But although Tom had grown up in Northeast Philadelphia, he was not looking for love in Philly. Since graduating from Drexel University in 2006, he had been working as a financial analyst for Lockheed Martin in Minneapolis. He was only in town briefly to meet his newborn nephew, CJ.
Later that week, Tom and friends met up with Jackie and friends in University City.
Tom's buddy Tim pulled him aside: "Dude. She likes you."
Still, when the groups split to go their separate ways, Tom started walking with his pals. "Dude!" Tim said. "Just go with her!"
He did. "As I spent more time with Jackie, there were sparks flying," Tom said.
Then it was time to go back to Minneapolis.
Sparks flew between their e-mail inboxes.
Their first real date began Nov. 2 at an Old City sushi bar. Casey and Tim also came along. A misunderstanding with the waitress led to an enormous bottle of sake. Tom prodded Jackie into trying the eel.
"That date lasted for three days," Jackie said.
She met all of his Philadelphia friends, visited the camp where Tom and Casey had worked, and met Tom's sister Judy. (Tom's parents, Tom and Ann, now live in Florida.)
Over Thanksgiving, Tom met Jackie's friends; her mother, Karen; her stepfather, Fred; and her father, Cliff.
Despite monthly visits, the long-distance thing was hard. So in February 2008, when Tom told Jackie they needed to talk, her heart was in her throat.
"I asked the boss for a transfer," he told her. "I'm going to move back to Philadelphia."
That July, Tom became a contracts negotiator at Lockheed Martin in Moorestown. Jackie is a cardiac-center nurse at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
How does forever sound?
Tom planned a weekend in Atlantic City for Jackie's 25th birthday in May 2010. Despite the cool weather and Jackie's high heels, Tom insisted they walk to dinner. On the way, he suggested they stop by the water.
A scruffy-looking gentleman with a beer in a brown paper bag stood at the bottom of the beach ramp, so they stopped midway. Jackie took a photo. As she tried to cram her camera back into her tiny purse, she saw that Tom was down on one knee.
She kicked off her heels, and they kissed, hugged, and cried together.
"Oh, you guys look so happy! You must be in love!" said the scruffy man.
"We just got engaged, and you're the first one to know," Tom told him.
"That's just wonderful!" Mr. Scruffy-but-Friendly said. "Let me give you God's blessing."
He put down his beer, and held his arms out toward the couple.
"May you love each other, and may your lives be entwined until you're too old to know what that means anymore," he said.
It was so them
The couple, who live in Queen Village, had an outdoor wedding set for Saturday, Aug. 27, at the Pearl S. Buck Estate in Perkasie. Unfortunately, they had to cope with a wedding crasher: Hurricane Irene.
Tom, now 27, and Jackie, 26, were distraught when their venue called at 8:30 Friday morning to say the wedding would have to be canceled. They were offered a date in November, but with many of their out-of-town guests already in town or en route, they asked the venue to find an alternative indoor space.
At 9 a.m., the venue offered a different solution. The couple could wed at Pearl S. Buck - that evening.
By noon, all guests and vendors were informed. The couple's original caterer couldn't make it, but the venue hooked Tom and Jackie up with a last-minute fill-in they really liked.
Of their 165 expected guests, 130 made it to the earlier-than-planned event.
"After all those crazy phone calls . . . it ended up being a beautiful day," Jackie said.
Three little family members were ring bearers. Jackie's nephews Jake, 1, and West, 2, rode down the aisle in a wagon. Tom's nephew CJ - whom Tom had flown in to meet when he met Jackie - is now 4. He walked with Jackie's younger sister, Halle, 11, a bridesmaid. Tim, the friend who nudged Tom toward Jackie, was best man. Casey, who introduced the couple, was a bridesmaid.
A quartet with flute and cello played during the ceremony. At Tom's request, they learned the Foo Fighters' "Everlong" for the recessional.
After Tom slipped the ring on Jackie's finger, he asked Pastor Tim Emmett-Rardin, "Can I kiss her yet?"
"No, not yet," the pastor said.
Jackie mouthed to him: "I want to kiss you, too."
Unplanned, but wonderful
The couple held their rehearsal dinner - a luau at Homewood Suites - the day after their wedding, during the storm.
Jackie enjoyed wearing her wedding dress a second time, adding a lei to match the festivities.
With no thunder or lightning, Tom joined friends in the outdoor hot tub.
"Then I see her coming out in the pouring rain, in her dress, and I'm thinking, 'Oh my God, what is she doing?' "
The bride jumped in.
The couple had planned to leave that Monday for Costa Rica, but their flight out was canceled. So was everyone else's.
"We had a staycation with all of our out-of-town guests," Jackie said.
A bargain: The couple bought LOVE statue cookie cutters as favors.
The splurge: The string quartet.
The getaway: five days in Jamaica.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Pastor Tim Emmett-Rardin, campus minister
at Drexel University,
and part of the Interfaith Center of Greater
Pearl S. Buck Estate, Perkasie; Hilton Homewood Suites, Lansdale
Joe Garvey of Joey G's Catering, Newtown
Shaw Strings Quartet, West Chester; DJ from EBE Entertainment, Philadelphia
Josh and Ben Pelta-Heller, Koala Photography, Philadelphia
Carl Alan Floral Design, Philadelphia
Macy's Bridal Shop,
Men's Wearhouse, Philadelphia; custom ties by Cyberoptix Tie Lab, cyberoptix.com
Danielle Taylor, Invitations by Danielle, East Hanover, N.J.
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