A week after the party, Mary, who was earning a nursing degree, attended a fraternity-sponsored dance. And there was Chris. "I made a beeline for him," Mary said. "And my life, as I knew it, was over."
Chris and Mary sat at a table to talk. The talking was interrupted by a kiss - they are still arguing over who kissed whom.
The two dove right into a relationship. The first "I love you" came quickly. And not long after, so did talk of marriage right after graduation.
"It was way too much too fast, and I don't think either one of us could handle it," Mary said. She was always trying to push Chris back a bit, she admits. Eight months in, they broke up.
While Mary wasn't comfortable with the pace of the relationship, she also did not want to be with anyone else. She and Chris continued to e-mail and talk during their two-year breakup.
Mary's friends and family were worried. They told her she needed to let go and move on. Mary told them she was still in love, and she believed Chris was in love with her, too.
By the end of 2006, when Mary was a nurse at Crozer-Chester Medical Center and Chris a software engineer at FMC Technology, Mary decided things needed to change, one way or the other. She told Chris that she couldn't just be friends with him, and that they either needed to get back together or get on with their lives apart.
Chris called - this time to ask if she would have dinner with him New Year's Day, 2007.
The second time around, both were ready.
How does forever sound?
In fall 2009, as Mary was preparing to start her studies as a certified registered nurse anesthetist at Villanova University, her grandmother Skip died. They had always been close, and as the holiday season rolled around, Mary was missing the family matriarch terribly.
She wanted to keep their tradition of taking the train to see the lights at Macy's, and she asked Chris if he would go with her. Mary was surprised at the enthusiasm of his response.
They saw the light show, and then got lost on the way to a restaurant. The night was bitterly cold, and Chris held Mary's hand in his jacket pocket to warm her. Mary also noticed he took pains to always walk on her right, closer to the street. "I thought he was being such a gentleman," she said. He was being a careful gentleman, who didn't want his girlfriend to feel the little box in his coat pocket.
Once they found the restaurant and were seated, Chris said, "I have an early Christmas present for you." Then his face turned a little green.
"What's wrong?" Mary asked.
"I just wanted to know if you'll marry me," he asked, pulling the ring from his pocket.
"Yes!" Mary said. Then she giggled - "if you don't throw up!"
Her answer calmed his nerves, and Chris returned to his normal color.
It was so them
In September 2010, Chris, now 29 and working for Yellowbook.com, and Mary, now 28, were heavy into wedding planning. Mary was taking a break at a friend's bachelorette party in Atlantic City when she got a terrible phone call: Chris' brother, Michael, had injured himself diving into a swimming pool. Mary sped toward Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. Michael had been paralyzed. Chris was at the hospital with his brother every day for more than a month. "The loyalty I saw was amazing," Mary said.
Wedding plans went on hold.
With five months to go before the big day, Mary's Uncle Paul, who owns a house in Maryland on Chesapeake Bay, offered to host the wedding reception as his gift to the couple.
Michael's first trip since the accident was to his brother's wedding. Chris and his aunt arranged for a special van so his little brother could travel safely - Chris could not get married without him.
The couple exchanged vows in a traditional Catholic ceremony at St. Jude's Roman Catholic Church. They were married by the Rev. Quan Tran, a close family friend. The church was just a short distance from Uncle Paul's property, where a large tent had been outfitted with a dance floor and decorated with colorful gerbera daisies, hydrangeas, and orchids in preparation for the couple's 200 guests. Mary arranged for shuttle service to make getting back and forth between the reception and hotel easy.
Mary and Chris really wanted everyone to dance all night. They hired a band and a DJ, and the couple bought 200 pairs of flip-flops, stacking them under signs calligraphed by Mary's mother, Theresa, which read, "Dance around with your pretty shoes and never miss a beat. When they ache, take a break - put these on your feet."
It worked. The reception lasted from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Chris remembers riding in the limo after the ceremony and realizing that he and Mary were married. "It was time to really celebrate the day we'd been waiting for, and planning for, for so long," he said.
When Mary was a little girl, her father, Michael, used to play her "Danny's Song" on the guitar ("Even though we ain't got money, I'm so in love with you honey. . . .")
The couple chose this song for their first dance, and all their guests sang along. "I was dancing with my new husband, with all our friends and family around me, to a song I grew up listening to my dad play," Mary said. "It was so emotional."
A bargain: Mary loved her caterer, but she balked when he suggested they use plates and glasses - even wineglasses - that were made from a special plastic. He promised good looks and significant savings, and he was right, Mary said.
The splurge: The reception was catered by a steak house, and in addition to filet mignon, the buffet featured jumbo shrimp and Maryland crab cakes.
A week in Florida, divided between the Grand Floridian at Disney and the bride's father's condo in Naples.
Love: BEHIND THE SCENES
Rev. Quan Tran, Roman Catholic priest and school minister at Bishop McDevitt High School, Wyncote
The bride's uncle's house in North East, Md.
Anthony Covatta, Steak and Main, North East, Md.
Jennie Campbell Photography, Rising Sun, Md.
DJ: Tom Slezak, Deejay Tommy, Brookhaven, Pa.
Band: Anthony Gallucio & the Wedding Crashers, Wilmington
Stella Maris Bridal Boutique & Tuxedo Inc., Holmes, Pa.
Mosaic Print, Cheverly, Md.
Michael Anthony's Floral Design, Springfield
Love:DO YOU HAVE THE DATE?
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