. But she said yes when he asked her to go ice skating. "He could not ice skate for the life of him," Emily remembered. "He was falling over and over, and it was so funny. And he was so honest about it."

Emily was hooked.

By high school, Tom had switched from soccer to baseball. But he kept the same girlfriend. The couple stayed together even though Emily and Perri attended the College of Charleston, in South Carolina, on a soccer scholarship, and he played baseball for Drew University in Madison, N.J.

They saw each other during the limited breaks that student athletes have. "It was hard," Emily said.

They had a policy: They would call each other every day, at least to say: "I love you." But there was no pressure to stay on the phone longer than that, if there was nothing new to discuss.

Emily and Tom, both now 27, returned to the area for grad school in 2006. She earned her master's in teaching, learning, and curriculum at Drexel, where she also was a graduate assistant coach for the women's soccer team. He studied sports administration at Temple.

After earning their advanced degrees in 2008, Emily took a part-time job at Haddonfield Middle School, where she taught health and physical education in the mornings, and Tom got a job with the Eagles, where he continues to work in facilities.

How does forever sound?

Tom and Emily planned a camping trip for an August weekend in 2009. "It was a new experience for me," Emily said. They were to leave on Friday.

Tom was living at home with his parents, Tom and Barbara, and Emily was living at home with her parents, Allan and Shelly.

When Tom was packing for the trip, he needed a safe place to hide the ring from Emily. "I didn't want to keep the ring in my bag, because sometimes she will go in to get a phone charger or something," he said. "So I hid it in the spare-tire compartment of the car."

The good news is that Emily would never, ever have looked there. But the whole three-hour trip, Tom was plagued with worry that something had happened to the ring. "Every time we stopped, I had to check it," Tom said.

The campsite was a beautiful spot on the water at Stokes State Forest. "All of a sudden, Tom is talking to me, saying sweet things," Emily said. "A kids' group - Boy Scouts or something - was walking by right as he got down on one knee.

"He's proposing to me, and I'm saying, 'Nuh-uh! Shut up! I don't believe you!' "

This, despite the ring that he offered and put on her finger. "I was in shock," Emily explained.

After the proposal, they went to town for dinner at the Blue Ribbon, right on Culver Lake.

"You know, you never answered me," Tom said.

"Yes! Of course I'll marry you!" Emily said.

Soon after the engagement, Emily's position was cut and she was laid off. But she quickly was hired at Kellman Brown Academy, a private, Jewish day school connected to her synagogue, as a teacher and athletic director. She recently accepted a position as teacher and head girls' varsity soccer coach at Sterling High School in Somerdale.

It was so them

The couple, who now live in Cherry Hill behind the middle school where they met, were married in a traditional Jewish ceremony. Fifty of their 210 guests - their family members and a few friends - witnessed the signing of the ketubah.

They were married by the man Emily and her siblings have always known as Uncle Wayne, a very good friend of the family who also is cantor at a synagogue in Manalapan. Uncle Wayne not only officiated the weddings of all four Brenner sisters, he also led their naming ceremonies when they were babies.

Bridesmaid Dana did a slide show that depicted the couple's many years together.

The couple's first dance was to Taylor Swift's "Today Was a Fairytale." "It just screams 'high school,' " said Emily, and considering the couple's history, that seemed appropriate.

The couple had taken dancing lessons for a couple of weeks to prepare. "I'm not a very comfortable dancer," Tom explained. But when the music started, Emily whispered that she was too nervous, and didn't want to follow the choreography. That made Tom nervous. "That was all I had," he said.

The couple mostly held each other and swayed - just like high school.

This didn't happen at rehearsal

Emily's 5-year-old nephew, Zachary, was excited to be walking into the reception all by himself. But when the doors opened and the emcee announced his name, he turned away from the guests, started crying, and jumped on matron of honor Perri's shoulder. The doors reopened, and Perri walked in with the inconsolable Zachary clinging to her.

In the mere seconds before the doors opened again, Tom's two best men, the extremely tall Mike and the not-so-tall Steve, devised a plan.

Mike walked in carrying Steve on his shoulder. The guests roared.

Awestruck

The reality of his coming nuptials struck Tom the day before, at the tux store. "Seeing myself in the mirror, it was, like, 'Wow, I'm going to be getting married in this tux in 24 hours,' " he said.

The magnitude of the day hit Emily the day of, as she walked toward the aisle flanked by her parents. "I had to take a deep breath, because I was getting choked up," she said. Then they turned the corner to walk down the aisle, and she saw Tom waiting for her.

Discretionary spending

A bargain: The bride lamented to her florist that she had been looking high and low for something to wear in her hair, but couldn't find anything she liked. At a later meeting, he handed her a box with a beautiful crystal hairpiece that fit perfectly with her wedding-day do - his gift to her.

The splurge: The standard white or cream linens didn't go with the dramatic reception decor the couple had in mind. So they paid extra for purple tablecloths and napkins. And purple crystals.

The getaway

Three days in Ocean City, Md., right after the wedding, followed by a 10-day summer trip to Hawaii.


Love: BEHIND THE SCENES

Officiant

Cantor Wayne Siet, Manalapan, N.J.

Venue

The Mansion at Main Street, Voorhees

Catering

The Mansion at Main Street

Photography

Jeremy Messler, Cherry Hill

Videography

Dave Pfafman, Magnolia

Flowers

Jerry McKinley, the Daisy Chain, Medford

Music

Marquee Band, Mount Laurel

Dress

Irma's Bridal, Cherry Hill

Invitations

Gail Plevinsky, the Paper Route, Cherry Hill


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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